Liam says: I will try to answer this without bias but please remember that I am an osteopath and therefore cannot be truly objective. Inevitably, this brief snapshot does not do justice to the development of three different forms of manual therapy. It merely attempts to highlight some of the differences in clinical practice you can expect from each.
Osteopaths use in depth physiological & clinical knowledge, coupled with keen observation & palpatory skills. The osteopath will combine a detailed health case history with a thorough physical evaluation to diagnose a patient’s condition and treat it. The patient’s diet, work & leisure practices all inform the process.
The osteopath doesn’t treat a painful back, knee or shoulder, but rather the body as a whole unit – one that must be treated in an integrated manner in order to return to good balance & function: can an injured knee, for instance, be treated conclusively without addressing the biomechanics of the ankle, hip, pelvis and back? The osteopath’s aim is not merely symptomatic relief, but to address the underlying causes of the problem to prevent re-occurrence.
Osteopathic treatment combines joint mobilisation and manipulation with work on muscles and ligaments.
Chiroprators: The origins of Chiropractors are close to osteopaths as the first chiropractor was a student of the founder of osteopathy. A large proportion of chiropractors focus treatment on the manipulation of spinal segments to normalise spinal position and the underlying nerve roots. Treatment plans are often based on regular manipulation for a set number of sessions in order to wholly correct a disorder. Chiropractors also often use imaging to aid diagnosis, such as X ray. These x rays will often be conducted in the clinic as part of the course of treatment.
Physiotherapy is the most commonly known form of manual therapy due to its prevalence within the NHS. Physiotherapists specialise in the rehabilitation of acute and chronic joint injury, often using a variety of prescribed exercises that the patient carries out at home. Physiotherapists also use machines such as ultrasound or TENS to facilitate change in an injured area.
NHS physiotherapists tend not to have a diagnostic input, the diagnosis and treatment request tending to emanate from a consultant or doctor. As a result treatment will tend to be more specific than integrative.