Avalon Beach Chiropractic – Chiropractor or Osteopath or Physiotherapist? What is the difference?

Who do you see when you have back pain? This question has been presented time and time again and the most confusing thing is that everybody has their own opinion.

The Chiropractic degree has a focus on Anatomy, Differential Diagnosis of conditions, Neurology (the nervous system) and X-Ray Analysis. This differs to a typical Medicine degree in that many Chiropractic courses cover longer hours of study in this area and medicine degrees typically have more study in Physiology, Psychiatry, Obstetrics, Gynaecology and other areas that Chiropractors typically do not deal with.

Like a radiologist (not radiographer), Chiropractors are licensed to take x-rays, interpret x-rays and write x-ray reports. The reason being that Chiropractors study extensive hours in this area to assess potential for pathology of the spine, scoliosis and abnormal curvatures and degeneration of the spine to give patients the best quality care when treating back pain and neck pain.

Chiropractors as a general rule are focused on “corrective care” which involves treating you further than just pain relief with the goal of improving your body by restoring correct posture and strength of the surrounding musculature to prevent future injuries.

Chiropractors are well known for Spinal Manipulation, a type of care you may receive from an Osteopath in some instances and even a Physiotherapist (if they studied a Master’s in Manipulative Physiotherapy). There is good quality evidence that shows this type of care is particularly effective in treatment of low back pain – especially in it’s early stages, so much so that in February 2017 the American College of Physicians released new guidelines recommending Spinal Manipulation, Heat, Acupuncture and Massage as a first means of treatment for low back pain.

While Spinal Manipulation is effective for back pain, Chiropractors are also trained in many other therapies such as Physiotherapeutics which involved the use of modalities such as ultrasound, TENS, interferential, rehabilitative exercise prescription, heat/cold use, traction, mobilisation and many more. Many of these modalities are the typical type of treatments a Physiotherapist will use and Chiropractors will use the necessary treatment modalities as they see fit based on best evidence based care.

While a Chiropractor or Osteopath or Physiotherapist is not trained in acupuncture, further  study can be taken in a technique called Dry Needling, your therapist will use a similar method to acupuncture which focuses on pain relief by use of acupuncture like needles which are inserted into muscular tender points. This has been shown effective in pain relief and may be used if your Chiropractor is trained in this method. Avalon Beach Chiropractor, Sam Garner is trained in advanced dry needling which he believes is particularly effective on calf, hamstring, buttock pain, low back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain.

Doctor of Chiropractic, Sam Garner has worked in clinics in London for which Chiropractors assessed patients, have taken x-rays and diagnosed patients followed by working together with Osteopaths in the same clinic interchangeably to reach the patients goals. In this experience, Sam found that the Chiropractors and Osteopaths worked so similar when it came to their method of care that patients did not even notice the difference. On the contrary, based on the particular Chiropractor or Osteopaths preferred treatment modalities, one Chiropractor can treat more like an Osteopath and one Osteopath can treat more like a Chiropractor.

My best advice when it comes to seeing a Chiropractor or Osteopath or  Physiotherapist is to find a health care professional recommended by others with good results. Many people have had a bad experience with a Physiotherapist, an Osteopath or a Chiropractor and assume that makes all Chiropractors, Osteopaths or Physiotherapists “ineffective” at treating back and neck pain. I can assure you that if your particular therapist gave you poor treatment, it does not mean that their profession is incapable, rather that the particular therapist was incapable. Your practitioner may have been misdiagnosed your condition, miscommunicated the prognosis or in some instances you may not have followed their recommendations.

So in conclusion, when it comes to a Chiropractor or Osteopath and Physiotherapist – they are all good and many of these professions can use the same modalities as the other but there is always some bad therapists too (like in any profession), typically these will be the ones who “fell into the profession” and did not have a passion for it. So research, be informed and use those recommendations!

Yours in Health,

Sam Garner DC
Chiropractor, Director
Avalon Beach Chiropractic & Wellness

Avalon Beach Chiropractic – Chiropractor or Osteopath or Physiotherapist


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