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Physiotherapy, Osteopathy, Chiropractic

What’s the difference between physical therapies?

Whilst all physical therapies aim for the same results, that being - optimising your health, wellbeing and performance - their histories, philosophies and modes of treatment vary considerably.

Optimum health requires many different factors. For instance we need:

     Good nutrition – nutrients without toxins,


     Sufficient sleep,

     Emotional support,



     Correct posture and biomechanics,

As well as others, to ensure that our bodies can function physically,  emotionally and biochemically at 100%.  

Different therapies often target different factors or components of factors.

Each patient needs to find the therapy or group of therapies that meet their requirements, needs and lifestyle.


Physiotherapy is basically the science of diagnosing and treating injuries or diseases by using mostly physical means. The main aim is to reduce pain and minimise dysfunction by using evidence based physical (as opposed to chemical/medicinal) techniques. Physiotherapy is more closely aligned with traditional Western medicine. The focus is more on the problem area presented and treatment is specific to that area, local rather than the whole body.

It is widely believed that physiotherapy techniques were used as far back as 460BC, when early physicians such as Hippocrates practiced elements of physiotherapy like manual therapy, hydrotherapy and massage.

In modern times, the earliest documented origins of actual physical therapy as a professional group date back to Per Henrik Ling, "Father of Swedish Gymnastics," who founded the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics (RCIG) in 1813 for massage and exercise.

Treatment until the 1940s primarily consisted of exercise, massage, and traction. Manipulative procedures to the spine and extremity joints began to be practiced in the early 1950s, more than 50 years after the start of osteopathy and chiropractic.

Today, physiotherapists use techniques such as massage, muscle stretching, hot & cold therapy, spinal mobilization, taping and electro-physical therapies such as ultrasound, TENS and interferential.


Osteopathy was developed in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, a medical doctor of Missouri USA. Dr Still believed in a ‘global’ philosophy - that all body systems are interrelated and dependent upon one another for good health and that by correcting problems in the body's structure, through the use of manual techniques now known as osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM), the body's ability to function and to heal itself could be greatly improved. He also promoted the idea of preventive medicine and endorsed the philosophy that physicians should focus on treating the whole patient, rather than just the disease.

Osteopaths work from the viewpoint that the ‘body is a whole’, all the body’s systems are interconnected through the blood and lymphatic circulation, and it has a self-healing mechanism. They believe that physical imbalances and strains to structure (including bones, muscles, fascia, tendons, and ligaments) impair your body’s ability to maintain itself in a state of health. By improving circulation, one improves healing.

“When blood and lymphatics flow freely, the tissues can perform their physiologic functions without impedance. With the occurrence of trauma (physical or emotional), the tissues contract, twist, and compress. The fluid flow becomes obstructed.”

Dr Andrew Taylor Still.

Today osteopaths employ a large number of techniques including  soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, stretching, massage and release techniques for organs (visceral osteopathy) and the skull  (cranial osteopathy).


Chiropractic was introduced in 1895 by Daniel David Palmer. Whereas osteopathy philosophy of Dr Still was ‘global’, chiropractic philosophy and treatment is ‘focused’ on the nervous system.

Chiropractic philosophy follows 3 scientific facts:

     - The brain controls every cell, tissue, organ and system of your body.

     - It uses the nervous system to pass information through the spine and to these structures.

    -  Any interference that may happen to the nervous system prevents these

structures, and hence your body from functioning at 100%.

The aim of chiropractors is to restore correct function to the spine and nervous system to allow the body to perform at its optimum.

“Pressure on nerves causes irriatation and tension with deranged functions as a result.  Why not release the pressure?  Why not adjust the cause instead of treating the effects?  Why not?”

 D.D Palmer

Chiropractors use chiropractic adjustments (specific spinal manipulation) to restore, improve and maintain health. To deliver these adjustments, chiropractors have developed a variety of techniques (about 150 referenced in chiropractic literature) to help, specificity, effectiveness and patient comfort. The most commonly utilized include Diversified, activator methods, Thompson (drop tables), Gonstead, Cox flexion/distraction, and SOT.

Physio, Osteo, Chiro: Text
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