What is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal conditions. Musculoskeletal refers to your bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. An osteopath will look at the mechanical functions of your body and will aim to restore your whole body to a good state of balance. People who have osteopathy will benefit from pain relief, better functioning of the body and help to protect against further injury or illness.
As well as assessing the area causing you pain, they will also look for other factors within your body that may be contributing to your symptoms. This can include lifestyle and environmental issues, history of any medical conditions and past injuries.
The treatment they provide works across the whole body, to help increase joint mobility and relieving muscle tensions. Some techniques commonly used are soft tissue massage, stretching, acupuncture and joint manipulation.
What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapists help people affected by injury, illness or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, massage, education, and advice. They may also use electrical equipment such as ultrasound and may carry out acupuncture.
Their aim is to improve your quality of life by helping you restore function, movement, alleviate pain, and also to help manage your illness so that you can remain independent for as long as possible and live life to the full.
Physiotherapists are highly trained and chartered health professionals who can provide treatment for a variety of conditions, injuries, age related illnesses and surgical procedures. A physiotherapist will assess the area causing you the pain, they will also look at your lifestyle as a whole to see where / if improvements can be made.
What is the difference between Osteopathy and Physiotherapy?
These are two very similar professions. Both treat musculoskeletal pain and both are trained in physiology and the anatomy. So you may ask yourself what are the differences? This can be broken down into:
Physiotherapists are trained mainly in the NHS and rotate between different specialities, rotating between different wards and hospitals, gaining a wide knowledge of many specialisms. Their training is either 3 or 4 years depending where they study in the UK and they are also required to do 1000 hours of hands on practical training during this time.
Osteopaths’ training is between 4-5 years, with over 1,000 hours of hands-on patient training, focusing mainly on joint and muscular injuries in both adults and children.
Osteopaths definitely do more hands-on work with their patients than physiotherapists and are known to carry out more spinal and joint manipulations. Physios have a reputation to be less hands on than osteopaths but with a bigger focus on exercise prescription. But there is a huge overlap, and this can be argued from both sides.
Most osteopaths are self-employed and work in the private sector, although some do work in multi-disciplinary environments within the NHS and in occupational healthcare. Osteopaths, wherever they work, must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council.
Areas of speciality
There is a large overlap between the work of physiotherapists and osteopaths. Osteopaths tend to treat mainly joint and muscular injuries in both adult and children, whereas physiotherapists work in a variety of specialisms, ie. Sports injuries, neurological care, palliative care, long term health conditions, pre and post-operative care, elderly care, respiratory care and many more.
To summarise a physiotherapist and an osteopath both aim to help relieve pain and help your body recover well. If you are unsure which specialist to see, perhaps discuss this with your GP or speak to a physiotherapy or osteopath clinic to find out if they can help you.