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The difference between Physiotherapy and Osteopathy

08 May 2014

Physiotherapy Vs Osteopathy.

Many patients often ask what is the difference between Physiotherapy and Osteopathy? The answer although sometimes difficult to explain, is extremely obvious after a consult with an Osteopath.  For that reason Osteopathy is one of the fastest growing therapies in Australia.  We have tried to outline some basic differences below.

Physiotherapists typically treat the symptoms of your problem.

When managing complaints treating the symptoms often yields symptomatic complaints.  That isn’t to say it is not the correct way, however finding the mechanical cause or reason is the best way to solve the problem.

  • Swollen – add ice , compression, elevation
  • Pain at a location – treat the location mostly – using machines, devices, pads,
  • Lack of quality movement – add movement to  the location and strengthen it.

Physiotherapists will typically examine the relationship between the muscles and the problem and prescribe exercises to strengthen the area.

Osteopaths on the other hand try to identify the cause of your problem and treat it.

  • Swollen – where is the load / pressure/ trauma coming from?  Is it local (from friction / rubbing) or is it because something somewhere else is pulling / loading that area.  If so where and how?
  • Pain – Often the symptom of pain is due to injury or strain at another location.  Too often do patients get continual management at the site of pain with no relief.  Rarely do therapists look around to determine where its coming from.
  • Lack of movement at a joint is rarely just a problem at that one joint.  The whole body connects, just as a foundation for a building affects the top floor.  When you see an Osteopath they will consider the way you foot, knee, hip, pelvis, spine, collar bone, shoulder, are effecting motion at your problem.  Find the cause first then manage your problem more effectively.

Effective management of an injury is about identifying the cause.  The techniques and tools used by different Physiotherapists and Osteopaths can be quite similar, yet they can be very different.

So how does this impact you?

Well if your health condition is being poorly managed, consider the differences between Physiotherapists and Osteopaths. Alternatively if you are looking for a fresh evidence based approach try Osteopathy and discover for yourself what everyones talking about.

For more information about Osteopathy go to the Australian Osteopathic Association.


themos - post author

Dr Themos Gourlas has a Masters degree in Osteopathy and is a Neuro-linguistic master practitioner. He has clinics located in Bankstown NSW and Kogarah NSW. Dr Gourlas also founded PracTx.com, the online exercise prescription platform.