3. Difference between an Physiotherapist, a Chiropractor and a Osteopath – asks Jane Delorise


Jane Delorise asks:
Hi Jane
Can you tell me the difference between a physio, a chiropracter and a osteopath…if I have sore hips and knees who do I go to..do I need to go to a doctor?
Thank you
Jane Delorise

Jane Cannon replies:

Hi Jane,

This is an often asked question. All  are university trained health professionals and all assess and treat musculoskeletal conditions. Manual therapy (hands on) treatment is used by all three professions, however the philosophy behind the treatment approaches differs as do some of the techniques applied. Chiropractic is more closely aligned to osteopathy and firmer manipulative techniques are commonly used.
While some physiotherapists also use manipulative techniques, most tend to use gentler forms of manual therapy, focus on exercise and may use modalities such as ultrasound or dry needling (similar to acupuncture) to assist their treatments. Some chiroparactors and osteopaths also use these modalities.
You don’t need a doctors referral to see a chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist if you are attending as a private patient to a private practice. All are able to refer for an x ray if required. Having said that any unusual symptoms are best checked by your GP before attending.Hope this helps.

5 thoughts on “3. Difference between an Physiotherapist, a Chiropractor and a Osteopath – asks Jane Delorise

  1. Hi Jane
    Thank you for the information
    This helps me differentiate
    Now I have to get of my laziness and do something about my pain.
    When it hurts I always say to myself now I must see someone and then it stops hurting for a while and I get lazy.
    I will go to my G.P as you suggest and take it from there.
    Thank you again


  2. Hi Peter,
    The site you mention is American and does not, I believe, accurately represent how osteopathy is practised within the Australian medical system. My brief but general reply to Jane was intended to reassure Jane that all three professions are competent in managing her musculoskeletal problems but may have a different approach. This can also occur within each of our professions. The following links from the Australian associations give their own description of what they do.


  3. Hello, Jane,
    Well said as far as it went.
    You have not aid much about an Osteopath.
    Website thyroid.about.com/od/​findlearnfromdoctors/a/osteopath.htm gives a reasonable brief explanation.


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