Physio Vs Osteo – What is Better?

If you have lower back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain or something else, chances are that you’re probably considering seeing a physiotherapist or an osteopath. Read on to learn about the factors you should consider when choosing between to two health professions to help relieve your pain and tension.

Okay, by now I’m sure that you know what an osteopath is. If you don’t know, here’s a quick recap. (Or, you could always check our previous post: What is Osteopathy? What are some common misconceptions about this profession?)

What is Osteopathy? A Quick Recap

Osteopathy is a patient-centred health practice that focuses on the joints, the muscles and the spine. It uses an evidence-based, holistic approach to healthcare involving hands-on treatment (manual therapies), health education, lifestyle management and exercise rehabilitation. People visit an osteopath for issues such as the neck, shoulder, knee and leg pain, lower back pain, sports and workplace injuries, postural issues, arthritis, osteoporosis, and much more.

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s look at the difference between physiotherapy and osteotherapy.

What is the difference between a physio and an osteo?

A lot of questions arise regarding the different professions but one of the main questions that I am asked in the clinic is: What is the difference between an osteopath and a physiotherapist?

The ABC News wrote this very interesting article in 2017 explaining the difference between the professions. Check it out if you’re interested, as it gives you a good breakdown of the different professions and it is really well written.

For more information, I would recommend you check out the Australian Physiotherapist Association here.

However to keep it very simple — physiotherapists specialise in the diagnosis, management and prevention of movement disorders. The aim of physiotherapy is to rehabilitate and improve a person’s ability to move and function, and physiotherapists use their expertise in anatomy and physiology to assess and treat people with a range of health conditions.

But which is better, physiotherapy or osteopathy?

Now that you know the difference, the second question I’m often asked is: Which is the better of the two professions?

Common statements that I hear in a public setting: “An Osteopath is better than a Physiotherapist because…” or “ A Physiotherapist knows more than an Osteopath because…”

Debates can occur about these subjects between family members, friends or patients and be a cause of tension within a conversation.

So, which profession is better than the other? And the answer is NEITHER IS BETTER THAN THE OTHER.

You may have been expecting a straight answer here but my advice is; You can’t judge an entire profession based on individual preferences.

To give you an example, by considering Apple (iPhone) products or Android (Samsung) products. Both systems offer different platforms that meet your needs and interact with your daily living. However, you, as an individual, may like one over the other because it fits your beliefs, your lifestyle and your needs.

I believe it is the same between osteopathy and physiotherapy – it all depends on what your preference is!

In their own way, both professions focus their efforts on promoting health through various techniques such as manual therapies, exercises and lifestyle management and planning. I believe that osteopaths and physiotherapists are health care providers and as such, their goal is to provide you with a management and treatment plan that meets your needs and hopefully improve your quality of life.

Health issues are not cut and dry, and in fact, can be complex.

I do not believe that one profession is better than the other. Professions offering a health service and assessing client needs will vary for each individual.

Therefore, the value of the profession is based on the client’s individual needs and preferences – you are all different and your perceptions of a good practitioner will likely be different from your next door neighbour.

You may be surprised to hear that there are many clinics around Australia that offer different services within the same clinic, with health professionals such as GPs, osteopaths, physiotherapists, psychologists and more. And they all work together with the collective aim of supporting patients’ issues.

How to tell if your healthcare provider is meeting your needs

So now you know that there is not one profession better than the other – how do you choose a practitioner?

That’s a good question. The answer is: no one is more qualified than yourself to find a solution to this question.

However, here are some questions that you could ask yourself when you visit a health care provider, to know if they can meet your needs:

  • Did you understand the information that has been given to you about your issue?
  • Do you feel your concerns and worries have been addressed?
  • Does your management plan fit your lifestyle and what you can realistically achieve?
  • What is your general feeling after seeing your practitioner?
  • More importantly, do you feel that you are an active participant in your treatment plan?

I would argue that these questions can be used across different professions, such as accountants, bankers, mortgage brokers, financial advisers, internet or insurance providers and so on.

Personally, I like to know why I am directed or recommended to take an action and what evidence is informing the advice. It helps me to make informed decisions and take sustainable actions for my health.

As Allied Health practitioners, we are here to help you to meet your goals along your health journey, but the reality is that we cannot fix your conditions with a magic wand.

To be honest, there is no miraculous pill to take the pain away, for good, overnight. Recovery and physical rehabilitation can sometimes be a long process, depending on your health condition.

So, the best tip that I have for you is:

Choose a practitioner that will help you in this journey, whether that is an osteopath or physiotherapist, and be an active participant in your treatment plan. Your practitioner should work as a team, with you as the main actor, regardless of their profession. 

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