The Differences Between Physiotherapy and Osteopathy

Osteopathy vs physiotherapy – that’s a question we get asked pretty often. Both treatments are used to speed up recovery, manage pain, improve mobility, and enhance general health. Both are offered by qualified, licensed healthcare professionals who receive years of training in anatomy.

That doesn’t really tell the difference between physiotherapy and osteopathy now does it?

Though osteopathy and physiotherapy seem similar, there are some significant differences between the two medical disciplines, and how they can help people.

What is the Difference Between Osteopathy and Physiotherapy?

Here’s how the Oxford English Dictionary defines osteopathy and physiotherapy:

Osteopathy – A form of manual therapy that involves manipulating and massaging muscles, bones, and joints to treat medical disorders.

Physiotherapy – The use of physical methods like exercises, massages, and heat treatment to treat injuries, deformities, and diseases.

Though both disciplines may sound like they perform the same thing, physiotherapists and osteopaths provide treatment quite differently.


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What Is Osteopathy?

You will visit or be referred to an osteopath for acute and chronic conditions related to muscles, bones, and connective tissue. In simple terms, most things that are related to the bones and muscles.

Osteopaths focus on rehabilitating patients and managing conditions such as:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Shoulder pain and lack of mobility
  • Pregnancy-related pains
  • Muscle pains
  • Joint pain and reduced mobility
  • Neurological pain

Osteopathy does not involve taking pharmacological drugs or surgery, though it’s possible you may be taking medication that has been prescribed by another doctor. Osteopaths use hands-on techniques such as:

  • Mobilization and articulation of joints and connecting tissues
  • Positional release
  • Manipulation
  • Stretching
  • Soft tissue massages
  • Education on managing pain
Learn more about the differences between physiotherapy and…

What Is Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy and Osteopathy

You may visit or be referred to a physiotherapist after an injury, an accident, and even surgery. In fact, physiotherapists work with patients recovering from spinal injuries, strokes, and cardiac problems too.

Physiotherapy is focused on improving your ability to function and move without pain, and restoring strength in specific parts of the body. In simple terms, physiotherapists help people improve their quality of life.

Physiotherapists treat problems like:

  • Neck and back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Sports injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Hip and knee pain
  • Elbow and shoulder pain
  • Bad posture
  • Pregnancy-related pains
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Post-surgery recovery
  • Cancer rehabilitation

Like osteopathy, physiotherapy does not involve taking pharmacological drugs or getting surgery. In fact, you can opt for physiotherapy even if you are taking medication or receiving ongoing medical treatment. Physiotherapists treat the body through:

  • Exercise-based programs
  • Joint manipulation
  • Mobilization
  • Soft tissue treatment
  • Electrotherapy
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Pain education

This is one easy way to differentiate osteopathy and physiotherapy: osteopathy is concerned with realigning your entire body whereas physiotherapy focuses on specific parts of the body.

Osteopathy vs Physiotherapy: Similar But Not the Same

For an ordinary person, the differences between osteotherapy and physiotherapy will seem negligible. After all, both physiotherapists and osteopaths take a holistic approach to health and both seem to treat similar problem areas.

So how do you decide which type of treatment you should seek?

If your doctor has referred you to an osteopath or physiotherapist – problem solved. They’ll have recommended the treatment based on an assessment of your condition.

On the other hand, if you want to find out why you’re experiencing pain or want to treat a reduced range of motion, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a licensed physiotherapist.

Contact us today to book a consultation with a licensed, experienced physiotherapist at White Pine Health. You’ll have access to a multi-disciplinary team that takes a hands-on approach to improve your quality of life.

Tahmineh (Tammy) Kamza

Physiotherapist Dry Needling Provider Hydrotherapist   Tammy graduated from the University of Toronto with an “Honors in Science” and obtained her Doctorate in Physical Therapy in the United States. Her thesis, ‘Effects Of Exercise In Falls Prevention In Community-Dwelling Older Adults’ took almost 2 years to complete. She finished her manual therapy designations from trained professionals of St. Augustine University in Florida. Finally, got her Dry Needling certification from the prestigious organization Kinetacore, a leading post-graduate program in North America. Aside from manual therapy and dry needling, she is well versed in hydrotherapy, taping and corrective exercise. She is a true believer in active therapy, thus her treatment goals always include an emphasis on physical activity with aim of improving client’s functional abilities.

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