Lastly, as part of my 3 part blog series ‘What is the difference between Chiropractic, Osteopathy and Physiotherapy?’ I will be discussing the methods used across these practises.


Methods used.

Today the Chiropractic profession is divided into two particular fragments, with some practitioners existing between.

A straight Chiropractor is someone who models their practice on DD Palmer’s philosophy and original technical principles of finding the subluxation and correcting it with a specific, manual, hands only adjustment.  Many use certain forms of instrumentation and x-ray to determine the location and the nature of the subluxation.  They use traditional terms such as subluxation, nerve pressure and adjustment.  Because they operate on a philosophy of cause, they see their scope of practice as almost unlimited and justified on the weight of clinical evidence as does modern surgery.  This confidence comes from the notion that “this type of case has responded to Chiropractic adjustments in the past and is therefore justified”.  This group sees a gradual watering down of the original Chiropractic principles and philosophy among the younger generations due to educational institutions adopting mainstream medical attitudes, diagnosis and management.

About ninety percent of Chiropractors in Australia have less, if any emphasis on Palmer’s original principles and philosophy.  Technically they tend to mix their practices with procedures that originated in Osteopathy or Physiotherapy.  These mixers work in an evidence-based paradigm and pride themselves on being modern and complimentary to western medicine.  They see more traditional straight Chiropractors as stubborn, outdated and controversial.

An Osteopath is likely to use a range of techniques including muscle energy involving strain and strain-counter strain, myofascial release, lymphatic pump, ligamentous tension and balance and craniosacral techniques.  An osteopathic manipulation is considered to be more generalised, crossing more than one joint or bony segment than the traditional, specific Chiropractic adjustment directed to a specific bone at a single joint.

American Osteopaths, who are firstly trained in medicine, could use any of the above techniques and might commonly utilise some western musculo-skeletal medical interventions such as facet injections and cortisone injections into soft tissues.

Physiotherapy management commonly includes prescription of specific exercises and manipulative therapy performed either manually or by machine assisted traction.  Physical agents such as heat, cold, electricity, sound waves and radiation waves are also used with assistive devices such as prostheses, orthoses and splints.

The reality is that there is often an overlap in these three professional groups.  Many Chiropractors use manipulative techniques that have the traditional hallmarks of Osteopathy.  The Department of Chiropractic at RMIT University currently teaches rehabilitation to its undergraduates, which is a component of physiotherapy.  Some Osteopaths have a philosophy similar to that of Chiropractic and practice manipulative techniques only.  Some physiotherapists practice in private practice dealing exclusively with back and neck pain, which was the traditional domain of Chiropractors and Osteopaths.

The most unique and controversial individuals among these groups are the traditional, straight Chiropractors who are happy to point out and maintain their point of difference from the others.  We at Banyan Chiropractic consider ourselves to be in this group.  While we are proud of our heritage and the science, art and philosophy of Chiropractic, we recognise the value of the others and that they have a place in the market.  For example, my father suffered from devastating a stroke several years ago.  Myself, my two brothers who are also Chiropractors, and my three sisters are grateful of the assistance he has received from skilled, dedicated and patient physiotherapists that have improved his quality of life beyond anything we could have done for him.

With regard to the question “which of these should I see” part of the answer would be “the right tool for the right job”.  For certain conditions such as stroke, I regard physiotherapy as the right tool for stroke rehabilitation.  That is not to say that Chiropractors or Osteopaths cannot help stroke patients as we have helped many of them.  

My suggestion for the other part of the answer would be to ask your friends.  If someone you know has had a great result with one of these practitioners, for a problem similar to yours, then it is likely you will get a similar result.

I hope you have enjoyed my blog series and now have a better understanding about the difference between Chiropractic, Osteopathy and Physiotherapy!