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Osteopath or Physiotherapist?

Having both osteopathy and physiotherapy professions within the one practice, we are often asked what the difference is between the two and which treatment would be most suitable.

"What is the difference between Osteopathy and Physiotherapy"? and "Which one should I see"?

Though there are now many similarities between osteopathy & physiotherapy, the two professions originated from quite different roots, therefore the greatest difference today is found in the ideology and training.

"In today's private practice the two professions treat pretty much the same problems – equally successfully - albeit with a slightly different approach."

The difference between Osteopathy & Physiotherapy (at this clinic).

Osteopaths view the body as a unique, interconnected, self-healing system. Osteopathic treatment focuses on correcting disturbances with this system, whether caused (by among many things) muscle weakness/imbalance and/or tension, restricted joint movements, poor posture or working practices. Given that each body is viewed as being unique, treatment is tailored to the individual not the symptom(s).

Osteopathic diagnosis and treatment is around 90% 'hands-on'. The techniques employed by our osteopaths can vary from cranial osteopathic (gentle touch and pressure – see the page on cranial osteopathy for more information), soft tissue techniques such as massage and passive joint movements (where the osteopath initiates and controls the movement) and thrust techniques (such as manipulation - often referred to by patients as 'cracking' – which, incidentally, is only the release of a slight vacuum that has built up between two surfaces of a joint). They may also use ultrasound, modern acupuncture, and in many cases lifestyle/postural advices, exercises and/or stretches may be given.

Physiotherapists concentrate on restoring optimum function and performance to the problem area. As physiotherapy has been an intrinsic part the NHS for many years, the availability of funding has driven research and enabled studies leading to the development of 'treatment protocols' for the treatment of specific problems.

Physiotherapy diagnosis and treatment is less 'hands-on' (around 60%) as more focus is given to observing movement and correcting technique. The techniques employed by our physiotherapists vary from soft tissue techniques, such as massage and passive joint movements (movements initiated and controlled by the physiotherapist), to more extensive rehabilitation exercise programs. Ultrasound also be employed.

So who should I see?

That really is down to your personal preference. The aim of treatment is the same, but the style of treatment can be different – however, this can also be true between individuals within the same profession. It is worth noting however, that both professions will vary approach and technique according to the individual and their physique.

But most importantly of all, if you have a problem...

  • Do something about it now! It is more important that you see someone (physio or osteopath) rather than see no one at all!
  • The benefit of having both professions within the one clinic is that if any of our practitioners think that you would be better treated by a different profession or practitioner, they will recommend this to you.

For more information about osteopathy & physiotherapy we recommend you visit the websites of the respective professions regulatory bodies. Click on the links below.

Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) website

General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) website

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127 Dunmow Road, Bishop's Stortford, Herts, CM23 5HQ

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