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Chiropractor vs Osteopath: What Are the Differences?

Both Osteopathy and Chiropractic are alternative care for pain relief.

As common alternative health and wellness methods for various conditions like back pain, shoulder, knee, or neck pain, Chiropractic and Osteopathy (also called Osteopathic manipulation) have some similarities and differences in taking care of body disorders.

As a result, different approaches are also taken by Chiropractors and Osteopaths.

Knowing the exact difference between a Chiropractor and an Osteopath or Osteopathic practitioner (Yes, the two are different) can help you make informed decisions when you are seeking medical care for your health issues. We hope this article can help clarify the similarities and differences between Chiropractic and Osteopathy.

What Is Osteopathy Treatment?

Osteopathy is a non-invasive, gentle treatment that focuses on treating the body holistically through gentle manual mobilization techniques, thrusts, and other Osteopathic techniques such as counter-strain.

Osteopathy is known for its gentle and low-force methods. It focuses on a full body approach to ensure optimal balance and alignment which may be impacting a certain structure causing pain.

In Osteopathy, practitioners are trained to find areas of tension throughout the body and have extensive knowledge of the facial network that can pull on various parts of the body, causing tightness and pain.

By releasing tension in the body, they allow the body to adjust and heal and remove any strains and pulls that may be placed on certain structures, causing pain and movement limitations.

Osteopathy is suitable for everyone and all age groups that like a more gentle and relaxing type of treatment and is beneficial for all types of musculoskeletal problems such as muscle sprain/strains, spinal misalignments, joint tension and stiffness, headaches, and more.

What Is an Osteopath?

Osteopathy is taught worldwide, and the most common places to train are in the United States and Europe. However, the two regions have some distinct differences in their training.

In the United States, Osteopaths are medical doctors. They are trained to prescribe medications, deliver babies and do surgery. In the US, they are referred to as Osteopathic Physicians or Osteopaths. Osteopathy is a regulated profession in the United States under the same regulatory body as medical doctors.

A second stream of Osteopathy education exists in Europe, and there are accredited schools that teach the science of Osteopathy through a comprehensive 4-year postgraduate degree.

The title reserved for the professional who completes this degree is Osteopathic practitioner or Osteopathic manual practitioner.

However, unlike in the United States, the graduates are not considered medical doctors.

Both streams of education are recognized by the Osteopathic International Alliance (OIA), which is recognized Worldwide and has over 75,000 Osteopathic practitioners and Osteopathic Physicians.

In most parts of the world and some provinces in Canada, the title Osteopath refers to any individual that has completed a comprehensive 4 year postgraduate degree in Osteopathy in Europe or the United States.

However, In British Columbia, the usage of the title of Osteopath is reserved for those who are members of the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons and operate under a regulatory body.

Osteopathy is a non-invasive health method which manipulates the musculoskeletal framework.

What Is Chiropractic Adjustment?

Chiropractic adjustment (aka Chiropractic care) is the science focused on assessing, diagnosing, and treating neuromuscular disorders of the body, especially those related to the spine and the nervous system.

In other words, Chiropractic care is a hands-on therapy that uses mechanical joint adjustments and gentle mobilizations to restore the proper biomechanics of the affected joint, reduce tension, and improve movement at the affected site.

Chiropractic treatments help restore mobility and movement in a joint suffering from a misalignment issue. When a joint is an issue, people can feel off balance, pinch with certain movements, or feel limited mobility.

That is a very good time to seek care from a Chiropractor to identify areas of the body contributing to stiffness and pain and help resolve them.

You may want to read this article in case you want to get more information on Chiropractic care: Chiropractic Adjustment and How it Can Help Align Your Body.

What Is a Chiropractor?

Chiropractors are doctors with extensive knowledge and skills in diagnosing and treating various musculoskeletal conditions of the body, particularly disorders relating to the spine.

To acquire a chiropractic degree, one must first obtain a bachelor’s degree, then apply for the doctorate program and complete a 4-year doctorship program followed by a period of internship. All chiropractors are knowledgeable regarding musculoskeletal injuries, exercise rehab, and prescription, and nutrition.

