The Difference Between Osteopathy, Physiotherapy and Chiropractic

In this month’s blog, we address another question we’re commonly asked at the clinic – what’s the difference between physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy?

Let’s get right into it by taking a close look at what sets each discipline apart, so you can make the best possible choice when it comes to treating your specific symptoms.


Physiotherapy focuses on restoring movement and function following an injury or physical impairment. Physios are trained to use evidence-based, natural methods such as stretching, massage, hydrotherapy and exercise advice. They look to diagnose symptoms by assessing the musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiovascular and respiratory systems and commonly help patients recover from the following conditions:

  • Sports injuries
  • Back pain
  • Pregnancy-related conditions
  • Rehabilitation after serious illness or surgery


Chiropractic is principally concerned with the restoration, maintenance and prevention of musculoskeletal-related problems.

Historically, chiropractors focus on the spine and nervous system to determine the root of a condition to help remove any interference that may be impairing normal health. Chiropractors are trained in a range of techniques including traditional and modern spinal adjustment/mobilisation as well as complementary techniques like Kinesiology. Common conditions chiropractors treat include:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Sciatica and disk injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Scoliosis


Osteopathic principles are derived from the philosophy that in order to achieve optimal health and wellbeing, an individual must maintain a properly functioning musculoskeletal system. One of the key differences, however, is that osteopathy tends to take a more holistic examination of the body – that is, in addition to analysing the spine and nervous system, osteos look at the periphery muscles, ligaments and connective tissue surrounding a condition.

They’ll zone in on the precise problem area while assessing your whole body and lifestyle including your diet, type of work and sporting activities. This helps to diagnose the cause of your problem and find ways for you to gain immediate and long-term relief (and develop preventative solutions for the future).

Osteopaths only use drugs and/or surgery as a last resort, and focus on working muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons using a combination of stretch, massage, pressure point and manipulation techniques to promote mobility and restore body balance. Our Osteos here at Total Balance have also done further training in dry needling. Osteopaths commonly manage the following conditions:

  • Neck and back pain
  • Heel and foot problems
  • Sciatica and disk injuries
  • Shin splints
  • Repetitive strain injuries
  • Headaches and migraines

It’s important to note that each treatment method could potentially be used to cure the same condition, with the same effectiveness. In many ways, each discipline is trying to achieve the same results, just with different techniques.

And while it goes without saying that some techniques are better suited for certain symptoms, often a patient’s choice can come down to nothing more than personal preference. That is the difference between Osteopathy, Physiotherapy and Chiropractic.

Still unsure about how to address your pain or injury? Don’t stress – just get in touch with one of our experienced professionals to develop a proactive plan that best fits your needs.

This blog post is an educational tool only.  It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.

Phone: (03) 9773 8085

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