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

This is a question I am asked more than any other. Who should I use? What is the best choice?

It is a difficult one to ‘nutshell’ but here are some of the more important differences which will help – in simple terms though both osteopaths and chiropractors are similar

Osteopaths employ a larger number of techniques which are different, or extra to what a chiropractor uses (Chiropractors only manipulate the spine and joints) these include:

  • Soft Tissue: ‘massage’, ‘deep tissue’ muscle work, specialised stretching eg MET, PIR
  • Joint Articulation and Mobilisation. This is where the stiff joint is mobilised rather than manipulated with a cracking or clicking sound. Like a rusty hinge on a gate moved back & forth a few times to get it working
  • Visceral Some osteopaths work with internal organ function and movement (Which is used at Wollaston Osteopaths)
  • cranial sacral therapy’ and movement of cerebrospinal fluid

The specific treatment will depend upon the patient’s unique circumstances.

In contrast, chiropractors tend to concentrate on influencing the nervous system by employing a technique called “adjustment,”. The actual technique is similar to that of osteopathic manipulation. The theory is that adjusting the vertebrae will allow it to return to its proper alignment along the spinal column and permit optimal nerve transmission.

When diagnosing patients, osteopaths and chiropractors both use visual inspection (observation) and palpation (touch). Chiropractors frequently rely on more diagnostic procedures, such as X-rays, MRI scans, blood tests, and urine tests.

Osteopaths tend to place more emphasis on the physical examination and will generally refer patients on for more diagnostic procedures if required.

The type of treatment a patient will receive at an osteopathic clinic can vary greatly from osteopath to osteopath.

At Wollaston Osteopaths, each time you attend we perform a mini reassessment of your condition, finding out how you have got on since your previous visit, and then examining you and treating you as you are on this day. Chiropractors tend to perform the same treatment each time you visit


Why do Osteopaths charge more per treatment and Chiropractors less?‘  is an often asked question.

Chiropractic treatments are typically much shorter and many more treatments are needed, is the simple answer.

Osteopathic appointments usually last between 20 to 40 mins, whereas Chiropractors who very quickly manipulate the spine will take a few minutes only. Osteopathic treatments also tend to be spaced out over a longer period of time, and while costing slightly more per treatment, fewer are needed.

Osteopaths treat a broader range of functional problems, such as disorders of the respiratory or digestive systems, treating more than just bones joints and soft tissues. By working with the nervous system and blood supply they are able to influence all of the bodies systems, making them capable of alleviating the symptoms of a number of diagnosed medical conditions, such as; asthma, stress, digestive disorders, period pain, migraine and many more.

Length of treatment

In general, chiropractic appointments tend to be shorter as the focus is on adjusting the spine quickly.  However, chiropractors tend also to see patients more frequently, as the muscles connected to a misaligned vertebra can pull the bone back out of place, and it may take a few adjustments for the spine to settle into its proper alignment.  Osteopaths tend to spend more time with a patient per visit, as their focus is somewhat broader and their treatment techniques are more varied and the soft-tissues (muscles, fascia etc) will be worked on, stretched etc.

Though the root of the word ‘osteopath’ means ‘bone,’ osteopaths do not actually treat bones.  Rather, they use the bones as levers to improve the condition of other structures in the body like muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia, and organs.  By treating these structures, osteopaths can aid the body’s natural healing ability.

Chiropractors, on the other hand, tend to focus on the spine and the alignment of vertebrae as the primary means to relieving pain and tension throughout the body.  The spine consists of the vertebrae, which are bone segments that protect the spinal cord, and the individual nerve branches stemming from it.  These nerve branches exit between the bones, conveying important messages between the brain and the rest of the body.  Because the vertebrae shift and move with everyday activity, they can misalign and interfere with the nerve messages travelling among them – the Chiropractic Subluxation.