Back pain - it's surprising it doesn't happen more often. The complexity of the make-up of our backs really isn’t given enough credit; a structure made up of bones, muscles, joints and nerves.The spine is made up of a total of 26 bones in the adult body and 33 pre adolescence (there are 9 bones that do not fuse together until adolescence is reached) and supports the weight of the upper body whilst providing posture and making allowances for flexibility and movement – it also protects the delicate spinal cord and meninges.
What is Osteopathy?
Osteopathy is a ‘whole body’ treatment that centres around the principle that to achieve general wellbeing, all the bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue in our bodies must work harmoniously together. At the core of Osteopathy is the belief that every part of the body is unified, and manipulating a certain area of the musculoskeletal system can promote complete self-healing.
Osteopathy is a manual treatment, meaning a practitioner will use their hands to stretch and massage the body to increase mobility and relieve muscle tension. It is an effective treatment for several conditions including lower back pain, neck pain, arthritis, sports injuries and pain associated with bad posture.
Osteopaths manipulate areas of the body using methods such as massage and Myofascial release -which is the technique of relaxing contracted muscles to improve circulation and stimulate the stretching reflex within our muscles. They also frequently use palpation which involves gently examining the body with the fingers to identify the body’s structure, rhythm and any weak spots so they can tailor the treatment to an individual.
Visceral osteopathy is concentrated on the body’s organs and central cavities and involves the Osteopath gradually manipulating the viscera and connective tissue surrounding internal organs to increase pliability and improve general movement.
Cranial osteopathy focuses on lightly manipulating the skull to identify the pulse surrounding the brain. It is used to treat a wide range of problems across the entire body, not just the head. Cranial osteopathy is particularly gentle, which is why many practitioners use it to treat babies and children.
What is Chiropractic Treatment?
Chiropractic treatment is another non-surgical treatment option that focuses on the relationship between the nerves, muscles and skeleton. Chiropractic treatment typically focuses on the patient’s spine and most people will seek out a Chiropractor for problems with their lower back.
The philosophy of Chiropractic treatment is that joint misalignment causes back pain as it compromises the body’s central nervous system. Treatment involves spinal manipulation, and a Chiropractor will often make small ‘adjustments’ to the position of the lumbar vertebrae to relieve pressure and alleviate pain. These adjustments are what causes the familiar cracking or popping noise associated with Chiropractic treatment. The cracking noises are caused by small pockets of gas in your joint fluid, and although they can be noisy, treatment should never be painful.
Chiropractic treatment is similar to Osteopathy as they are both manual treatments. Chiropractors also use massage to manipulate the body’s soft tissue and the treatment is generally quite ‘hands on’. The Chiropractor may use moderate force while working on the bones and muscles around the spine. Chiropractors typically make spinal adjustments by performing short quick arm thrusts on the patient’s spine.
Chiropractors sometimes also use small hand-held tools to treat back and neck pain. The Activator Method involves using a small spring-loaded instrument called an Activator Adjusting Instrument that delivers a single thrust at the determined site to correct a malfunctioning joint.
What’s the Difference?
There are a few key differences between Osteopathy and Chiropractic treatment.
The most predominant difference is that Chiropractors will focus mainly on the spine whereas Osteopaths take a more holistic approach and concentrate on the whole body. Osteopaths will also treat a wider range of ailments including respiratory and digestive problems.
Another key difference lies in the method of treatment. Osteopaths utilise a wider range of techniques while Chiropractors routinely just perform spinal adjustments. Chiropractors are also the more ‘joint focused’ of the two professions.
While assessing patients, Chiropractors tend to rely more heavily on diagnostic equipment such as x-rays and MRI scans to analyse the shape of the spine prior to working on the patient while osteopaths use manual techniques such as palpation.
To conclude, both treatments share many similarities, and the difference between the two can often come down to the individual practitioner. No one profession is better than the other, and both are highly effective for treating common complaints such as neck and back pain. The two professions often work in conjunction with one another under the bracket of non-invasive physical therapies.