What’s the difference between Physiotherapy, Osteopathy and Chiropractic treatment?


You’ve hurt yourself! Who do you go a see?

Your friend has recommended their physiotherapist, your work colleague sees his chiropractor regularly for injuries, and your mum has used the same osteopath for years!

All three health professions have a similar goal of diagnosing and treating your injury. They all however have different approaches to injury management and understanding their methods before booking an appointment is important.


In New Zealand, all three health professions have completed a minimum of 4-5 years of training to a degree or master level. They are all trained to diagnose and treat many injuries, work with many difference health conditions, and recognise when a health conditions or injury needs referral for further medical management. Physiotherapist, chiropractors, and osteopaths must be registered to their respected regulatory council to ensure all practitioners are competent and fit to practice.



According to Osteopaths New Zealand, Osteopathy is “Osteopathy is a form of manual medicine which recognises the important link between the structure of the body and the way it functions. Osteopaths assist healing by focusing on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function together as a holistic unit.

Osteopathic treatment uses techniques such as stretching and massage for general treatment of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments) along with mobilisation and manipulation of specific joints and soft tissues using direct or indirect techniques.”

Osteopathy treatment involves hands-on treatment include massage, stretching, repetitive movements, mobilisation and/or manipulation, or other gentle techniques.


From Chiropractor New Zealand, chiropractic treatment is “about helping the body to work at its best.  Your nervous system, which controls all the functions of your body, is protected by your spine.  Sometimes the stresses and strains of daily life cause nerve messages from the brain to get blocked.  By making small adjustments to the spine, nervous system and soft tissue chiropractors can remove these blockages so that the messages reach the organs effectively.”

A common treatment method used by chiropractors is a chiropractic adjustment. Adjustments can range from the classic dynamic thrust through to very light forces and contacts, along with instrument and table-assisted delivery.


Physiotherapy New Zealand stated that “physiotherapy is about taking an all-encompassing approach that looks beyond the purely physical elements of an issue. They base treatment on evidence-based research, but take both psychological and social factors into account when treating patients. Physiotherapy helps to improve your strength, range of motion, endurance, posture, muscle imbalance, joint mobilisation and reduces stiffness and pain. They do this by assessing for muscle and postural imbalances, prescribing exercises and giving health advice.”

Physiotherapists create individualised exercise programs to aid in the recovery and empower their patients to return to or improve their body movement and daily function. They also use hands on treatment like, massage and mobilisation to help.

Overall, the main differences between these professions come down to what you are expecting as a patient and what type of treatment you prefer. All professions offer a mixture of hands-on treatment, while physiotherapy targets a little further into exercise rehabilitation to return to normal function.

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