Osteopath Vs. Physiotherapist: What’s The Difference?

When dealing with a sore back, neck, or shoulders, it’s hard to know whom to turn to for help.

Many professionals deal with the body and its ailments—osteopaths, physiotherapists, and the list go on. But what’s the difference between all these professions?

This article will compare and contrast two very popular health professionals: physiotherapists vs. osteopaths.

What's really the difference between Physiotherapy and Osteopathy?

Understanding the difference between an osteopath and a physiotherapist can be difficult. The two are often confused, and it’s easy to assume they have similar healthcare roles. However, there are several significant differences between the two professions, which we will outline below:

  • Osteopathy is a manual medicine that focuses on restoring health and wellness by manipulating soft tissue and joints and addressing lifestyle factors. Osteopaths use their hands to diagnose problems in your body, from head to toe. When you see an osteopath, you’ll likely have them look at your spine, neck, and shoulders—but they may also check out your hips or knees if those areas are causing pain or discomfort.
  • Physiotherapy is a manual medicine that focuses on restoring health and well-being through exercise therapy with specific goals (like treating injuries or improving athletic performance). A physiotherapist will look at your posture and movement patterns before determining what exercises might be most beneficial for your particular situation—recovering from an injury or simply improving overall muscle tone throughout the body!

What Is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a holistic approach to health and wellness that focuses on the connection between the structure and function of the body. This approach was founded by Andrew Taylor Still in 1874, who also developed osteopathic medicine as a distinct medical specialty. Osteopathy is based on the idea that overall health depends on the balance between structure, function, and vitality.

Named after the Greek words for “bone” (osteon) and “pain” (pathos), osteopathy refers to a method of treating musculoskeletal pain. The term “Osteopathy” refers to the idea that musculoskeletal dysfunction lies at the root of many diseases.

Osteopaths are trained in manipulating the body to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and increase the efficiency of your body’s natural healing process. They can diagnose issues by examining how muscles, nerves, and bones interact.

Osteopaths don’t just treat pain symptoms. They treat the underlying cause of your pain by addressing your specific needs as an individual. That means you will receive treatment tailored specifically for you and your lifestyle.

The goal of osteopathy is to empower you with a greater understanding of your body so that you can take an active role in maintaining optimum health and wellness. By learning how your body typically works and what occurs when something goes wrong, you’ll be better equipped to determine what treatment plan will be most beneficial for you and when to seek further help.

What is Physiotherapy?

Per Henrik Ling, also known as the “Father of Swedish Gymnastics,” is credited with pioneering the practice of physiotherapy in 1813 by treating soft tissue injuries with manipulation and exercise.

Physiotherapists are health professionals who use exercise and other physical interventions to treat various conditions. They use various diagnostic tools to determine the nature of an injury and its cause. They then develop a treatment plan that includes exercises and other therapies to restore function to the injured area. The goal is to help patients return to normal activities as soon as possible.

Physiotherapists can work in private practice, hospitals, clinics, sports teams, schools, or other settings where patients may need help recovering from an injury or disease.

Osteopath: Training and Education

An osteopath is a professional who receives extensive training in the musculoskeletal system. They have completed at least three years of schooling, including human biology and health science classes. After this, they must complete a full-time Master’s or Double Bachelor’s Degree in Osteopathy.

Osteopaths in Australia, for instance, spend five years in school, including three years earning a bachelor’s degree in clinical science and two years earning a master’s degree in health science. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency‘s (AHPRA) registration is mandatory for all osteopaths practicing in the country.

Osteopaths often work in clinics that are privately owned and operated; however, you may also find osteopaths employed in different types of professional settings. Facilities for the elderly, sports clubs, medical clinics, health clinics, and research may all be included in this category.

Physiotherapy: Training and Education

A physiotherapist’s education typically lasts for four years. And in addition to traditional healthcare settings like hospitals, physiotherapists also find work in outpatient clinics. As one example, hospital-based physiotherapists may aid patients recovering from spinal cord injuries, stroke, surgery, and heart problems.

