What is the difference between a Chiropractor and an Osteopath? Is a question that I get asked regularly so I thought I would team up with local Osteopath, Melanie Harrison to see if we could come up with an answer. However as we started to do this we found that there were probably more similarities than differences. To try and explain this better we have split it into several headings;

  • Definition,
  • Origins,
  • Training and Regulation,
  • Conditions we treat and how we examine and treat our patients.

Firstly, What is a Chiropractor or an Osteopath?

The British Chiropractic Association defines Chiropractic as;

Chiropractic is a regulated primary healthcare profession. Chiropractors are trained to diagnose, treat, manage and prevent disorders of the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, and muscles), as well as the effects these disorders can have on the nervous system and general health. They have a specialist interest in neck and back pain, but when they assess patients, they take their entire physical, emotional and social wellbeing into account.

The Institute of Osteopathy defines Osteopathy as;

Osteopathy is a method of assessing, treating and preventing a wide range of health problems. Osteopaths use a combination of movement, stretching, targeted deep tissue massage and manipulation of a person’s muscles and joints to improve function, relieve pain and aid recovery.

The body has the natural ability to maintain itself and, by helping this process, an osteopath can promote restoration of normal function. The principle of osteopathy is that the wellbeing of an individual relies on the way that bones, muscles, ligaments, connective tissue and internal structures work with each other.

An osteopath will take the time to understand their patient, and their unique combination of symptoms, medical history and lifestyle. This helps to make an accurate diagnosis of the causes of the pain or lack of function (rather than just addressing the site of the condition), and from that, to formulate a treatment plan that will achieve the best outcome.


Origins of Chiropractic and Osteopathy

Both osteopathy and chiropractic originate from America in the late 1800s.

Osteopathy founded in 1872 by Dr Andrew Taylor Still, an American doctor who grew disillusioned with orthodox medicine after his wife and three children died from spinal meningitis. Historic accounts mention that one of Dr Still’s early students was DD Palmer who founded chiropractic in 1895. DD Palmer is said to have performed the first chiropractic adjustment of a partially deaf janitor Harvey Lillard, who then reported that his hearing had improved.


Training and Regulation

Both Osteopathy and Chiropractic require training to degree level over 4-5 years. They are then regulated by their governing bodies. For Osteopaths this the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) and for Chiropractors the General Chiropractic Council (GCC). These governing bodies ensure that all osteopaths and chiropractors are fully qualified and of good character to provide the best possible treatment for patients.

Chiropractors and Osteopaths have to renew their registration annually and complete 30 hours of Continued Professional Development in order to maintain their place on their governing bodies’ registration – without this they will be unable to practise.

Conditions we treat and how we examine and treat our patients

This area is probably the one that patients ask us the most ‘should I see a Chiropractor or an Osteopath for my problem?’

Generally chiropractors and osteopaths treat similar conditions such as back pain, neck pain, headaches and other problems with the joints and muscles of the body such as the arms and legs. Both professions also tend to look at the body as a whole  so for instance if you neck is the painful area we may well examine your low back to make sure that your problem does not stem from an issue there.

Osteopaths often seek also to treat functional disorders such as disorders of the respiratory or digestive systems and are trained in cranial osteopathy or craniosacral therapy, which involve very subtle and gentle adjustments.


How do our treatments differ?

Osteopaths treat and diagnose problems with your bones, soft tissue and muscles by looking at the function of your body as a whole they tend to do massage, stretching and mobilising and manipulation techniques.

Chiropractors use a range of techniques to reduce pain, improve function and increase mobility, including hands-on manipulation of the spine. As well as manual treatment, chiropractors are able to offer a package of care which includes advice on self-help, therapeutic exercises and lifestyle changes.

Chiropractic treatment mainly involves safe, often gentle, specific spinal manipulation to free joints in the spine or other areas of the body that are not moving properly. Apart from manipulation, chiropractors may use a variety of techniques including ice, heat, ultrasound, exercise and acupuncture as well as advice about posture and lifestyle.


So to sum it all up – ‘What’s the difference between a Chiropractor and an Osteopath?


The similarities between us are:

  • we have similar origins, levels of education and regulation.
  • We can also treat similar problems.

The differences between us are:

  • We have slightly different philosophies behind what we are doing.
  • We  use different treatment techniques.

Our advice would be to find either an osteopath or a chiropractor who has been recommended to you – or if you don’t have a recommendation contact a few by phone or email and see who you think could help you most.


If you need further information please contact us


Rosie Piercy MChiro DC                                              Mel Harrison

Chiropractor                                                                      Osteopath

Total Chiropractic                                                          www.melharrisonosteopath.co.uk

01635 791301                                                                    07727 666312

rosie@totalchiro.co.uk                                                 melaharrison156@yahoo.com