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Osteo? Physio? What exactly are the similarities and differences...?

There are arguably more similarities than differences between Osteopathy and Physiotherapy, both have the same aim - to help individuals reduce pain, improve mobility and improve the quality of life of all patients they treat.

In this short article we will go through the basic concepts of each treatment option, highlight the key similarities and differences and help you in finding out which course of treatment may be best suited for you.

Origins and Philosophy

Though the origins and philosophies differ between the two professions the definitions may be easily explained:

OSTEOPATHY: works with the structure and function of the body. It is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together.

Osteopaths use spinal and joint manipulation, stretching and deep tissue massage techniques to:

  • increase joint mobility,

  • relieve muscle tension,

  • enhance the blood and nerve supply,

  • and to help your body’s own healing mechanisms (General Osteopathic Council)

PHYSIOTHERAPY: helps people affected by injury, illness or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice. They maintain health for people of all ages, helping patients to manage pain and prevent disease (Chartered Society of Physiotherapists).

Osteopaths work from the viewpoint that the ‘body is a whole’: all the body’s systems are interconnected and it has a self-healing mechanism. Alternatively, physiotherapists have the focus of treatment more on the problematic area and treatment is specified to certain protocols.

According to Myers and Contiero (dual trained osteo/physio therapists in the UK), while both therapists treat the whole body, Osteopaths tend to be more experienced in treating chronic or acute spinal and cranial problems such as lower back pain or cervico-genic pathologies whereas physiotherapists may spend more time treating a varied caseload including more peripheral joints, e.g. shoulder, wrist/hand, hip and knee as well as being versed in spinal therapies.


Osteopaths and Physiotherapists share more similarities in treatment than differences, while Osteopaths are particularly experts in manual therapy and soft tissue techniques, Physiotherapists also share the skills to integrate these techniques into their therapy as well.

As well as manual techniques, therapeutic exercises are an integral part of a physiotherapist treatment process, but more and more osteopaths are integrating corrective exercises into their treatment protocol too.

Other similarities include:

  • Headache/ Migraine therapy

  • Postural correction

  • Tendon/Muscular problems


Pre/post operative rehabilitation is more commonly taken on by a physiotherapist with their training preparing them to manage surgeries from acute in–hospital to long-term rehabilitation. But osteopaths have proven to be helpful in releasing structured traumata during the rehabilitative phase of recovery.

Specialities of Osteopathy

  • Pre/post natal therapy

  • Visceral osteopathy

  • Cranio-sacral therapy

  • Women’s health

  • Pediatric osteopathy


At the end of the day the similarities far outnumber the differences between each treatment option. Both are equally qualified and trained in the treatment and management of many conditions. The one that best suits you may ultimately come down to personal preference and specific needs you require.

Fortunately, at The Round Clinic we work as a multidisciplinary team and always communicate to our patients whether Physiotherapy or Osteopathy is the best path to recovery for you.

Sometimes even a combination of both is proving to be the most efficient course of therapy.


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