Chiropractor or Osteopath?

Chiropractor or Osteopath? Who should I see? Which is better? What's is the difference between the two therapies? These are questions that are asked by our patients on a daily basis. There are some historical differences in the philosophy of the two professions, but what most people want to know is how their treatment may differ by visiting either therapist.

Like most professions, I should start by saying that there is a huge variance in the ways that individuals within both professions practice.

Some patients who have seen both say that there are chiropractors out there who practise more like an osteopath, and likewise, some osteopaths who practise like chiropractors – these practitioners may not massage the soft tissues or focus on rehabilitation at all and only ‘adjust’ or manipulate joints.

A significant difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath is that while the chiropractor is primarily focused on the spine and joints, an osteopath is perhaps more concerned with the rest of the body- taking a more holistic or “overall” approach. Osteopaths may treat patients for not just musculo-skeletal symptoms, but also people with problems in other systems in their bodies- possibly digestive problems or any other number of problems that may seem unrelated to the spine or joints.

This assessment of the main difference comes from a chiropractor friend of mine- “Typically chiropractors will use what we call “Adjustments”, which are as specific as possible and aimed at restoring joint position and function. Osteopaths typically take a broader approach and may treat a larger area…. both professions are highly trained at an undergraduate level and both are trained to be excellent clinicians and to care for your health first and foremost”. I think that this is a very fair viewpoint.

What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is a natural therapy, which combines manual ‘hands-on’ techniques with exercise and advice.

Osteopathy works with the structure and function of the body and is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together.

An osteopath works to restore your body to a state of balance without the use of drugs or surgery.

What is Chiropractic?

According to the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), chiropractic is “a health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health”.

Chiropractors (practitioners of chiropractic) use their hands to treat disorders of the bones, muscles and joints. Treatments that involve using the hands in this way are called “manual therapies”, so both osteopaths and chiropractors are “manual therapists”.

Chiropractors use a range of techniques, with an emphasis on manipulation of the spine.

Differences between a Chiropractor and an Osteopath?

Chiropractic therapy is actually derived from Osteopathy… osteopathy was invented by Dr. Andrew Taylor Still in 1872 and Chiropractic care was invented by one of Dr. Still’s students- Daniel David Palmer, in 1895, so there are many obvious similarities. However you should be aware that subtle differences between the two techniques may make one more suitable for you than the other.

The major difference between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor is that while the Chiropractor is primarily focused on the spine and joints, an Osteopath is also concerned with the rest of the body. Osteopaths tend to work more holistically; generally looking at the contributing factors that may be causing your symptoms which need to be addressed too.

Whether you see an osteopath or a chiropractor, you should expect:

  • A thorough case history to be taken.
  • A clinical examination undertaken.
  • An accurate clinical diagnosis reached.
  • Effective treatment for your condition.
  • Management over the longer term if needed.
  • Appropriate rehabilitation exercises.
  • Effective advice regarding your activity, life or sport

… then you have found the right practice, and the right practitioner for you, regardless of their profession.

Treatment by an Osteopath and Chiropractor

Osteopaths use soft tissue massage, stretching and manipulation techniques to re-balance your body’s structure in a way that enhances your blood flow and nerve function. This allows your body’s natural healing process to be improved.

Chiropractors use manipulation to adjust the position of your spine and joints in order to improve your nerve function and healing ability.

All of the team of osteopaths at the Bexleyheath Osteopathic Practice have the greatest respect for the chiropractic profession. In many ways we are trying to achieve the same goals with our patients, but we might use slightly different techniques.

Our advice when choosing a Chiropractor or Osteopath would briefly be as follows:

  • Make sure that the chiropractor or osteopath has studied a four or five year degree.
  • Ensure that they are a member of their respective governing body (General Osteopathic Council or General Chiropractic Council). This ensures that you know that you will receive a minimum standard of care and treatment whichever chiropractor or osteopath you choose.
  • If possible use a practitioner who has been recommended by a friend or GP.
  • Don’t persist with treatment if the treatment does not suit you.


Our team at the Bexleyheath Osteopathic Practice aim to treat a wide range of complaints, using osteopathy. We are a local, easily accessible family run osteopathy practice, serving Kent and south-east London.

We have over 25 years experience from which we have developed a highly effective, safe, gentle manipulation and massage approach to Osteopathy.

Our approach helps improve the function of the joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons, providing pain relief for a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions.

Our practitioners use structural osteopathic techniques and sports massage. We attempt to create bespoke treatment plans considering every patient as an individual.

We don’t only treat injuries however- it is our aim to look after patients even if they have no obvious problems. Our team are highly trained to recognise imbalances within the body that may not yet be manifesting themselves as pain or symptoms. We endeavour to look after the patient before they experience pain and advocate the motto “Prevention is better than cure”.

A gentle form of treatment, osteopathy can benefit most types of aches, pains and strains in people of every age. Osteopaths often provide advice on posture and exercise to aid recovery, promote health and prevent symptoms from reoccurring.

As osteopaths, we treat many conditions, although a common myth is that most people think of us as ‘back specialists’.

Although we do see a lot of people looking for back pain relief, don’t forget that osteopathic treatment can benefit all parts of the skeleton. It does not just target your symptoms but treats the parts of the body that have caused these symptoms.

Our osteopaths assess and treat people of all types and ages: from children to the very elderly, and from pregnant women to elite sports people.

If you would like more information about our clinic and the various conditions we commonly see, please take a look around our website. If you would like to book an appointment please call us at the Bexleyheath Osteopathic Practice on 020 8298 7122.


© Bexleyheath Ostepathic Practice 2013