Osteopath vs Physio

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Osteopath vs Physio

Osteopath vs physio - Duncan WebsterDuncan Webster, owner of Pimlico Osteopathy, gives us his thoughts on osteopath vs physio, the difference between osteopathy and physiotherapy and who you should get to treat you.

We are often asked about the differences between an osteopath and a physiotherapist.

Firstly, there are many similarities and as both osteopathy or physiotherapy practice is guided by research, the principles of each profession are quite similar. Osteopaths and physiotherapists are able to diagnose and treat the same problems. Our level of education at undergraduate level is very similar (although there are a few differences in how we get our degrees). We both offer hands-on treatment and prescribe exercises to enhance recovery. We are both regulated professions, meaning that each osteopath and physiotherapist needs to meet strict criteria each year in order to practice. The list goes on! We are more similar than we are different.

Osteopathic treatment is guided by a few fundamental principles:

  • The body is a unit – everything in the body is connected and we look at the whole body to understand why your injury occurred and how to prevent it in the future.
  • Structure governs function – each part of the body is designed to perform a specific role and the angles and orientation of the structures of the body make it function in the best way possible.
  • The body has self-regulatory mechanisms – the body has the ability to heal itself and as osteopaths, we assist in this process by helping the body to move better, increase the blood supply to the desired parts and give exercises that can assist the recovery

There are vast differences even between how individual osteopaths treat their patients. Osteopathy is such a huge subject and each therapist may take a special interest in treating certain things or using specific techniques. Over time, as we do our postgraduate study, it moulds us into completely unique practitioners. We call it the art and the science of osteopathy. What links us, however, are our principles. Although each osteopath may use different variations on techniques, our principles for how we understand healing are the same.

What is the difference between an osteopath and a physiotherapist?

When they are studying, physiotherapists are required to work in the NHS, whereas osteopaths aren’t. This may allow a physio to specialise in, for example, respiratory physiotherapy, or neurological physiotherapy etc. Osteopaths have a minimum of two years working in a clinic, but it is based in our universities, not the NHS. This allows us to treat people from all walks of life, which often sparks a particular interest in the student which they may go on and study in more detail post-graduation.

Some physiotherapists continue to work in the NHS when they graduate, whereas most osteopathic practices are private. Certainly, in the Pimlico area of London we work in, there is no NHS osteopathy.

Being treated in a private practice can help the patient in a lot of ways. It’s quicker to be seen in private practice, often with same-day appointments. It also means we have more freedom to achieve the specific goals of a patient and work with them until they are able to do the things that matter to them in their life, rather than discharge them when certain NICE guidelines are met.

Historically, there were more differences between how physios and osteopaths treated patients. Osteopaths used more hands-on manipulation and physios gave out more exercises. But we are both guided by research, so now osteopaths are prescribing more exercises and private physios are doing more hands-on work (this seems to be happening less in the NHS though).

Osteopath or physio – who should you get to treat you?

In summary, what we say to our patients is: find a therapist that works for you. There are some great physios out there and some great osteopaths. We can treat the same things and achieve the same results, even if the techniques we use are slightly different.

At Pimlico Osteopathy, we believe we are great osteopaths and the 5-star testimonials we receive from our patients and on Google Reviews and Facebook back this up. We are told we have a warm, friendly and professional environment to help our patients in and we look forward to welcoming you here when you need our help.

Find out more about Duncan Webster

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