What’s the difference between osteopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists?

It’s not the role of any health professional to try to define what another health care professional does, and what they are. If you want a definition, it would be best to ask those people in their professions. However, it is important to understand the defining characteristics of Osteopathy, which are its underlying philosophy and its broad range of techniques.

While “Biomechanics” has become one of the most rapidly developing areas of medicine in recent years, Osteopathy was one of the first professions to incorporate biomechanical analysis to determine how injuries occur and what the secondary effects are likely to be. To take a simple example: if you go to an Osteopath with a shoulder injury, the Osteopath will do much more than just examine and treat your shoulder. They will want to know exactly how the injury occurred in order to assess, not just which tissues in the shoulder are injured, but also whether there may be any involvement of other areas with a mechanical relationship to the shoulder, such as the neck, elbow, mid back and maybe even pelvis, and the associated soft tissues.

They will then want to analyse any possible secondary effects. For instance, you may be “avoiding” the bad shoulder and putting more strain on the other side. Over a period of time, this may lead to problems developing in the lower neck or the “good” arm. The Osteopath will then use this information to prescribe a treatment plan that addresses not just the shoulder, but all of the other areas of the body and associated tissues that may be involved. The plan will include attention, not just to the joints and their associated soft tissues, but also to the blood supply to the affected areas, the nerve supply, the lymphatic drainage etc., in order to include all those factors which will affect the success of healing. It is this “whole body, multi-system” holistic approach that has been the basis of Osteopathy’s success over the last century.

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