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Do I Need A Physiotherapist Or An Osteopath?

Do I Need a Physiotherapist or an Osteopath?

It’s a commonly asked question, and those that have never experienced both treatment methods, it can be a tricky to try and differentiate between them. There are clear similarities between the professions, although the way that injuries and illnesses are approached, their underlying principles and philosophies differ.

In order to provide an adequate answer to the question, its best to define the therapies in question.

It is estimated that around 80,000 people visit an Osteopath each day across the globe, and the primary reason for this is back pain.

A primary healthcare profession, the practice of Osteopathy focuses on 4 aspects –

  • Diagnosis
  • Treatment
  • Prevention
  • Rehabilitation

These all relate to muscoskeletal disorders; the very structure of the body, and the effect they have on other areas of the body and a patient’s general health. Osteopaths use palpation to identify any points in the body that are weak or experiencing excessive strain. The traditional concept of osteopathy is that any physical disturbances to a segment in the spine will affect the autonomic nerves that surround it, leading to an impaired blood supply to surrounding tissue, causing adverse effects.

To restore the body back to functioning at its optimum, Osteopathy works on the principle that the body is its own ‘medicine chest’. By focusing on strengthening the entire muscoskeletal system, existing conditions can be treated and future illnesses prevented. The symptoms will be considered, not on their own merit – but in context of the patient’s general lifestyle and medical history, it has a holistic approach.

Osteopaths generally work across the whole body, regarding it as a single, functional unit. They concentrate more on soft and deep tissue massage, joint manipulation, stretching and even acupuncture. It is highly likely that your osteopath will also suggest exercises to promote posture correction, as poor posture negatively impacts the body in a number of ways. Osteopaths tend to favour longer treatments, concentrating on working on the muscles and a more gentle manipulation.

The treatment serves to increase the mobility of the joints and release muscle tension, this is turn promotes the blood and nerve supply to tissue, aiding the body’s very own healing mechanisms.

One in 4 people visit their GP for pain they experience in their bones, ligaments, muscles, tendons and nerves; this is what’s collectively known as muscoskeletal pain. Most people experiencing pain in their lower back, neck, shoulders seek help from an Osteopath, particularly if it is persistent. Any pain experienced in the pelvis or hips can also be treated by this profession, it is common that pregnant women can experience pain in this area, those who have sustained a sports injury are likely to visit an Osteopath also.

The term Physiotherapy comprises a range of services, interventions and advice that is aimed restoring and maintaining an individual’s function, maximising their quality of life.

Also a primary care function, physiotherapy is closely aligned to a traditional medical approach and far more focused on mobility then Osteopath is. It is used to restore function and movement to its optimum level, in most instances when someone has sustained an injury or disability, or is affected by an illness –physiotherapy is very much a remedial therapy.

The treatment uses manual manipulation to encourage the development of an individual and to facilitate recovery, as the patient is fully involved in their own care they are able to remain a degree of independence, depending on their circumstances; this could range from beginning to walk on their own without any aid right through to continuing to work whilst receiving regular treatment.

Through singular movements, exercise sequences, manual therapy and advice, Physiotherapy can help patients to manage pain and prevent reoccurrence and even future ailments. Within the realm of physiotherapy, other treatment are also called upon; hydrotherapy, ultrasound and electrotherapy are all example of these.

You will find physiotherapists in a number of healthcare settings; from occupational health, intensive care, neurology, sports clubs, care of the elderly and private clinics such as Total Health. The physical symptoms that can be treated with physiotherapy include muscoskeletal, cardiovascular, neuromuscular and cardiovascular.

Those who visit a physiotherapist may have experienced an injury in the workplace and require physiotherapy to help them return to their normal duties, or to their role entirely; children with developmental movement problems, women who require post-natal care following gynaecological operations, people who have undergone neurological procedures and operations.

Frequently, those suffering from arthritis will seek help from a physiotherapist to support them to maintain their mobility. It’s also common for competitive athletes and sportsmen and women to regularly receive physiotherapy to prevent and treat sports injuries.

Despite there being considerable similarities between the practices, each profession is keen not to lose its individual identity as their school of thought is at times, vastly different. Both Osteopaths and physiotherapists treat a patients ailments as well as providing sufficient advice and ongoing exercises that will keep their patients striving to achieve their optimum level of health and happiness.  At Total Health, we understand that it may still be difficult to ascertain which treatment it is that you need; we pride ourselves on the unique fact that we offer both of these treatments with practitioners who specialise in each area. If you are still unsure which treatment you need don’t be disheartened, book an initial appointment with us at Total Health clinics where we will assess your symptoms and advise on the right course of treatment and put you on the path to recovery.


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