What is the difference?

What is the difference between Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Physiotherapy?

People are often unsure whether they should see an osteopath, chiropractor or a physiotherapist. There is a great deal of overlap between the three professions and it is not unusual to find for example chiropractors who practice more like osteopaths and vice versa. To help clarify the situation, here is a brief guide to the treatment modalities.


Osteopaths encourage the body's own healing mechanism to repair tissues after an injury or problem. Often the focus is to facilitate an effective circulation to promote this. Techniques may include massage, stretching, postural and nutritional advice, and range from very subtle gentle cranial techniques to more vigorous mobilisation of joints and tissues.

Osteopaths undergo 4 year training, currently leading to a Master's degree in Osteopathy. They will also have undertaken in the region of 1500 hours of clinical experience prior to qualification.

Typically, sessions may last from 30-45 minutes and include a variety of treatment techniques.


Chiropractors will aim to improve the function of the nerve supply to joints and tissues to improve health. Typically, this is achieved by manipulation of the spine - the ‘clicking' that many will be aware of. Traditionally, chiropractors have utilised X-rays to examine the spine although under recent guidance this has diminished.

Chiropractors also undergo an extensive 4 year training with a high number of clinical hours.

Chiropractic treatment sessions tend to be shorter, in the region of 15-20 minutes and more frequent than osteopathy.


Physiotherapists aim to restore function and movement. There is often some ‘hands on' work but much of the treatment may be through prescribed exercises.

Training is via a 3 year degree course and includes in the region of 1000 clinical hours.