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The Difference Between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor

This is a a very commonly asked question, and one that cannot be answered in one sentence, even though you think it should be able to be!

Generally – the differences between the two professions come down to just a handful of things:

1. The origin of the profession
2. The belief system of that profession, and
3. What happens in a consultation.

What really matters is not the first two, but the last of the three in the list above. 


After all – what happens inside a consultation in an Osteopath’s rooms could be very different to that within a Chiropractic clinic, but – in some circumstances, the consultation could be almost identical!

The below examples have come from patients of mine how have attended Chiropractic clinics over the years (myself included), and here is what I think the main differences in treatment are*

a) Osteopaths have longer consultations.

This may or may not suit certain individuals, however, Osteopaths believe it’s important to take a global overview of the presenting complaint, and sometimes – this requires more time. Often, a chiropractic appointment lasts for between 10 and 20 minutes compared with Osteopathic consultations that are generally a minimum of 20-30 minutes.

b) Chiropractors are spine focused. 

This is neither a good thing or a bad thing – it’s very important to look at the spine and the nerve supply of particular regions of the body associated with that nerve supply. Osteopaths also look at the blood supply and complex postural patterns associated with pain, that cannot be rectified with spinal adjustments. 

c) Osteopaths don’t “Crack” everything.

Nor do Chiropractors, but popular consensus among people I have treated is that Chiropractors do a lot of spinal adjustments – which is absolutely fine if that is indicated, but on occasion, this approach simply does not work. A skilful Chiropractor will have other methods of attaining the desired treatment outcome. 

d) Osteopaths don’t have “Care Plans”.

I’m yet to see any evidence that shows that a “Care Plan” (one where you’re obliged to visit a practitioner – multiple times over a year in exchange for a reduced consultation rate) is actually beneficial. 

Rather than having multiple appointments – Osteopaths believe we should “find it, fix it, and leave it alone”.

The reality is – positive (and negative) outcomes are achieved with both forms of practice. There is no one “right” or “correct” form of treatment modality.


Only you will know what works for you.

*Disclaimer: the author of this article is an Osteopath, presenting a picture from an osteopathic point of view. You should ask a Chiropractor for their opinion on the differences between the professions and form your own opinion.

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