As chiropractors we often get asked, “What is the difference between chiropractic, physiotherapy, osteopathy and other health professions?” We often hear “I don’t know if I should see a physiotherapist or a chiropractor for a certain condition or what is the difference with an osteopath”. For the purpose of this blog let`s focus on chiropractic, physiotherapy and osteopathy. You will find below what I think are clear and easy answers shedding some light on the main differences between chiropractic, physiotherapy and osteopathy.
The Basics of Chiropractic
Chiropractors are primary health care doctors who focus on the neuro-musculo-skeletal system (i.e. your nerves, your muscles, your joints and your bones). Chiropractors are well known to help with back and neck pain but chiropractic care goes way beyond pain relief. Our spine is designed to protect our spinal cord which is responsible to send signals from our brain to the rest if the body. Our nervous system controls every cell, tissue and organ in our body. If you have a mis-alignment in your spine (what chiropractors call subluxations), there will be interference in that communication. That interference can result not only in pain, but in other symptoms such as digestive issues, headaches or sleeping problems to only name a few. Through specific adjustments, the chiropractor restores proper spinal function therefore removing interference on the nervous system so the body can perform optimally. Chiropractic care is not only used for pain relief but for overall health and well-being.
For more information on chiropractic, click here for the 20 Most Frequently Asked Questions.
The Basics of Physiotherapy
Physiotherapist Specialist mainly focuses on the musculo-skeletal system. They very often work in rehabilitation centers, post trauma, surgery or repetitive injuries. They help a wide variety of conditions such as ankle sprains, low back pain and shoulder tendinitis. Like in chiropractic care, there is not only one approach in physiotherapy. Some therapist will be more hands-on, whilst others will combine exercises, acupuncture, machines like TENS or Ultrasound. Whatever the technique, the goal is to restore the body to its original condition.
For some conditions chiropractic and physiotherapy work really well in combination, and they also work well on their own depending on the patient’s condition and their goal.
The Basics of Osteopathy
Osteopathy is a little more complicated. The first important distinction to make is that a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine is a US trained Medical Doctor who specialized in Osteopathy. There are very few of them in Canada. On The other hand, an osteopath is a person who is trained at one of the Canadian Osteopathic Colleges around Canada. This profession is very well known in Europe, especially in France. The philosophy behind osteopathy is associated with restoring good blood flow in the body in order to have the proper nutrients everywhere in the body. The techniques used by an osteopath vary from very light visceral manipulation to bone mobilization. As of today, osteopathy is not a regulated profession in Ontario or Quebec. Good news for the public though as they are in the process of developing a College of osteopathy in Quebec and hopefully one will come soon to Ontario. These will not only protect the public but will also help this profession to be further defined.
I will not pretend that I know everything regarding other professions as each professional also has it’s different techniques and approaches. One thing that many people don’t realize is that chiropractors are primary health care doctors and have at least 7 years of post secondary education and are licensed to not only assess and examine patients but also diagnose. If a condition is out of our scope of practice, we are able to refer to the right healthcare provider if needed. Chiropractic has been around since 1895 and has helped millions of people not only get out of pain, but also reach better health naturally without drugs or surgery!