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Osteopathy vs Chiropractic Whats the Difference

A woman undergoing a back examination in London by a physiotherapist.

Difference between An Osteopath and Chiropractor

Osteopath, chiropractor – what is the difference between these systems or approaches? I often get asked this question, and its always difficult to give a clear, and seemingly unbiased answer. The first thing to state is that there are more similarities than differences.

Osteopath and Chiropractor Origins

Following on from osteopath chiropractor or chiropractic treatment was formulated by one of Stills’ students Daniel Palmer, a decade or so later around 1890. It is claimed when at a party that he manipulated the neck of a friend of his who coincidentally had also suffered hearing loss. His friend reported a few days later that not only had his neck improved but his hearing also. At the time, Palmer was using what are termed ‘short lever techniques’ which essentially involved pressing or pushing on the bony prominences of the spine. Historically, both schools of thought were in conflict for supremacy. Now thankfully, both schools coexist amicably together!

A woman receiving a back massage at an Old Hospital.

Osteopathic Treatment

In essence,Osteopathic treatment tends to use more ‘indirect techniques’ in which the spine is stretched or mildly tensioned to exert mild forces around a joint, spinal or peripheral, thus effecting a physiological change. Additionally, an osteopath tends to work much more on the muscular system, utilising soft tissue techniques to effect changes both in the surrounding muscles as well as the joints.

Chiropractic Treatment

By contrast, chiropractors tend to use direct techniques, pushing directly on the spine. They often work with tables with a gap in the middle which helps put direct force onto the spine. A chiropractor tends not to use quite as much soft tissue treatment as an osteopath.

Final Thoughts

To add more confusion, some osteopaths work more like chiropractors, and some chiropractors work more like osteopaths – utilising the above-mentioned techniques.

Ultimately every person finds somebody who helps them – Orthopaedic consultant, Physiotherapist, Osteopath, Chiropractor.

So Which is best?

A massage therapist working on a client's back.

 Need you ask Osteopathy of course!


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Laurens Holve

Laurens Holve has over 35 years experience as a Healthcare Practitioner specialising in both Osteopathy and Acupuncture practicing in North London and Woking, Surrey.

He trained in Osteopathic Medicine in London and studied Acupuncture in London and China where he worked and gained clinical experience in a hospital in Shanghai.

He helps people quickly get back to health by using his many years of study and experience employing different techniques to help reduce pain, increase mobility and improve health.