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What is the Difference Between Osteopathy and Chiropractic?

Chiropractors and Osteopaths address the same structures and use similar techniques

Chiropractors and Osteopaths address the same structures and use similar techniques

Many people wonder what the differences are between the various manipulative approaches. Last week I took my 1st year graduates out to talk to a baby and toddler group and that very same question was asked by a parent. I watched them as they stood there wondering how to answer this question. How you explain really depends on who asked the question, and why. In this case the mum who asked the question was being seen by an Osteopath and she wanted to know how the treatment would be different if she saw a chiropractor.

Osteopathy was founded by Dr Andrew Taylor Still in 1872, an American doctor who grew disillusioned with orthodox medicine after his wife and three children died from spinal meningitis. He opened the American School of Osteopathy in Kirksville, Missouri. He based the philosophy of the school on two main principles -:

  • ‘The rule of the artery is supreme,’ meaning a healthy blood supply should support a healthy body. Therefore circulation is taken into account when an Osteopath assesses a patient.
  • ‘Structure governs function,’ if structure is altered by muscle spasm which can also alter alignment of joints; this could inhibit the natural function of multiple bodily functions.

These are the historical differences. However it is important to remember that both Chiropractors and Osteopaths address the same structures and use similar techniques. I believe if you see a good chiropractor and a good osteopath with the same problem, then both should have a good outcome. Usually Osteopaths include massage to loosen up the tissues first before adjusting, whereby chiropractors because of their short thrust technique do not. Osteopaths apply long lever techniques, which involves using the limbs to create tension for an adjustment. Osteopaths learn cranial techniques, and chiropractors learn this if they choose to, after they have qualified. Chiropractors use diagnostic tools such as X-Rays because Chiropractors are trained to not only take X-Rays, but also to read them as well.

In the U.K. both are statutorily regulated with their own Acts of Parliament and their own Councils, the General Chiropractic Council for Chiropractors and the General Osteopathic Council for Osteopaths. Both professions are accountable, which is how it should be, because it informs the public that we take our responsibilities seriously. If anyone calls themselves a Chiropractor or an Osteopath without qualifying at an appropriate accredited college and without registering with the appropriate authorities it is considered a criminal offence, so not someone you want to see.

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