Why you should see an Osteopath instead of a Chiro or a Physio?
I’m writing a blog post on this hot topic because we have a real need in the modern healthcare industry for a different approach to many common problems afflicting the wider population. Complex and recurring back and neck pain? Hip pain stopping you sleeping? Sore thumbs, wrists and elbows at work? Can’t exercise because of that niggle in the shoulder or the knee that never really goes away. Try Osteopathy. We are different.
In my profession, Osteopathy, we have an image problem. We need to communicate what we do to more people, and explain our role better to the market so that people will consider coming to an Osteopath when they really need our services. But explaining what we do to those who haven’t already seen an Osteopath before is complicated, so I’ve written this short blog topic on the matter in the hope that I can educate more people who don’t know about Osteopathy on what we do and when we can be really useful.
A lot of my patients come to me after seeing a Physiotherapist or a Chiropractor because it wasn’t the right choice of therapy for them and because they didn’t know any other alternative existed. Even a substantial percentage of the older G.P.s I meet through my work would struggle to give a clear explanation of what the difference is between an Osteo, a Physio and a Chiro. They don’t know who to refer to, so how should you.
Osteopathy is a form of “manual medicine”. That means we are focused on treating musculoskeletal and neuro-musculoskeletal issues with non-surgical and drug-free approaches and therapies. We share this increasingly crowded market with two bigger competitors- Physiotherapy and Chiropractic. All of these professions appear similar to the unenlightened eye, but from whom Osteopathy is different.
Osteopathy is a small profession with just over 2000 registered professionals in Australia. Compare that to Chiro, which has well over twice that number and physiotherapy, which has somewhere in the vicinity of 40,000 professionals in Australia and you begin to see a big part of our issue is related to scale.
I’ve chosen this heading to be deliberately provocative. Its important to qualify it by saying the best therapist for you will be right for you- and so you should go by whom you feel best understands your issue, who listens, who communicates and who works the hardest for you. But if you are genuinely unsure about who to see, consider seeing an Osteopath.
So, why should you see an Osteopath over the other two equally government registered and skilled professions? There are a number of reasons I think you should:
- The care is different; Osteopaths use a model of therapy that places a lot of significance on understanding the psychosocial aspects of an ongoing injury- as well as the biological aspects. This is a direction that is increasingly being validated by research into musculoskeletal issues like arthritis, persistent pain, overuse injuries and headache, among other things.
- Anecdotally I think we are gentler practitioners. Some types of therapy out there can be very painful to endure, something that I think is rarely justified or necessary in manual medicine. Some practitioners tend to wear that as a badge of honour, but I think it can be quite harmful.
- Being a smaller and less visible profession means that we are much more reliant on our ability to gain new business by word of mouth referrals alone. For us in my practice, this means we have to be focused on offering top class service all the time.
- Osteopaths and Chiros have a different university education model to Physios. We generally spend 3 years studying undergraduate subjects and 2 years doing masters level study into the practical and theoretical aspects of manual medicine. Physios spend 4 years doing an undergrad degree to register. There is more time in the Chiro and Osteo degrees to focus on the highly skilled and delicate aspects of hands on manual therapy.
- Physios have quite diverse career options in healthcare and routinely opt for roles in hospitals or administrations in healthcare. Osteos and Chiros are much, much more likely to end up in private practice seeing musculoskeletal issues only.
- Osteopaths are mostly interested in really searching for and understanding the cause of the issue- and where its possible to pin it down, we will do so as much as possible. For example, this often means we will be looking at your pelvis with a knee complaint, or your neck and your workstation with a recurring back problem. This approach means we can often pick up things that might be missed by more reductionist approaches.
If you are looking for treatment of body related issues, musculoskeletal problems, recurring pain or work injuries then Osteopaths represent a valid and appropriate alternative to the more well trodden paths to a Physio or Chiros door. We are highly educated modern healthcare professionals who operate within Australia, well-regulated and safe healthcare system. As a profession we see over 50,000 Australians every week. Most extras healthcare insurance policies give generous rebates for Osteopathic care. Come and try an Osteopath next time you have need. You wont be disappointed.
Dr Eddie Clark Osteopath