Osteo, Chiro Or Physio

osteopathy brisbane

With so many Manual Therapy choices out there, how do you decide which one is for you when you throw your back or neck out? Or when you sprain your knee playing kick to kick with the kids?

I would like to shed some light on the main three that get compared to each other, Physiotherapy, Chiropractic Medicine and Osteopathy and help you make the best decision for your injury.


AT Still, the founder of Osteopathy established the School of Osteopathy in 1892 after he became disillusioned with the medical system after the death of his wife and 3 daughters to spinal meningitis.

He named his modality ‘Osteopathy’ as he believed the the osteon, or bone, was the starting point to find the cause of pathological conditions. He also believed that the body could produce it’s own medicines and a practitioner needs to promote good function so that the body can work effectively, therefore creating the holistic approach that is the basis of Osteopathy.

Techniques that Osteopaths use include Spinal Manipulation or HVLA (High Velocity Low Amplitude) thrust techniques, Muscle Energy Techniques (a version of resisted stretching), Myofascial Release techniques, Counter Strain and exercise prescription.

Osteopaths are registered with the Australian Health Practitioners Health Agency and study for 5 years before practising.

Chiropractic Medicine.

Chiropractic Medicine was established in 1895 by D.D. Palmer, potentially after studying Osteopathy with AT Still where he believed that vertebral joint misalignments or vertebral subluxations interfered with the body’s function and it’s ability to heal itself leading to disease. 

By taking this holistic view, Chiropractic Medicine uses Spinal Manipulation Therapy to assist with many different injuries and diseases but is most commonly supported by evidence based medicine for the treatment of low back pain, sciatica and short term relief for neck pain.

Most modern Chiropractor’s are now using muscle release techniques such as deep tissue massage, stretching and exercises to assist with pain relief and prevention.

Chiropractors are registered with the Australian Health Practitioners Health Agency and study for 5 years before practising.


The principles of Physiotherapy are as old as the hills but organised Physiotherapy began after World War I when women were recruited to assist in restoring function for injured soldiers by using massage and mobilisation exercises and the term ‘Reconstruction Aide’ was used.

As the years went on, the practice developed with more techniques, including traction and manipulation and began to resemble what we now know as Physiotherapy around the 1950’s.

Originally Physiotherapy was developed for post surgical recovery, it is now used for most musculoskeletal complaints including neck and back pain and sporting injuries.

Physiotherapists are registered with the Australian Health Practitioners Health Agency and study for 4 years before practising. Some will continue their study and do a Master of Sports Physiotherapy which is extra year.

Are Consultations Very Different?

With all the above modalities, a visit will include;

  • a through and detailed history will be taking to determine the cause and extent of your condition.
  • A region specific or whole body assessment depending on your condition to find what restrictions and pain sensitive tissues you may have.
  • Manual treatment techniques will be used that will be appropriate to your condition. Some of these may be slightly painful as your practitioner will be working on painful tissue, but it should never be excruciating.
  • Post Treatment may include taping, exercises, stretching, daily activities modification (eg sleeping, work station) to help you to continue to heal after the session.

As you can see, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the techniques used by Osteopaths, Chiropractors or Physiotherapists and we all continue to learn after we finish official study so the lines between the modalities become very blurred as we share techniques to make sure our treatments are getting you better as fast as we can. 

Dr Mark Crawford- Osteopath