Loughton Physio vs Osteopath vs Chiropractor

Loughton Physios, Osteopaths and Chiropractors have different approaches to treatment. We are a team of medically trained Osteopaths, not physios (registered with HCPC). Whilst there can be similarities and cross-overs between professions, there are also some distinct differences that set Osteopaths apart.

You'll most likely have heard of Physiotherapy due to the abundant number of “physios” working within the NHS, but are you familiar with the terms Osteopath and Chiropractor? Below we have tried to create an unbiased perspective on the main differences between the three professions.


All three types of professions have one main thing in common which is that they use non-invasive, drug-free, manual techniques with the aim of improving physical wellbeing. There are however some core differences that set them each apart.


  • This profession was created at the end of the 19th Century (1890s) 

  • As a rule physiotherapists tend not to diagnose conditions – they look for instruction from the medical profession as to the presentation and course of treatment expected.

  • Physiotherapists work mostly within the NHS 

  • Physiotherapy’s primary objective is to enable function and movement throughout the body and it’s often used as a form of treatment following an operation, illness or other form of trauma.

  • NHS physiotherapist treatments tend to comprise of less ‘hands-on’ treatment. 

  • No spinal or joint manipulations – articular realignment techniques that often produce a ‘click’ and are very effective at improving joint mobility.



  • Formed in the 1890s in the US

  • Tend to include and rely on (often in-house) diagnostic procedures such as X-rays, MRIs, blood and urine tests.

  • The Chiropractor approaches treatment by focusing more on the spine itself.

  • More emphasis on (mainly spinal) joint adjustments and less soft tissue work. There is often frequent repetition of the same manipulations as without working on the related muscular tension, the same joints can revert back to restriction

  • As chiropractors predominantly manipulate joints (clicking), treatment time can be significantly less at approximately 10-15 minutes rather than 30 minutes for a follow up appointment with an osteopath.



  • Founded in 1874 by Andrew Taylor (AT) Still

  • Osteopaths carry out a thorough assessment which can include: Range of motion testing, Postural, Orthopaedic & Neurological Tests and Gait Analysis in order to arrive at a working diagnosis  

  • Osteopathy has a holistic approach considering the spine, but also all other bones and joints, muscles, ligaments, as well as fascial, neural, lymphatic and visceral structures and systems.

  • Osteopaths also seek to improve the patient's posture which can help to release restrictions of movement

  • Treatments draw on a combination of spinal manipulations, soft tissue massage, sports and deep tissue massage, stretching and joint mobilisation, but also muscle energy techniques, counter-strain, lymphatic drainage, and other techniques hinging on practitioner interest and further training – e.g. kinesio-taping, dry needling/medical acupuncture etc.


So...in a nutshell....

Physiotherapists are more prominent within the NHS and tend to rely on the medical profession for diagnosis of conditions. Treatment tends to focus on soft tissue work, stretching and joint mobilisations, but generally no manipulations. Due to high demands on the NHS, sessions with physiotherapists often consist of very little ‘hands-on’ treatment, with more focus on exercise prescription. 
Chiropractors have 4 years of training, enabling them to diagnose conditions. They work in private practice. There is usually more of a focus on joint manipulations and slightly less on soft tissue work. It is not uncommon to see a chiropractor several times a week over a longer time period.
Osteopaths train for the same length of time as chiropractors and are also able to diagnose musculo-skeletal conditions through clinical tests and mostly work in private practice.  Treatment sessions are usually longer than chiropractors. Osteopaths are generally more ‘holistic’ and include a variety of soft and deep tissue techniques, joint mobilisations and manipulations, as well as exercise prescription, lifestyle and postural advice.

We often tell people that the main difference often lies in the specific practitioner. It is vital to find someone that is right for you regardless of their discipline. Sometimes, a different practitioner of the same discipline will suit your body better.



If you'd like to find out more about Osteopathy, please check out our blogs on 'What is Osteopathy?' & 'What do Osteopaths Treat?'

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