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Chiropractor Or Osteopath: Who Should You See?

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If you’ve ever had the misfortune of suffering from a bad back, you may have found yourself weighing up your options with regards to treatment, and you might have stumbled across both chiropractor or osteopath services. But what’s the difference, and which would be best for you?

The clearest difference between Chiropractic and Osteopathic treatments is that a Chiropractor will mainly focus their efforts entirely on the spine, whereas an Osteopath will adopt a more holistic approach and will look for ways to treat their patient which involve the entire body, not just the spine. Osteopaths usually rely on a whole host of different treatment types, whereas a Chiropractor will predominantly involve spinal adjustments. Osteopaths will also provide a wider scope of treatments – including treatments involving the respiratory system and the digestive system. 

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Chiropractors treat those who are suffering from back pain (and sometimes pains in other areas of the body too) by manipulating the spine and its vertebrae. The ultimate goal is to make ‘adjustments’ to the spine through the process of re-alignment. Chiropractors believe that if the spine is aligned as it should be, then the body can heal itself. It’s important to remember that chiropractors are not medically trained, and they do not have the ability to prescribe medications.  

Osteopathy, on the other hand, focuses entirely on the relationship between the musculoskeletal system and a person’s overall health. Osteopathy, which was founded in the 1870’s, is a “distinctive form of medical care founded on the philosophy that all body systems are interrelated and dependent upon one another for good health” – in accordance with the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

Osteopath’s in both America and Europe consider themselves as being DOs. However, the main difference is that in America, osteopaths are Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, and can therefore prescribe medications, whereas European osteopaths have what’s known as a ‘Diploma of Osteopathy, and do not have a license to prescribe medications. American trained osteopaths have full medical practice rights, both in the United States, and in 44 other countries around the world. Osteopaths that have a Diploma in Osteopathy usually focus their work on spinal manipulation – much like a chiropractor.



In terms of the similarities between the two practices, both Osteopaths and Chiropractors believe that having the correct spinal alignment is the key to overall better health. For example, ensuring that a patient’s spine is healthy and aligned correctly, can improve functionality of the central nervous system, as well as offer further support to areas such as blood flow. The primary objective is usually always to alleviate aches and pains felt throughout the body – however, secondary reasons can include fighting against routine headaches, improving circulation, and even issues with a patient’s sinuses.  

As mentioned before, the main difference is that chiropractors mainly focus on the neck and back (the spine), whereas osteopaths will take into account the broader skeletal system, looking at how muscles and joints interact and offering treatment for areas of the body which aren’t necessarily directly connected to the spine. 

It’s often the case that when visiting a chiropractor, there’ll be a need to have an X-Ray or MRI to determine problem areas with the spine that need to be addressed. It is not unusual for chiropractors to even have X-Ray machinery in their own offices. Opposingly, an osteopath will mainly determine problem areas by giving the patient a physical examination – using touch and feel to establish where the focus of the treatment needs to be. 

There’s more than just spine realignment that can be offered at your chiropractors office – it’s also worth investigating their services if you’re suffering from ailments which you may have otherwise thought were completely unrelated to the spine. Take for example; sinus problems. Given that the upper vertebrae of your spine (i.e. the atlas vertebra below the skull) have a direct impact on the brain stem, and all of the nerves passing through, it can have a negative impact on your sinuses if this region of the spine is misaligned in any way. It’s common for patients who visited their chiropractor for various back and neck problems to notice indirect improvements in any sinus pressure and/or congestion they’d been previously living with.

For all this may not have been the initial issue for many people who are visiting their chiropractor, it may come as a welcome additional bonus, and indeed is reason enough in itself to perhaps consider seeking the help of a chiropractor, if you’re having trouble with your sinuses. An osteopath on the other hand, for similar ailments, would be more likely to offer medical solutions that were separate from manipulating the spine.

The main point to take into consideration when deciding upon whether to consult a chiropractor or an osteopath, is where in the body you are experiencing issues? Perhaps it’s advisable to consult both specialists, and see which comes up with the more viable solution to your problem. Unless, of course, you know already that the issue lies somewhere other than the spine, then perhaps it wouldn’t be worth your time visiting a chiropractor. The best advice is also to consult with your regular doctor first, before seeking advice from elsewhere – especially if your chiropractor or osteopath is not medically trained. 

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