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Who should I see – an Osteopath or Physiotherapist?

Having both osteopathy and physiotherapy professions within the one practice we are often asked "what is difference is between the two" and "which treatment would be most suitable"?

Though there are now many similarities between osteopathy & physiotherapy, the two professions originated from quite different roots, therefore the greatest difference today is found in the ideology and training.

In today's private practice the two professions treat pretty much the same problems – equally successfully - albeit with a slightly different approach.

The difference between Osteopathy & Physiotherapy (at this clinic).

Osteopaths view the body as a unique, interconnected, self-healing system. Osteopathic treatment focuses on correcting disturbances with this system, whether caused (by among many things) muscle weakness/imbalance and/or tension, restricted joint movements, poor posture or working practices. Given that each body is viewed as being unique, treatment is tailored to the individual not the symptom(s).

Osteopathic diagnosis and treatment is around 90% 'hands-on'. The techniques employed by our osteopaths can vary from cranial osteopathic (gentle touch and pressure – see the page on cranial osteopathy for more information), soft tissue techniques such as massage and passive joint movements (where the osteopath initiates and controls the movement) and thrust techniques (such as manipulation - often referred to by patients as 'cracking' – which, incidentally, is only the release of a slight vacuum that has built up between two surfaces of a joint). They may also use ultrasound, modern acupuncture, and in many cases lifestyle/postural advices, exercises and/or stretches may be given.

Physiotherapists concentrate on restoring optimum function and performance to the problem area. As physiotherapy has been an intrinsic part the NHS for many years, the availability of funding has driven research forward, ensuring treatment is based on the latest evidence.

Physiotherapy diagnosis and treatment is about 50% hands on, with more focus being given to observing movement patterns and assessing muscle imbalances. The techniques employed by our physiotherapist include joint mobilisations, soft tissue techniques, (such as massage), acupuncture, kinesio taping and exercise programmes. Ultrasound can also be employed. At the heart of treatment is the patient’s involvement in their own recovery, through the setting of personal goals and participation in both treatment and a home exercise programme.

So who should I see?

That really is down to your personal preference. All practitioners at this practice are 'hands on' professionals. The aim of treatment is the same, but the style of treatment can be different – however, this can also be true between individuals within the same profession. All therapists will vary approach and technique according to the individual and their physique.

But most importantly of all, if you have a problem...

  • Do something about it now! It is more important that you see someone (physiotherapist or osteopath) rather than see no one at all!
  • The benefit of having both professions within the one clinic is that if any of our practitioners think that you would be better treated by a different profession or practitioner, they willrecommend this to you.

For more independent information about osteopathy & physiotherapy we recommend you visit the websites of the respective professions regulatory bodies. Click on the links below.

Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) website
General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) website
Healthcare & Care Practitioners Council (HCPC) formerly the HPC

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127 Dunmow Road, Bishop's Stortford, Herts, CM23 5HQ