What is the difference between an osteopath, a chiropractor, and a physiotherapist?
This is the most frequently asked question we get, and it’s not an easy or a short answer as there is a huge amount of overlap in what each type of practitioner will do during a treatment. As a broad generalisation, a chiropractor will mainly use spinal manipulations or “clicks” to treat you (but many would rightly refute this). Physiotherapists will focus mainly on giving you exercises to help your condition (but many would rightly refute this). Osteopaths may use spinal manipulations and give you exercises but will also do ‘hands-on’ massage type work, joint movements and other soft tissue techniques within a treatment.
Is it safe?
Yes. Your osteopath has been trained to know that certain techniques should not be performed on certain patients with ‘contra-indicated’ conditions and will not do anything that puts you at risk. Occasionally, an osteopath may decline to treat you for safety reasons and will refer you to an appropriate other person such as your G.P.
Will it hurt?
No. It shouldn’t. You may occasionally experience a ‘good type’ pain or a little discomfort during the treatment, but any time you are uncomfortable enough to want to stop the osteopath doing what they are doing, you are encouraged to do so. Everything that happens during a treatment happens with your consent.
Can it fix my particular pain?
Of course, it depends what is causing your pain. On your first visit, the osteopath will discuss your health at length, and then make a thorough assessment of your symptoms to arrive at a diagnosis. The outcome depends on what your diagnosis is but most patients can be helped to some degree. The osteopath will discuss your prognosis with you, and for those conditions that cannot be cured, we can often still help reduce pain and disability.
Will the osteopath “click” or manipulate my spine?
They might, depending on where your pain is and what the osteopath thinks might be causing it. However, if you did not want to be manipulated, your wishes would be respected and other techniques would be used instead. Manipulation is never used on certain patient groups such as the very young and the very old.
How many sessions will I need?
It varies. A good average is between 4 and 6 treatments but generally, the longer you have had a pain or condition, the longer it is likely to take to fix. For some chronic conditions where the aim is not CURE but MANAGEMENT, you may have to attend regularly for a long time but the frequency of the visits should lessen. For example an arthritic elderly patient might attend initially every week for four to six weeks to achieve a good outcome, but then might have to attend say four times a year to keep the pain from returning. Your osteopath will discuss your prognosis with you at the time of your visit.
Will I have to undress during treatment?
Typically the osteopath will ask you to undress to your underwear in order to see and examine your spine. Any concerns you have about this will be respected and all attempts will be made to keep you as comfortable as possible. You are encouraged to communicate any concerns to your osteopath.
Do I need my G.P. to refer me?
No. Most osteopaths work outside the scope of the NHS (although this is changing slowly) and your G.P. does not need to refer you. Occasionally the osteopath may refer a patient to their G.P. for example to request that an X-Ray or M.R.I. scan be performed, but mostly your osteopathic treatment would not involve your G.P. at all.
What training do osteopaths get?
Osteopaths these days have to attend university for four years to achieve a degree in Osteopathic Medicine. Many then do post-graduate courses and learn ‘add-on’ skills such as cranial osteopathy or acupuncture. All osteopaths are obliged to maintain their skills levels by attending courses on a continuing basis.
Is Osteopathy Regulated?
Yes, the General Osteopathic Council maintain a register of all practising osteopaths. To be on the register, osteopaths have to be qualified, and insured, and must have fulfilled other conditions of registration such as CPD. The General Osteopathic Council website can be found at
If we haven’t addressed all your questions in our FAQ page, and you need to speak to the osteopath, call 07739 590868
To book an appointment phone 01786 897260 or…