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Without Limits Health

Osteopaths in South Melbourne & Southbank treating all your musculoskeletal needs. Helping you move free, pain free.

Osteopathy vs Physiotherapy: What's the Difference?

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This is one of the most common questions we get asked in practice, and the answer can be quite detailed and extensive. The main difference between osteopathy and physiotherapy is the sectors in which you will find each professional working. 

The majority of osteopaths work in private practice, with a handful working in sporting clubs and associations. A growing number also practice in the aged care sector.  

Physiotherapists can be found operating across a range of different sectors within the broader healthcare field, including: 

  • Public hospitals
    Private practice
    Rehabilitation centres
    Sporting clubs 
    Aged care facilities 
    Community health centres 
Because there is such a large range and scope of practice for physiotherapy, we will limit this osteo vs physio comparison to those professionals working in private practice. We will also aim to keep this as general and simple as possible. 

What do osteopaths and physiotherapists have in common? 

Osteopathy and physiotherapy are both forms of manual therapy that require university training. Osteopathy requires a minimum 5-year degree, while physiotherapy qualifications range from 4-5 years, depending on the university. 

Both modalities use the following treatment techniques: 
 
  • Soft tissue massage  
  • Joint manipulation and mobilisation  
  • Dry needling  
  • Stretching  
  • Myofascial release  
  • Strengthening exercises 
Whether you go with osteopathy or physiotherapy, a standard consultation usually runs for thirty minutes.


What is the difference between Osteopathy and Physiotherapy?

Though both professions have very similar manual therapy techniques to draw upon, it is the approach and focus of treatment that usually differs. 

Physiotherapists will generally focus on the tissue causing pain and on muscle re-education and strengthening. The main focus of treatment is the prescription of rehab exercises. For that reason, physiotherapists will see a lot more post-surgery rehab patients than osteopaths. 

Osteopaths may give strengthening exercises, but the main focus of treatment is usually on reducing the strain pattern contributing to the patient's pain using manual therapy techniques.

As you can see, the osteopathy vs physiotherapy questions brings us just as many (if not more) similarities as differences. 


It is important to keep in mind that the above information is very generalised. Each practitioner whether you go with physiotherapy or osteopathy  may approach treatment slightly differently within their scope of practice. Ultimately, the osteo vs physio debate comes down to your personal preferences, your motivation for seeking treatment, and your past experiences.
What is Dry Needling & Does It Work?
Osteopathy for Lower Back Pain
 

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