There is much confusion about the roles of Chiropractic, Physiotherapy and Osteopathic professions. This is not helped by the way practitioners often present themselves as being able to do “all things for all men”.

It is true that all three can be helpful in a range of debilitating conditions, but there are important differences in their levels of knowledge, training and the core ideas informing their diagnosis and treatment. This article seeks to clarify the differences so that a considered decision can be made about which therapy to choose.


Mostly known for their success in treating back problems, and also trained to treat issues with joints. Many Chiropractors treat children. They almost always employ spinal manipulations as part of treatment. Chiropractors will usually have their own X-Ray equipment and often suggest an X-Ray as part of the initial consultation.


They aim to improve the function of the peripheral nervous system (the part that allows you to move and to feel sensation), to bring balance back into the musculo-skeletal system.


Primarily spinal manipulations with a less direct work on muscles. There may be some exercise and lifestyle advice. Electrotherapy (like ultrasound) is seldom offered.


A Bachelor or Masters of science that takes 4 years of study including 1000 hours of clinical experience. The degree is academically demanding and involves extensive anatomy, physiology and pathology.

Areas of Expertise:

Chiropractors are probably the best trained in spinal manipulation of the three professions. In comparison an Osteopath will also have had very extensive training in spinal adjustments, but with a gentler emphasis and will have also been exposed to a wider range of alternative techniques. A physiotherapist is very unlikely to have had any training in spinal adjustments when they graduate. If they have it will be a tiny fraction of that received by the other two.


If you have a back or neck problem that responds well to “being clicked” then a chiropractor is a good choice.