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 have similarities and differences in their treatments and training.

It matters who you see for the problem hurting your body, and knowing the answer to “the osteopath versus chiropractor” question will help you choose the right practitioner for your condition.

What Is Osteopathy Treatment?

Osteopathy is a non-invasive, gentle treatment that focuses on treating the body holistically through gentle manual mobilization techniques.

Osteopathy is extremely gentle and focuses on treating the painful areas by treating the whole body, not just the one area of 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 body parts, causing tightness and pain.

Osteopathy is suitable for everyone who likes a more gentle and relaxing 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?

In the United States, osteopaths have a doctorate designation. They must complete a 4 years bachelor’s program to be eligible to study osteopathy.

Osteopaths are knowledgeable in the body’s musculoskeletal system. They understand injury mechanisms and prognosis and can assist in the healing and treatment of various musculoskeletal injuries.

Osteopaths work alongside medical doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, and other alternative health care providers. They can add their unique approach and lens to helping patients recover faster and more effectively from their injuries.

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.

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.

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.
As a type of health care expense, all chiropractic treatments are tax-exempt.Osteopathic treatments and Massage Therapy treatments are both subject to tax.
Chiropractors are allowed to perform chiropractic adjustments (HVLA) techniques.Osteopaths are not allowed to perform HVLA techniques and can only perform mobilization techniques.
Chiropractic treatments are lower cost and shorter duration of time/session. Osteopathic treatments are longer, usually one hour, and therefore, cost more/per session.Osteopathic treatments are longer, usually one hour and therefore, cost more/session.
Chiropractors use more spinal adjustments to correct misalignment combined with stretching and prescribed exercises.Osteopaths utilize more soft tissue techniques and stretch to release stiffness.
Chiropractors focus on the spine and joints. They use various techniques, like spinal manipulation to adjust the joints.Osteopaths focus on the body as a whole while using various techniques to treat the musculoskeletal system.

Similarities Between Osteopathy and Chiropractic

Chiropractic and osteopathy have significant overlap both in terms of curriculum and skills acquired.

There is no Osteopathy school in Canada, and Osteopathy is more recognized in the United States.

However, some osteopaths also practice in Canada, and our Coquitlam chiropractors enjoy collaborating with them as both chiropractors and osteopaths can offer their unique approaches and treatment styles for the same condition.

  • Both are experts in musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Both professions undergo rigorous schooling and training to obtain their certificates.
  • Both undergo a doctorate program and are considered doctors.
  • Both utilize a hands-on manual therapy approach to care.
  • Both treat the body holistically and with a full-body approach rather than focusing only on the pain spot.

Osteopathy vs Chiropractor: Who to Choose?

When choosing between a Chiropractor and an Osteopath, there is no right answer to selecting osteopathic medicine or chiropractic as your pain relief solution.

Osteopathy and chiropractic are both considered alternative medicine and non-invasive manual treatments, and either of the practitioners will do a thorough initial assessment of the symptoms before any approach.

However, as a general rule,

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?

Our Coquitlam Chiropractic and Body Wellness Clinic offers chiropractic services and collaborates with osteopaths in our neighborhood to ensure you are set up for success.

After a thorough assessment, we can treat your primary complaints. If there are gaps in the treatment that 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 and Drop Table Methods, which allows us to perform chiropractic adjustments with low force and is appropriate for those scared of the “crack”, pregnant ladies, and those in acute pain.

  • Is an Osteopath Better than a Chiropractor?

    Osteopathy and chiropractic have significant overlap in their training and abilities.

    Chiropractic is more recognized in Canada and has gained popularity due to its effectiveness in treating musculoskeletal conditions.

    Osteopathy has gained popularity in Canada over the last 10 years. However, it still requires further establishment and recognition from third-party insurers. Both professions can help patients with their musculoskeletal pain using similar approaches.

  • Should I See a Chiropractor or an Osteopath for Back Pain?

    Both chiropractic and osteopathy can effectively treat lower, middle, or upper back pain. However, these two treatments have some key differences in approaching back pain condition:

    Chiropractors focus on the spine and joints and use manipulation techniques to bring relief. At the same time, Osteopaths consider the body as a whole and use various techniques, including spinal manipulation, to relieve pain.

    Ultimately, a chiropractor might be a better choice if you are looking for a practitioner who specifically focuses on your lower back pain while adjusting your spine.

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