What is the difference between a chiropractor, osteopath and physiotherapist?

This is probably the most common question that we are asked and come across. Hopefully the information below should give you the answers

Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, and Osteopathy: What Do I Need for Back Pain?

Back pain is a common and sometimes debilitating condition that affects a large number of adults in the United Kingdom. Whether it strikes between the shoulders, around the periphery or at the lower back near the hips, non-specific back pain affects 80% of all adults in the U.K. Discomfort can stem from injury, overuse, or overextension, but occasionally, it seems to arise arbitrarily and catch the sufferer off-guard. The frustration associated with back pain is certainly compounded when you have no idea why you’re experiencing the discomfort; and while massage, icing and stretching may temporarily relieve some of your irritation, you may find the issue comes back.

Back pain can come in a number of different forms. While some individuals experience a sudden onset characterized by a deep, stabbing sensation, others have a very gradual onset of pain that develops over time. Back pain can also affect other areas of the body, most notably travelling down the legs to the knees and even making walking difficult. Regardless of the cause or location of the back pain, sufferers understand the struggle to help relieve it and get back on track. Whether they attempt to do yoga, sleep differently, or take over-the-counter pain medication, many crave a permanent solution.

When back pain doesn’t leave on its own and doesn’t respond to pain relievers, massage, or other at-home remedies, it’s time to visit a professional for treatment. Deciding what treatment or professional to see can be a difficult decision to make. What’s the difference between a Chiropractor, a Physiotherapist, and an Osteopath? Which one will best help you with your issues?

In truth, each of these three medical fields is not mutually exclusive. Each is focused on the health of your spine to ensure the proper and easy function of your body’s other crucial systems. Each provides thorough examinations of your bone and muscular structure and determine what regions or behaviours may be exerting undue stress or pressure on your back. In fact today there can be as much difference between individuals of each professions themselves as there can be between the professions themselves. It often comes down to the enthusiasm of each practitioner and post graduate experience they have gained. When choosing a practitioner a recommendation is often helpful and in general these days for back pain the NHS recommends manipulation as a package of care as performed by Chiropractors and Osteopaths (or post graduate trained Physiotherapists in manipulation although not as extensive as the undergraduate levels gained by Chiropractors and Osteopaths.

If we had to describe the different professions individually:

  • Physiotherapy is perhaps the broadest field of treatment of the three of them. Physiotherapists at an undergraduate level are taught to alleviate pain and discomfort through muscular manipulation. Physiotherapists are not taught to adjust joints as Chiropractors and Osteopaths are at undergraduate level. As a general rule from graduation Physiotherapists begin work in the NHS which is tending to lean towards a more hands off approach and a more exercise-based approach.
  • Osteopathy, and Chiropractic are both concerned with relieving areas of dysfunction in the spine allowing restoration of function and alleviation of pain through hands on manipulation of joints and muscles. Originally Osteopaths believed that dysfunction of the spine caused a blockage in blood flow affecting bodily systems whereas Chiropractors believed that dysfunction at the spinal level affected the nervous system. These days we are more aligned with our thoughts and although we both use different techniques to manipulate joints…(Chiropractic shorter lever and Osteopath longer lever manipulation) we both aim to restore functional movement to joints to alleviate stress and strain on the surrounding joint, muscles and nerves of the body.

Both Chiropractors and Osteopaths qualify with a 4/5 year Msc(Chiro) or Msc(Ost) Masters degree and are both registered primary healthcare professions which means you do not need to see your GP to visit one. They are qualified to diagnose and then treat/refer as they deem necessary. Chiropractors are qualified to take x-rays, and both Chiropractors and Osteopaths are qualified to read them.

Each of these different schools of thought takes a unique approach to relieving back pain and returning you to the independent, pain-free lifestyle you deserve. A chiropractor can guide you to a pain-free lifestyle through a regimen of massage, adjustment, and exercises, helping you to attain true relief and satisfaction. When you select a back pain specialist, choose the chiropractors at Younger Chiropractic in Wirral, giving you years of experience and providing you with comprehensive treatment plans to help ease your pain. To learn more about back pain or to schedule a consultation, contact us today at 0151 648 78 78.

Wirral Chiropractor Examining a patient

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