Some chiropractors acquire more training to treat pregnant women or children, while others choose to focus primarily on sports injuries and athletes.

According to a research performed by Kazis et al. in 2019:

Patients who saw a Chiropractor as their initial provider for low back pain (LBP) had 90% decreased odds of both early and long-term opioid use.
Chiropractic is an alternative medicine and a manual therapy which mostly focuses on spinal problems.

Osteo vs. Chiro: What Are the Differences?

Although Osteopathy and chiropractic provide alternative medicine for pain conditions, they have some differences which are discussed in the following table.

Chiropractors are regulated professions in Canada and British Columbia and operate under a Regulatory Body.Osteopathy is currently not operating under a regulatory body in British Columbia.
All Chiropractic treatments, as a type of health care expense, are tax-exempt in British Columbia.Osteopathic treatments are subject to tax in British Columbia.
Chiropractic treatments are generally shorter in duration, averaging 15 or 30 minutes in BC.Osteopathic treatments tend to be longer in duration, averaging 30-60 minutes in BC.
Chiropractic visits typically cost between $70-$120 depending on the duration in BC.Osteopathic visits typically cost $100-$150 depending on the duration in BC.

Similarities Between Osteopathy and Chiropractic

Chiropractic and Osteopathy have significant overlap both in terms of their curriculum and skills acquired to treat patients.

Osteopathy and Chiropractic similarities include:

Osteopathy and Chiropractic Similarities
Both these alternative treatments are categorized under manual therapy fields.
Both are experts in musculoskeletal conditions and are able to assess, diagnose, and treat issues related to joints, muscles, nerves, and other related injuries.
Both professions undergo rigorous schooling and training to obtain their certificates; a minimum of 4 years of postgraduate study is required to be able to practice in BC as a licensed professional.
Both utilize a hands-on manual therapy approach to care.
Both treat the body holistically and with a full-body approach in mind rather than focusing only on the pain spot.
Both do not require a Medical doctor’s referral for a first visit.
Both are covered through MSP benefits for low-income individuals or families. MSP compensates $23/visit up to 10 visits annually. The patient is responsible to pay the remaining amount as a user fee.

Osteopathy vs Chiropractor in Coquitlam: Who to Choose?

When it comes to choosing between a Chiropractor and an Osteopath, there is no right answer as to who to choose, and response to care is dependent on the individual practitioner’s skills and knowledge but also the presenting symptoms.

However, as a general rule, if you notice areas in your body of joint stiffness, joint locking, unevenness in your hips, or stiffness from a long day at work, seeing a Chiropractor can help significantly.

Suppose you feel pulls and tensions in different parts of your body that are not alleviated with regular stretching. In that case, if you feel twisted or imbalanced, or you are apprehensive about Chiropractic adjustments, a good first step is to see an Osteopath, as treatments tend to be more gentle and oscillatory based compared to higher velocity adjustments.

Although, it is important to mention Osteopathic practitioners also have training in high velocity adjustment and may utilize such techniques when appropriate.

To summarize the article and help you choose an Osteopath or a Chiropractor for your specific condition:

See a Chiropractor if:

  • You notice joint stiffness or joint locking in areas of your body,
  • You feel unevenness in your hips,
  • You notice stiffness from a long day at work

See an Osteopath if:

  • You feel pulls and tensions in different parts of your body that are not alleviating with regular stretching,
  • You feel twisted or imbalance,
  • You are apprehensive about Chiropractic adjustments

Are These Services Offered at Fulcrum Therapy?

At Fulcrum Body Wellness Clinic, you can expect the collaboration of experienced chiropractors with professional osteopaths in our neighborhood to ensure you are set up for success.

After a thorough assessment, we can treat your primary complaints, and if there are gaps in the treatment that we believe an osteopath may be able to fill, we use our strong referral network to set you up with practitioners who can address your needs.

Our Chiropractors are also trained in the Activator Method and Drop Table Method, which are tools that allow us to perform chiropractic adjustments with low force and are appropriate for those people who are scared of the “crack”, very pregnant ladies, and those in acute pain.

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