The Difference Between Chiropractic and Osteopathy

Chiropractors and osteopaths are both primary care practitioners that specialise in the treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. The Angel Wellbeing Clinic in London has chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists providing treatment for a number of different musculoskeletal disorders and injuries.

All of the practitioners at the London’s Angel Wellbeing Clinic look to the future health of the patient and the prevention of injury recurrence as well as getting you out of pain. To do that the chiropractor, physiotherapist or osteopath may recommend other practitioners at the clinic to improve the health of the patient.

Since I started the Angel Wellbeing Clinic in London in 2000, originally it was the Angel Chiropractic Clinic. The question I have been asked the most by patients is “what is the difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath?”

History of Osteopathy

• Osteopathy was discovered by the American Andrew Taylor Still (1828-1917), who wasAndrew Still founder of osteopathy a country doctor. Still was the son of a Methodist preacher and had an understanding of simple traditional medicine.
• Through his observation’s he came up with the osteopathic philosophy.
• In 1892 Still set up the first osteopathic college and gave the job of lecturing physiology to a Scotsman, John Littlejohn.
• John Littlejohn went off on his own and set up his own osteopathic college in Chicago in 1900.
• In 1900 Littlejohn moved back to the UK and set up and osteopathic college in London.
• Still’s theory was centered on the blood supply to the tissues being of paramount importance in the support of a healthy body.


History of Chiropractic

• Chiropractic was discovered by a Canadian D D Palmer in approximately 1895.DD Palmer founder of chiropractic
• Rumour has it that DD Palmer studied under Still’s for a couple of years but there is no firm evidence of this.
• Focus on the nerve supply was of paramount importance and this was intimately related to the vertebrae and the spinal nerves.
• Palmer came up with the term ‘Subluxation” to describe this theoretical relationship.
• Utilisation of x-rays in the early 1900’s for diagnosis.

Historically chiropractors and osteopaths shared the view that there is a relationship between structure, function and wellbeing and that the body has it’s own ability to heal itself and that the musculoskeletal system was integral to this wellbeing.

In the 1960’s in the USA Osteopaths became incorporated into the mainstream medicine and a nowadays a DO is similar to a MD with no specialty in musculoskeletal disorders and manual medicine.

Chiropractors at the same time stayed independent of mainstream and in the USA a DC is still a specialist in musculoskeletal disorders with an emphasis on manual adjustments.

In the UK both chiropractors and Osteopaths are independent of mainstream medicine and both professions put an emphasis on musculoskeletal medicine.

Education of chiropractors and osteopaths

• Both professions require a full-time four year course to qualify
• CPD is mandatory to remain on the register of practitioners
• Both professions are regulated by Act of Parliament with the
General Osteopathic Council and the General Chiropractic Council respectively.

Difference in treatment between osteopathy and chiropractic at the London clinic

In my opinion there is a big overlap in treatment between the two professions and it is often difficult for a patient to tell the difference. A lot of perceived differences are due to the difference in practitioner rather than profession specific differences.

Chiropractors and osteopaths often attend similar or the same post-graduate courses and this often results in a blurring of the two professions and in techniques. The fact this happens indicates to me that theses are two very similar professions.

It is often said that chiropractors are more into clicking the spine and osteopaths are more into stretching and massage. Again this is very much a perceived difference and not a reality of the professions.

In my experience of being a chiropractor in London, employing chiropractors and osteopaths at London’s Angel Wellbeing Clinic and having treatment from both professions it is finding the practitioner that works for you that is important not necessarily the profession.


Our clinic in London has both chiropractors and osteopaths as well as having a physiotherapist specialising in sports injuries. If you are not sure who is best for your back pain please phone us and our reception staff will happily help you. If you are still not sure our practitioners will see you for a free assessment at our London clinic and you can discuss your back pain, headache or sports injury with a chiropractor, physiotherapist or osteopath.






By Brian on 11th Jul 2012   Share |

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