In terms of treatment and how they help the human body, there are many similarities between osteopathy and physiotherapy. They differ very slightly in how they see ailments and the way they’re treated, though. So, what is the difference between osteopathy and physiotherapy? Keep reading to find out the intricacies of osteopathy and physiotherapy.
There are arguably more similarities than differences between osteopathy and physiotherapy. However, it is in their philosophies that the key differences can be found between these two specialisms.
Osteopathy works with the function and the structure of the body to increase joint mobility, relieve muscle tension, enhance the blood and nerve supply, and aims to help the body’s own healing mechanisms. Physiotherapy deals with similar aims surrounding a patient’s body, in terms of healing injuries, pain and increasing mobility.
The differences between osteopathy and physiotherapy philosophies, though, are much clearer. Using a holistic approach, osteopaths work from the viewpoint that the body is a whole with its own healing mechanism, and that all of the body’s systems are interconnected.
In contrast, physiotherapy uses a more western approach to medicine and treatment by focusing solely on the affected area of pain, rather than the whole body. Treatments and training differ too in that physiotherapy will provide at-home exercises for a patient to complete, whereas osteopathic treatment is mostly just face-to-face and hands-on.
There are differences in the training between both professions, too. Osteopathy takes four years to complete training with over 2,000 hours of hands-on treatment. This extensive touch training gives osteopaths a highly-developed sense of palpation (a method of feeling with the fingers or hands during a physical examination).
The training focuses on musculoskeletal health, which means they’re well versed in spinal and joint manipulation. Following training, osteopaths can specialise in visceral, cranial, women’s health and paediatrics.
For physiotherapy, training is usually done through the National Health Service (NHS) for three years. Physiotherapists rotate their focus between musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular and respiratory training.
The key difference between osteopathy and physiotherapy training is that the latter is not as hands-on. Physiotherapy follows strict treatment protocols and provides exercise-related rehabilitation work.
A similarity of the training between the two professions is that they will both involve working with real patients in clinics. The only difference is that a training physiotherapist will work in a clinic alongside their studies and treat patients as part of their training.
Osteopaths will also treat real-life patients with symptoms and complaints of pain. However, this will be in a teaching clinic as part of their studies, rather than full-time work at a clinic providing treatment.
Although the two professions deal with similar ailments of the body by reducing pain and improving mobility for their patients, there is a big difference between osteopathy and physiotherapy treatment.
A physiotherapist will deal with an injury the way they have been trained by using a mixture of soft and deep tissue massages, joint mobilisation, stretches and exercises. You would also be given detailed movements (exercises or stretches) to do in your own time in between sessions.
In comparison, osteopathy uses a more holistic approach and sees the body as a whole. So an injury to the right shoulder may well be treated by treating the left hip. Osteopathy sees a connection between the whole body, so treating different parts of your body may well heal the injured areas and improve overall mobility.
Osteopathy is typically around 90% hands-on treatment techniques, while physiotherapy will be around 60%. A physiotherapist’s techniques will include observation of movement and electrotherapy, and will focus purely on the point of pain. There is also a much greater emphasis on exercise-based management as part of treatment (at-home exercises).
In summary, it is clear that both osteotherapy and physiotherapy provide care for pains and lack of mobility in the body. The key difference comes in the treatment, so it would depend on what you would prefer, and potentially the expertise of the professional you’re dealing with.
It must be said, though, that osteopathy and physiotherapy complement each other well. If suffering with a chronic problem, getting treatment from both professions at different stages of your rehabilitation would be beneficial.
If you’re struggling with any sort of chronic or acute pain and would like to seek physiotherapy treatment, contact one of our expert physiotherapists at Total Physio to find out what we treat and the services we provide. If you’d just like to discover more about what physiotherapy can do for you, or to find out more about the differences with osteotherapy, contact one of our clinics today.