Broadly speaking, all three treatments have the same desired outcome, but they approach physical well-being from different perspectives and will use subtly different techniques.
Physiotherapists primarily use exercise-based rehabilitation and ultrasound, chiropractors use adjustments and are mainly focused on the spine and joints, and osteopaths use soft tissue massage, articulations, and adjustments as their treatment for musculoskeletal conditions.
This is one of the most common questions asked in the clinic. The general osteopathic and chiropractic council describes it as:
(General Osteopathic Council (GOsC)
“Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions. It works with the structure and function of the body and is based on the principle that the wellbeing of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues functioning smoothly together.”
(General Chiropractic Council (GCC)
“Chiropractic is a primary healthcare profession that specialises in the diagnosis, treatment and overall management of conditions that are due to problems with the joints, ligaments, tendons, and nerves, especially related to the spine.”
(Chartered Society of physiotherapists (CSP)
“Physiotherapy helps restore movement and function to as near normal as possible when someone is affected by injury, illness or by developmental or other disability.”
Osteopathy, chiropractic, and physiotherapy all treat musculoskeletal conditions in similar areas of the body and are drug-free, manual therapies therefore it can be difficult to differentiate between them.