Difference between an Osteopath and a Physiotherapist

Ever wondered what the difference between a Physiotherapist and an Osteopath is? Who should you see? We give you all the info you need to know about what makes us similar and yet different. You can check out our video “What’s the difference between an Osteopath and a Physiotherapist?”. Our video with Principal Osteopath – Giulian and Head Physio Glenda discusses exactly how they are the same and yet different!

What is Osteopathy?

In Australia, Osteopaths complete 4-5 years university training. They are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Osteopathy is a form of manual therapy that adopts a whole body approach to diagnosis, management and treatment of many acute and chronic conditions. Osteopaths will address relevant muscles, connective tissue, bones, and various body systems. They aim to restore balance and better manage the presenting condition. These conditions can include:

  • Headaches and Migraines
  • Neck and Back pain
  • Work injuries
  • Sporting injuries
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Pregnancy related pain
  • Joint and Muscle pain
  • Neurological pain

Techniques include

  • Soft tissue massage
  • Positional release techniques
  • Stretching
  • Mobilisation and articulation of specific joints and tissues.
  • Manipulation
  • ‘Indirect’ release and gentle techniques
  • Muscle Energy Technique
  • Pain Education

What is Physiotherapy?

In Australia, Physiotherapists also complete 4 years of university training. They are also registered with  (AHPRA). Some will work in a clinic while others will work in hospitals with all sorts of different patients. In hospitals they may work with spinal injury, stroke, post surgery, patients with cardiac problems and much more

A Physiotherapist is trained to look at your condition, diagnose the problem, and also explain what is happening. They will make a treatment plan that will also take into account your lifestyle, activities and general health.

When might you see a Physiotherapist?

You can see a Physiotherapist when you experience the following problems.

  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Sciatica.
  • Postural issues.
  • Sports injuries.
  • Headaches
  • Tendon problems.
  • Hip, knee and ankle pain.
  • Shoulder, elbow and wrist pain.
  • Arthritis.

A Physiotherapist may use the following:

  • Exercise programs to improve movement and strength.
  • Joint manipulation and mobilisation.
  • Muscle education to improve control
  • Soft tissue treatment
  • Dry needling.
  • Electrotherapy
  • Pain Education

So what’s the difference between an Osteopath and a Physiotherapist?

Whilst both do training in anatomy, health sciences and manual therapy, there are some differences between them. Osteopathy generally has a more hands-on approach, as treatment is dominated with manual therapy. Physiotherapists will often include other modalities such as electrotherapy, hydrotherapy and ultrasound. Both are qualified with unique skill sets.

Osteopaths are well versed in the application of spinal and joint manipulation in comparison to Physiotherapists. Osteopaths will look to treat the body as a whole whilst physiotherapists are generally area specific and target the tissues involved and are much more likely to include exercise as a part of treatment.

Physiotherapists are trained with a strong focus on exercise-based management as it plays an important role in their treatment of injuries. Many physiotherapists have now also done extra training with joint and spinal manipulation to compliment their current skills.

Same same, but different

Arguably there are more similarities between the two professions than there are differences. Both are equally qualified and trained in the treatment and management of many conditions. The one that best suits your needs will ultimately come down to personal preference and also what may have assisted you in the past.

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