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A lot of our patients ask what the difference is between physiotherapy and osteopathy. To this day I don’t have a clear cut answer, and I am both a physiotherapist and an osteopath. I would say that they are very similar in that they are both manual therapies but use slightly different methods of treatment.

Physiotherapy is the most commonly known form of ‘manual therapy’ due to its prevalence within the NHS. However, the difference is much greater between NHS physiotherapy and osteopathy. Physiotherapy in the NHS unfortunately is prone to negative reports. They have long waiting lists and are put under a lot of pressure to reduce this list, this in turn limits the amount of therapy that the physios can provide. Physiotherapy in the private sector however, is very similar to osteopathy.

The treatments that physiotherapists and osteopaths provide are made up of a number of different techniques. These techniques are a combination of massage, joint manipulation, muscle stretches, acupuncture, postural advice and rehabilitation. Both physiotherapy and osteopathy use all or a combination of these techniques and more. A common misconception of osteopathy is that it only deals with spinal problems, such as neck and lower back pain. However, this is not true; osteopaths treat a wide range of conditions, such as ankle sprains, jaw pain, knee and hip pain and sports injuries.

Osteopaths play a major role in providing top level sports therapy for football clubs, rugby clubs and professional dance academy’s such as at the Royal Opera House. Physiotherapists are well known for their rehab skills, exercise prescription is a big part of their treatment programme.

At the end of the day both professions have a common goal; to get the patient better. They achieve that through a wide range of methods that the individual therapist believes to be the best in treating that particular injury.

written by Nicolette Gygi