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Is there a difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor?

difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor

What is the difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor?

This is one of the most common questions that I get asked as an osteopath in practice and I get it asked almost every day. I can guarantee that almost every single one of my patients has asked me this at some point during their treatments.

There are three main differences between an osteopath and a chiropractor.

The first is with the philosophy; the second relates to the assessment; and the third is the treatment.

The philosophy.

Chiropractors believe a problem in the body is a result of a dysfunction in the spine.

When you examine the anatomy of the spine you have the spine; the spinal canal; and the spinal cord. Coming out of the spine you’ve got nerve roots and those nerve roots form into nerves. Those nerves supply organs, muscles, joints and even things like the skin.

If the spine is not working properly and one of the joints is compressing a nerve root that’s going to affect the signals going to those structures that it’s supplying and therefore it’s going to result in less function. So by correcting this problem you’re going to restore this natural function of that structure.

difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor

Osteopaths on the other hand believe that a problem can result from dysfunction anywhere in the body. If you have pain that’s going to change the way you move and the way you function and that’s going to cause problems not only in that place but problems elsewhere. The theory is quite simple and some examples can highlight it quite easily. A problem in your knee will change the way you walk which is going to change the mechanics of the hip and therefore the spine, that’s going to affect the muscles, the tightness around the spine and that’s going to affect structures higher up which can even result in something like a headache.


Osteopaths tend to look a little bit more globally. When it comes to the assessment, chiropractors often use x-rays, or some other form of imaging or diagnostic equipment. In your first session you’ll often have an assessment with an x-ray. When you come in for your second visit they’ll go through your results and tell you the proposed treatment plan.

On your third visit you’ll start your treatment. Osteopaths on the other hand will usually assess you and treat you on that first session. Now the way that we work as osteopaths is we’ll have a look at you standing first of all, we’ll get you moving, see where any restrictions may be, then we’ll have a look and a feel of all the muscles and joints, see how they’re moving, perform special orthopaedic tests, try to see if we can provoke the problem so we can work out exactly what is going on, just by using our hands and our eyes and then at the end of that assessment we’ll treat you.

The treatment.

Chiropractic treatments tend to be quite short around about fifteen minutes. Chiropractors are more well known for their adjustments. Adjustments are the “clicking” of necks and backs. That’s what chiropractors tend to do; necks, upper backs, lower backs. Osteopaths tend to do more of the whole body so we treat more globally, a lot more massage work and our theory is that if you can loosen and relax the muscles it’s going to be a little bit less aggressive on the body so you’ll have less of a treatment reaction.

Ultimately though it doesn’t matter who you see whether it is a chiropractor or an osteopath as long as you feel comfortable with that practitioner and you like their treatment style is. If you don’t feel comfortable during your treatments, you’re not going to feel relaxed and you’re not going to get better as quickly.

So find a practitioner that you like rather than the therapy.


24 Ellon Road

Bridge of Don


AB23 8BX

The clinic is on the ground floor and free parking is right next to it.

Phone & Email

01224 707877

Opening Times

Monday to Friday 09:30 – 20:00

Saturday 09:00 – 16:00

Sunday Closed

To book an appointment please call reception on 01224 707877 during office hours (9am – 7pm) or complete the form above.

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