What is the difference between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor?

There are many similarities between chiropractic and osteopathic treatments, as these two professions are trained to the same length and standard, however, principles between the two professions slightly vary. Both clinicians provide mainly hands on advanced manual treatments and both professions are regulated by law. Some people are helped by chiropractic treatment, whilst others benefit from osteopathic care. 


Osteopathic medicine takes a broad approach to your body’s aches and pains, addressing the neuro-musculoskeletal system and related dysfunction. Treatment is provided for muscles, ligaments, joints and nerves using multiple osteopathic techniques that may include spinal manipulation and mobilisation. Osteopaths are skilfully trained in identifying restrictions within your musculoskeletal system that may be relating to pain and dysfunction.  Additional offers include; dietary and aftercare advice along with the use of scans to help pinpoint problems (osteopaths however, prefer to only use X-rays and MRI scans as a last resort, due to the harmful effects of radiation).


Chiropractors also provide treatment of conditions that are due to problems with bones, joints, muscles and nerves, particularly those of the spine. Chiropractors work on the joints of your body and use their hands to make gentle, specific adjustments to improve joint function and help relieve pain. Chiropractors can also support the treatment they offer with advice about your lifestyle and exercise in order to help manage your condition and lessen recurrence. 


Ultimately osteopathy is a larger profession than chiropractic within the UK. It was Dr Andrew Still Taylor who formed Osteopathy in 1874, where he based his theories of disease, dysfunction and biomechanics on the “disturbed artery” in which obstructed blood flow could lead to disease or deformity. This would become known in Osteopathy as the Law of the Artery. As osteopathy evolved, much of the growing body of scientific knowledge being embraced by the rapidly changing medical profession was also taught in osteopathic colleges. Interestingly, it would be an osteopath who would ultimately influence the British medical system and indirectly establish physical therapy there within the arena of manipulative therapy.

Chiropractic is an offspring of Osteopathy, which was founded in 1895 by David Palmer. in 1896, David Palmer’s first descriptions and underlying philosophy of chiropractic was strikingly similar to Andrew Still’s osteopathic principles established a decade earlier. Both formers professed the use of spinal manipulation on joint dysfunction to improve health and function. Palmer drew further distinctions by noting that he was the first to use short-lever manipulative techniques. Additionally he described the effects of chiropractic spinal manipulation was mediated by the nervous system in contrast to osteopathy who believed the effects were attributed to the supremacy of the circulatory system in addition to the nervous system. Despite the similarities, osteopathic practitioners sought to differentiate themselves by seeking to licence and regulate the profession calling chiropractic a “bastardized form of osteopathy”.  

Now, in modern days, osteopaths and chiropractors practice very similarly but as individually as professions.  Both professions techniques in manual medicine are becoming increasing recognized and recommended within the National Institute of Clinical Excellence.




One thought on “What is the difference between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor?

  1. Pingback: The History of Osteopathy | Internet Billboards

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