What Is The Difference Between An Osteopath (Osteopathy) And A Chiropractor (Chiropractic)?

By Dr Guy Ashburner | October 12, 2011

What Is The Difference Between An Osteopath (Osteopathy) And A Chiropractor (Chiropractic)?

Originally Osteopathy was founded in 1874 by Dr Andrew Taylor Still, an American medical doctor. One of Dr Still’s students was Daniel David Palmer who founded Chiropractic in 1895. The association between Dr Still and Palmer is not usually mentioned in accounts of the history of Chiropractic. Despite these early links, Osteopathy & Chiropractic are now quite different.

Philosophy, Treatment Objective And Diagnosis

A shared philosophy for osteopathy and chiropractic is the importance of the integrity of the spine in ensuring good health.

The primary objective of both osteopathy and chiropractic is to remove bodily aches and pains, and both are able to make a diagnosis by history, clinical tests and examination.

Chiropractors tend to use x-rays for diagnosis. However, Osteopaths focus on history, clinical tests and palpation for diagnosis, and do not order x-rays unless they are clinically indicated. This minimises a person’s exposure to radiation.

Treatment Techniques

Chiropractor tend to be very focused on a range of techniques for manipulation of the spine.

Where as, Osteopaths do not manipulate (‘click ’) a joint the way Chiropractors do, they make use of a wider range of techniques for the whole body. Apart from manipulation, Osteopaths use other techniques such as stretches, massage and gentle release techniques (cranial osteopathy) without any ‘clicking’ of the joints. These techniques are seldom used by Chiropractors.

Treatment Duration / Frequency

Generally, Osteopaths allow a longer treatment time with each patient. Also, Osteopathic patients require less frequent treatments and their treatments tend to be spaced out over a longer period, rather than once or twice weekly.

Some Chiropractors like to encourage their patients to sign on for a course of 10 to 20 treatments, even for minor complaints.

Osteopaths do not usually impose such requirements. Depending on a person’s condition, most complaints require just a couple of treatments but normally between three to four treatments. With more serious cases the patient is advised to undergo regular treatment over a prolonged period.

This, of course, is the opinion of an Osteopath, clinical experiences of patients and opinions of other health professionals. However, a Chiropractor may have a slightly different view.


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