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  • Paul Tutleman, Osteopath and Naturopath

What is the difference between Chiropractic and Osteopathy?

Since beginning my career in Osteopathy in 2001, the two most common questions that I get asked are:

1 – What is Osteopathy? And

2 – What is the difference between Osteopathy and Chiropractic?

In a congruent attempt to expedite efficiency, I am going to answer both questions in one answer. Shining the light on what Osteopaths and Chiropractors actually do is of considerable value in making a choice about how to look after your health.

Ultimately, Osteopaths and Chiropractors do the same thing. I may well come in for some hot blasts from practitioners of both schools, however, having practiced in clinics that employ both Osteopaths and Chiropractors for several years, I have been privy to multitudes of practitioner and team meetings where experiences and techniques have been exchanged between both schools of manual therapy.

Had I attempted to answer this question upon my graduation from the British College of Osteopathic Medicine, I would have read you the cast iron black and white differences. Now, I can only see the similarities and I tend to focus on these as both Osteopaths and Chiropractors seek to achieve the same thing. However, since the question I get asked is ‘What is the difference?’ I shall go into those first:

Osteopathy was created in 1875 by a physician and surgeon named Andrew Taylor Still, in Kirksville Missouri. After returning from the civil war where Still worked as a field surgeon, he found four of his daughters dead from spinal meningitis. This provoked Still into discovering a better way of improving and maintain health than the cadmium and mercury based inoculation and medicinal route.

Chiropractic was developed in 1895 by a grocer and magnetic healer called David Daniel Palmer in Davenport, Iowa. The earliest chiropractic treatment that Palmer delivered was to his janitor, who worked in his office that had suffered deafness for 17 years. After one adjustment to severely compressed nerves in the neck, the man’s deafness was instantly gone. The intrigue, research and discovery commenced from that point.

Osteopath is derived from two Greek words: ‘Osteon’ meaning ‘bone’ and ‘Pathos’ meaning ‘disease’ or ‘passion.’

Chiropractic is also derived from two Greek words: ‘Chiro’ meaning ‘hand’ and ‘Practic’ meaning ‘done by.’

Osteopathy is comprised of four main principles:

1 – The body is a unit, an indivisible whole where each part depends on every other part, and where the whole is much greater than the sum of all the parts.

2 – Structure governs function. If the structure of an organism is compromised it will have an adverse reaction on function.

3 – The body is it’s own medicine chest. Each life form has it’s own healing mechanism that can be stimulated by removing the barriers to it’s function.

4 – The role pf the artery is supreme. For effective healing to occur, a good enough blood supply is essential to carry the nutrients and immune cells necessary for repair to be carried out.

Chiropractic has 33 main principles (I have listed 4, but a complete list can be found at

1 – There is a universal intelligence inside all matter, that continuously gives it its properties and function thus maintaining its existence.

2 – The expression of this intelligence is the meaning of life.

3 – Life itself is essentially the union of intelligence and matter.

4 – The principle of time. There is no process that does not require time.

Now for the similarities:

Both Osteopaths and Chiropractors are highly trained and continuously assessed medical practitioners who are focussed on restoring correct structure and function to the whole body.

Both Osteo’s and Chiro’s believe that the body has the capacity to heal itself if it has unimpeded communication between the nervous system, circulatory system and the bodily tissues.

The Osteopath and the Chiropractor both use manual techniques to remove impingements of blood and nerve supply to allow adequate healing capabilities.

Both the Osteopath and the Chiropractor are both practicing credibly researched forms of medicine that are drug free, and most practitioners are excellent at explaining the nature of the patients condition, helping them to empower the patient to assist in their own recovery as well as reducing the chances of relapsing.

Within both schools of manual therapy, Osteopaths and Chiropractors are constantly learning and updating their techniques. Therefore you will find Osteopaths and Chiropractors attending similar seminars and workshops to develop their own techniques as they see fit. You could visit a number of Osteopaths and receive very different treatment from all of them. Similarly, you could visit ten different Chiropractors and receive very different treatment from them too. And within those Osteopaths and Chiropractors there will probably be a significant amount of cross over which means from a patients point of view, there is very little difference between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor.

From my experiences, I have met many people who will only see an Osteopath, or similarly will only see a Chiropractor because of their positive or negative experiences with either practitioner, and this is absolutely more than OK. If you, or anybody has an opinion about which type of manipulative medicine works best for them, then please support the profession and tell your friends and family about the positive experiences you have received. The most important thing is that you get the results you are looking for, so find someone you like, someone that you can work with to improve your health because nothing in life is as important as how you feel.

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