Chiropractic versus Osteopathy


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Generally speaking, similar techniques are employed by both osteopaths and chiropractors to treat alike conditions. The two methods of treatment appear to have developed along side each other to treat specific ailments, however they do cross paths considerably. This can make it rather difficult for someone to decide whether a chiropractor or an osteopath is better experienced to deal with his or her condition.

Differences between chiropractic treatment and osteopathy

Simply speaking, chiropractors generally fixate on the spine to diagnose and treat a condition, whereas osteopaths do consider the spine but also look at the joints and muscles to aid their treatment.  

Both chiropractors and osteopaths tend to use a more holistic approach to care and look at the whole body as an interconnected element rather than a jumble of individual parts that may be treated as one.

Osteopaths concentrate on two key areas in regards to caring for the body as a whole. Firstly, they understand that a good blood supply is required for a healthy body and so circulation is noted when investigating their patients. Secondly, they look at the mechanics of the body. They look at whether there is any stress on areas of the musculoskeletal system and whether this may be the cause of their patients ailments. The osteopath takes all this into account during treatment and use the bones as the lever systems behind movement of the muscles and joints.

Chiropractors, however, tend to concentrate on the spine rather than all the bones of the body. They look into the alignment of the vertebrae (bones that protect the spinal cord and make up the spinal column) and physically adjust them by methods that they believe will alleviate tension and pain that may radiate through the body. The vertebrae that make up the spine have nerves leading out of them, which travel around the body. This ensures that messages between the brain and rest of the body can be transmitted effectively.

Day-to-day activity can cause the vertebrae that make up the spinal column to misalign. This can result in the nerve messages between the brain and body to become disrupted. Furthermore, this can lead to various body conditions as well as pain in many cases.

Overall, although the common aim for both chiropractors and osteopaths are to reduce pain and discomfort, their practices to vary. Osteopaths tend to treat more broad functional conditions than chiropractors. Despite this difference, both osteopaths and chiropractors work the bones, joints, soft tissues as well as the nervous system and blood circulatory system. This can relieve symptoms of numerous problems, such as back pain, asthma and headaches.

Osteopathic and chiropractic patient experiences

Often, patients tend to undergo familiar practices with both osteopaths and chiropractors, however there are some differences. During diagnosis, for example, although both osteopaths and chiropractors use visual observation and palpation techniques, these vary. Chiropractors often use more technical procedures such as x-rays compared to osteopaths who tend to rely more on physical examination and only employed such diagnostic techniques if deemed truly necessary.

The procedures performed by osteopaths are often used to have an effect on the body’s natural healing system. They do this by working on the muscles, joints and soft tissue as well as using methods involving manipulation and the movement of the body. The actual methods employed depend entirely on the individual patient’s complaints, although manipulation is a rather widespread technique.

On the other hand, chiropractors focus more on improving the functioning of the nervous system using adjustment techniques, often on the spinal column. This technique involves manipulation that is not dissimilar from that used by osteopaths. However, the theory behind chiropractic treatment is that by manoeuvring the vertebrae, nerve transmission will be restored to its optimum.

The duration of the actual treatment also varies between chiropractic and osteopathy. Generally speaking, because chiropractors focus on the spine, their treatment sessions tend to be shorter but of a higher frequency than osteopaths. Contrastingly, an osteopathy session tends to last longer as the treatment is more broad and varied so it is important to spend more time on the patient. However, both chiropractors and osteopaths tend to recommend certain “self-help” tasks to perform for themselves outside of session time, which will complement their therapy.


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