As a Southend Osteopath, one of the questions we get most frequently asked at the Queens Road Clinic is whether someone should go to an osteopath or chiropractor to treat their problem.

Differences Between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor

Put simply there is a great deal of difference in the approach of the  osteopath or chiropractor  to the patient and the actual techniques used but in many ways the actuality of what the end result is may be very similar. Both are “holistic” medicine, in that they look at the whole patient and endeavour to help them in all aspects of their situation.  However Osteopathy looks at the whole patient with a view to assessing what is it about them and their life style that has led them to the problems of which they are complaining, whereas Chiropractic, and most other forms of medicine, seem to take more of a “what has happened to cause this problem?” approach.

Both systems were founded in the United States; Osteopathy in Missouri by Andrew Taylor Still in the 1860’s and Chiropractic in Iowa by Daniel Palmer in the 1890’s. Both systems have developed over the intervening years and both are very successful in helping millions of patients worldwide.

The differences are quite complex. Osteopaths work using gentle movement of the body to ascertain the degree of movement in the joints and this enables them to establish which joints are working normally and which are not.  Whilst doing this the osteopath will also assess whether the dysfunction is due to muscular or ligamentous restriction, joint locking or other causes. If necessary the osteopath will arrange X Rays or MRI Scans to establish the detail of what is occurring. Chiropractors also examine their patients but will tend to take X Rays to establish their diagnosis, which is based on positional factors rather than abnormalities of function.

From here both will proceed to treatment. The Chiropractor will “adjust the subluxation” using a short, sharp carefully and skilfully applied thrust to “realign” the joint.  The Osteopath by contrast will spend a lot of time relaxing the local soft tissue and using gentle stretch techniques to ease the joint before, when necessary, applying his own thrust technique to “mobilise the restriction”.

Both agree that when a chiropractor “adjusts subluxation” and an osteopath “mobilises a restriction” they are doing the same thing to the same thing. However because of the differences in theory and practice they do it very differently.

Whether to Choose an Osteopath or a Chiropractor

Ultimately it is up to the individual patient to decide whether an osteopath or chiropractor would be more suitable for them but whichever discipline they choose they should ensure that their practitioner is registered with the General Osteopathic Council or General Chiropractic Council.