Difference between an Osteopath and a Physiotherapist

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.

Our Bodies are Awesome!!

Our Bodies are Awesome!!

Our Bodies are Awesome!!

Our Bodies are Awesome!! How many times have you heard of someone who was told that they would not be able to walk following an injury, only to see them walking?  Or really any “you will not be able to do XYZ” story that ends up a fallacy.

As health practitioners we know a lot about the human body.  However, we do not know it all.  Our experience and training help us to make predictions on recovery and prognosis.  Yet the human body can still amaze us.

While certain structures within the body can be injured there is great scope for healing and repair.  Just because it is not in original condition does not mean it will not work as well as it originally did.  There may have to be a little extra work on your part – for example a painful shoulder with a calcific tendon may require additional strengthening of the other shoulder muscles to take the load off the calcific tendon to allow healing and repair.  There may be full recovery of the tendon, or some calcification may remain.  The overall outcome though would be a strong shoulder that functions as it did before becoming painful.

Injury isn’t a full stop!

My message here is that an injury or issue isn’t a full stop.  If you find yourself with a practitioner focused on what you are not able to do, rather than what you are able to do it may be time to see if there is someone else to assist you along your rehabilitation journey.  Don’t get me wrong there are precautions and possibly some activities to avoid in the short term.  A skilled practitioner will be able to assist you with preparing your body for returning to your desired activity and letting you know when it is appropriate to progress on.  It is great to have goals to reach towards.

In the case highlighted at the start of someone being told that they would not walk again following an injury – you can still aim high.  If the goal is something you truly desire let it be known and surround yourself with people to help along the way.  Our bodies are amazing and with conscious drive towards a goal who knows what you can achieve.

Glenda Walters – Physiotherapist & Exercise Physiologist

Written by: Glenda Walters – Physiotherapist and Exercise Physiologist