April 28, 2016 Tavia Wilson

What’s the Difference Between Osteopathy and Chiropractic?

What’s the Difference Between Osteopathy and Chiropractic?


This is probably the most asked question of Osteopathic Manual Practitioners.  The practice of Osteopathy is less well known, even though Osteopathy was founded before chiropractic. The practice differs from chiropractic in several respects:  philosophy, assessment, how the treatment is delivered, and the duration and frequency of treatments.


While chiropractors focus mainly on the alignment of the spine to treat the nervous system as the primary means to relieve pain, Osteopathic Manual Practitioners look at the body as one unit.  We assist the body to improve its function by facilitating the body’s innate healing ability to correct position, mobility and vitality of all structures.

The structure of the body includes all tissues like bones, organs, nerves, fluids and connective tissue. In this respect, Osteopathic Manual Practitioners view the body as an integrated whole, treating the person, not the symptom.

Chiropractors use adjustments, which are specific and aimed at restoring joint position and function. Osteopathic Manual Practitioners take a broader approach and treat a larger area, paying particular attention to areas that have been traumatized through accidents, illness and surgery.


Chiropractors frequently rely on more diagnostic procedures such as X-rays, MRI scans, and other tests, whereas Osteopathic Manual Practitioners place more emphasis on physical examination, and will generally refer clients on for more diagnostic procedures if required.

Delivery of Treatment

Another area where the two professions differ is how and what is delivered during a treatment.

The Osteopathic Manual Practitioner dialogues with the tissues in a very unique way.  It is said that we have “thinking, feeling fingers”.  We assess position, mobility and vitality and, as we are employing a technique, we feel for different healing points for the body to go through as it is responding and changing.  Believe me, there’s a lot of movement within the body that we can’t perceive even when we are still!  The bones and organs have a pattern of movement, the cerebrospinal fluid is fluctuating, etc.  without movement, there is no life.

Another difference in treatment technique is that Osteopathic Manual Practitioners employ a wider range of techniques overall. Apart from manipulation, we use other techniques such as cranial osteopathy, visceral osteopathy, myofascial release, strain counterstrain, muscle energy, sacral techniques and more.

Treatment Duration and Frequency

Generally, Osteopathic Manual Practitioners spend more time with each client as our approach is more global but the frequency of treatments is less. As the client experiences less symptoms and we feel that the client is holding the corrections to the body longer, then we can allow longer periods between treatments.

Chiropractic appointments tend to be shorter as they primarily focus on adjustment techniques which are quicker to carry out and they tend to see clients more frequently.

In conclusion, the two approaches are quite different.  If you would like to try osteopathy but you are unsure if osteopathy is right for you, I am available for a free 15 minute consultation.  Call reception to book your consultation today.


Catherine Cartwright, D.O.M.P Osteopathic Manual Practitioner