Osteopathy, Physiotherapy and Chiropractic – differences and similarities

This is a common question which practitioners from all three therapeutic modalities are asked. While the differences used to be more defined historically, it's difficult to differentiate each therapy nowadays as there are quite a number of techniques and treatment approaches which we all share. Some of you will be aware of these, having perhaps been to manual therapists from all three, however others may only be aware of physiotherapy through the NHS (which is actually quite different to the treatment protocol offered by private physiotherapists).


Osteopathy is a manual therapy which aims to reduce pain and return patients back to full function by addressing problems we find in the neuro-musculo-skeletal system (nerves, muscles and skeleton). This mostly involves treatment of the muscles and joints using gentle approaches such as soft-tissue massage, stretching, joint articulation and release (manipulation) and, depending on whether the practitioner has had further training, dry needling (similar to acupuncture) and cranial osteopathy.

All UK Osteopaths have completed a 4 year degree with rigorous clinical training after-which they have to be registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GosC). 30 hours of continued professional development is required from us to enable us to remain on the register.




As with Osteopathy, physiotherapy is a degree-based healthcare profession which focuses on reducing pain by restoring movement and function predominantly through exercise rehabilitation. A lot of time is spent on exercise prescription and explanation as a means to empower the patient to participate in and achieve their own recovery. There is usually little soft tissue massage or hands on manual therapy applied by NHS physiotherapists due to time constraints while private physiotherapists often treat in a similar way to Osteopaths and, more recently, a number of them also apply dry needling and have taken short courses to learn manipulation of the spine and other joints.

Physiotherapists practising in the UK must be regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and complete CPD hours annually.



Again, as with Osteopathy, Chiropractic is a healthcare profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disorders of the neuro-musculo-skeletal system and the effects of these disorders on general health. There is an emphasis on manual techniques including joint adjustment and/or manipulation with a typical focus on subluxations (misalignments of the spine). Chiropractics also study for 4 years, are regulated (by the General Chiropractic Council) and have to complete CPD hours each year. Chiropractors are working more and more like Osteopaths by including soft-tissue massage and other treatments other than manipulation.


If you're in need of treatment, it's really all about finding a practitioner and therapy which suits you best. There are good and bad practitioners in all three of these professions so it's about having a chat with them, looking online and ensuring that they are part of recognised regulatory body, getting recommendations from friends and family and, otherwise, going for an initial consultation.

Essential Osteopathy Blog

Blog Categories

Back Pain (13 Articles)

August 15, 2018

Upper Body (12 Articles)

September 9, 2018

Lower Body (11 Articles)

September 9, 2018

Pregnancy & Babies (8 Articles)

September 9, 2018

Sports Injuries (8 Articles)

September 9, 2018

Arthritis (2 Articles)

May 4, 2018

Clinic matters - gift vouchers and more (9 Articles)

September 13, 2017

Advice - exercise, stretching, workstation set up and more (10 Articles)

September 13, 2018

Other conditions treated by Osteopaths (9 Articles)

September 13, 2018

Pain (4 Articles)

September 13, 2018

Osteopathy - information on treatments, principles and more (6 Articles)

September 13, 2017

Chronic pain (1 Articles)

September 13, 2018

Movement (2 Articles)

September 13, 2018

What is the difference between Osteopaths, Chiropractors and Physiotherapists?

February 24, 2020

The Essential Osteopathy YouTube channel

February 24, 2020

Iliotibial Band Syndrome / Runner's knee

February 24, 2020

Osteoarthritis - Self-care and Osteopathy

February 24, 2020

Back pain - Causes and what you can do about it

February 24, 2020

Coronavirus - Essential Osteopathy Clinic update

March 17, 2020

Essential Osteopathy - Temporary Clinic closure

March 24, 2020

Essential Osteopathy - Virtual appointments

April 9, 2020

COVID Clinic Changes

June 15, 2020

Essential Osteopathy re-opens for face to face appointments

June 26, 2020

Christmas & New Year availability / Gift vouchers

December 9, 2020

Follow up appointment (30 min) changes

January 6, 2021

Exercise therapy in the management of hip and knee osteoarthritis (NCOR Snapshot Summary)

January 13, 2021


January 13, 2021

Back pain: Prevention is better than cure

January 13, 2021

Cranial Osteopathy: Treatment of babies with colic, reflux and other issues

January 13, 2021

All Content Copyright 2021 - All Rights Reserved