UA-7066275-9 Difference between an osteopath and a physiotherapist | Southfields osteopathy

Difference between an osteopath and a physiotherapist

Your local osteopathy clinic for back and neck pain in Southfields, Earlsfields, Balham, Wimbledon Park & Wimbledon, London SW14, SW15, SW17, SW18, SW19, SW20

Tel: 02088751101
We are open on Sunday

What is the difference between an Osteopath and a Physiotherapist?


Osteopaths use their hands to diagnose and treat a range of illnesses and painful conditions, osteopaths view that abnormalities in the structure of the body and the way it functions can cause many common illnesses. Osteopaths use palpation (highly developed sense of touch) for examination to identify points of weakness and excessive strain.
Osteopath are expected to understand the pathology of disease,and they are also expected to recognise undiagnosed pathology and refer on if necessary.
Physiotherapists are trained to evaluate, osteopaths to diagnose.

Traditionally the osteopathic concept has been that any physiological changes in a disturbed spinal segment would affect the surrounding autonomic nerves and lead to an impaired blood supply to any tissues supplied from that level. As a result Osteopaths focus more on the motion of the spinal segments. In treatment terms this means Osteopaths prefer longer treatments with more work on muscles and, perhaps, a more gentle manipulation.

Osteopaths typically use gentle manual techniques for improvement of mobility and range of movement, stretching to help joint mobility and massage to relax stiff muscles.
Osteopaths undertake 4 years and 2,000 hours of ‘touch therapy’; they become expert in palpation and manipulation.

Problems treated in particular by osteopaths involve muscles, ligaments, joints and nerves, such as in; back pain, sports injuries, repetitive strain injuries, arthritic pain and sometimes migraines. Osteopaths may give patients exercises to work on at home, as well as advice on diet and lifestyle changes.

Osteopaths study for their degree for 4-5 years full-time, and there are opportunities to specialise with MScs or PhDs in particular areas like osteopathic sports care through the Osteopathic Sports Care Association.

All osteopaths must be registered with the General Osteopathic Council before they can practice.


Physios use a range of treatments; including manipulation of joints, therapeutic exercise, electrotherapy, ultrasound, and hydrotherapy to treat a variety of injuries or other health problems. Many problems treated involve; joints, ligaments, spine and muscles, however physiotherapists can also develop exercise programs to help in patient rehabilitation from surgery, accidents, or other.

Physiotherapy focus very much on mobility and it is more closely aligned to traditional medical approaches; indeed many Physiotherapists operate within the NHS rather than in private practice. Its focus on using electrical therapies such as short-wave diathermy, ultrasound and heat lamps is a key difference. In addition, Physiotherapists also have a particular focus on remedial exercises and increasingly offer facilities for supervised exercise as part of an effective rehabilitation program.

Physiotherapists are qualified to a degree level, typically studying for 3-4 years. Their profession is statutorily regulated in the UK and in order to practice within the NHS they must be registered by the Health Professions Council.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the professional organisation of physiotherapists.