Osteopath vs Physio
Chris Branch, owner of Forté Physical Health in Chelmsford, gives us his thoughts on osteopath vs physio, the difference between osteopathy and physiotherapy and who you should get to treat you.
We are often asked about the difference between an osteopath and a physiotherapist and, to be honest, it’s a question I struggle to answer for a few reasons.
Firstly, there are many similarities! Osteopaths and physiotherapists are able to diagnose and treat the same problems. Our level of education at undergraduate level is very similar (although there are a few differences in how we get our degrees, which I will speak about later). We both offer hands-on treatment and prescribe exercises to enhance recovery. We are both regulated professions, meaning that each osteopath and physiotherapist needs to meet strict criteria each year in order to practice. The list goes on…! We are more similar than we are different.
The other reason this is a tricky question is that there are such vast differences even between how individual osteopaths treat. Osteopathy is such a huge subject and each therapist may take a special interest in treating certain things or using specific techniques. Over time, as we do our postgraduate study it moulds us into completely unique practitioners. We call it the art and the science of osteopathy.
What links us, however, are our principles. Although each osteopath may use different variations on techniques, our principles for how we understand healing are the same.
As both osteopathy or physiotherapy practice is guided by research, the principles of each profession are quite similar.
What is the difference between an osteopath and a physiotherapist?
When it comes to osteopath vs physio, the first difference is that when we are studying, physiotherapists are required to work in the NHS, whereas osteopaths aren’t. This may allow a physio to specialise in, for example, respiratory physiotherapy, or neurological physiotherapy etc. Osteopaths have a minimum of two years working in a clinic, but it is based in our universities, not the NHS. This allows us to treat people from all walks of life, which often sparks a particular interest in the student which they may go on and study in more detail post-graduate.
Some physiotherapists continue to work in the NHS when they graduate, whereas most osteopathic practices are private. Certainly, in the Chelmsford area of Essex we work in, there is no NHS osteopathy.
This can help the patient in a lot of ways. It is quicker to be seen in private practice, often with same-day appointments. It also means we have more freedom to achieve the specific goals of a patient and work with them until they are able to do the things that matter to them in their life, rather than discharge them when certain NICE guidelines are met.
Historically, there were more differences between how physios and osteopaths treated patients. Osteopaths used more hands-on manipulation and physios gave out more exercises. But as I said earlier, we are both guided by research, so now osteopaths are prescribing more exercises and the private physios I know are doing more hands-on work (this seems to be happening less in the NHS though).
Osteopath or physio – who should you get to treat you?
In summary, what we say to our patients is: find a therapist that works for you. There are some great physios out there and some great osteopaths. We can treat the same things and achieve the same results, even if the techniques we use are slightly different.
At Forté, we believe we are great osteopaths and the 5-star testimonials we receive from our patients and on Google Reviews and Facebook back this up. We are told we have a warm, friendly and professional environment to help our patients in and we look forward to welcoming you here when you need our help.
Osteopath vs chiropractor – find out more about the differences between osteopathy and chiropractic