Anatomy, biomechanics, physiology, and pathology are all standard first-year requirements for both degrees. To earn their degrees, students must complete clinical placements in which they assess and treat actual clients. Students gain valuable experience in a clinical setting assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients under the supervision of licensed professionals through these placements. A lot of a physiotherapist’s education and training takes place in a medical setting.

Assessment Process: Osteopath

Finding an osteopath near you can be difficult if you don’t know where to look.

The first thing you need to know is that there are multiple stages to a thorough osteopathy assessment:

  • Consultation
  • Examination
  • Treatment

The Consultation

First, you’ll meet with the osteopath to discuss your symptoms and goals. During this time, they’ll likely ask questions like: “How has this injury or pain affected your life?” and “What are your goals for treatment?” They may also ask about any medications you’re taking or other health conditions affecting your recovery. They want to know everything about your injury.

The Examination

Next, the osteopath will examine the affected area and movement patterns. They’ll also ask about past injuries or surgeries contributing to pain. This step usually takes anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. Still, it can be longer if the problem is particularly complex. Afterward, they’ll determine whether additional testing is needed before making a final diagnosis and treatment plan for you!

The Treatment

Osteopaths use “hands-on” techniques and prescribe exercises to be done in-between visits. Naturally, the quality of care you receive will rely heavily on the credentials and experience of your therapist. Osteopaths typically employ a hybrid approach, combining manual manipulation with a focus on exercise (rehabilitation). Joint and spinal manipulation, mobilisation, stretching, dry-needling, and massage are all examples of techniques that may be used. 

Assessment Process: Physiotherapist

After a thorough assessment similar to osteopaths, physiotherapists will provide you with a treatment plan specific to the individual and their concerns.

The significant difference is physiotherapists use a more exercise-rehabilitation approach to treatment than osteopaths. A physiotherapist may prescribe exercises or other exercise therapy to help improve mobility, flexibility, and strength while reducing pain or discomfort associated with chronic conditions. Physiotherapists may also prescribe equipment like crutches or splints if needed for treatment purposes.

In general, osteopaths and physiotherapists are considered healthcare professionals who can help treat several types of musculoskeletal conditions. Both disciplines use manual therapy techniques to diagnose and treat patients. Still, they tend to focus on other areas of the body.

Treatment Methods: Osteopath and Physiotherapist

Osteopaths take a holistic approach to healthcare. They treat the patient as a whole rather than just the symptoms. Osteopaths use various techniques to treat their patients, including manipulation and soft tissue massage. They also use strategies that help improve function and reduce stress on the body. They may recommend exercises or ergonomic advice for the patient at home to help them recover faster.

Physiotherapists are also healthcare professionals helping people regain mobility after an injury or surgery. They work with patients on various exercises that can help reduce joint, muscle, ligament, and tendon pain.

While both types of professionals have their specialties, they do have some overlap—and when it comes down to it, they’re both focused on helping patients feel better and live healthier lives!

When should you see an osteopath?

Osteopaths are an excellent choice for anyone in pain, but it’s essential to know when to see one.

Osteopathy is the practice of addressing changes in your body through manual manipulation. It’s beneficial if you’ve suffered from injuries or chronic pain that hasn’t responded well when resting or exercising.

Additionally, an appointment with an osteopath is highly effective with the following conditions:

  • Back Pain Relief
  • Sciatica
  • Disc Injury Treatment
  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Neck Pain Relief
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Hip & Knee Pain
  • Nerve Pain
  • Hip Pain

Conclusion: Osteopath Vs. Physiotherapist

Hopefully, you have better understood the differences between osteopaths and physiotherapists after reading this article. Both are important medical community members, but each takes a unique approach to healing.

If you’re interested in osteopathic treatment, we invite you to call our clinic at (02) 8054 7166 today. We will gladly answer your questions and schedule an appointment for you.