Physiotherapy or Osteopathy
Physio or Osteopathy?
I am often asked what the difference is between an osteopath and a physiotherapist or "physio". This is not an easy question to answer so please take my answer as an opinion and not an inclusive definition. I've asked this question to colleagues and friends in the physiotherapy profession and they seem to struggle as much as me to give a reasonable answer.
Size of Practice
There is a big difference in the size of the two professions. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists claim a membership of 47,000 in the UK. The register of osteopaths has just under 4,000 members. The great majority of physios work in the NHS, hardly any osteopaths work in the NHS although some Primary Care Trusts buy in osteopathic services.
Osteopaths are less likely to use machines such as ultrasound, electrotherapy, laser or radiation lamps routinely. Many osteopaths have these modalities in their clinics but are highly selective about their use, preferring to use massage and manipulation as first choice.
Massage and Manipulation
Osteopaths are trained from day one to use massage and manipulation as their main treatment methods. Some physiotherapists study manipulation as a post graduate speciality but most do not.
Exercise is a huge part of physiotherapy, patients are encouraged to follow exercise programs, supervised at first, sometimes in groups then expected to continue exercises on their own every day. Osteopaths are less likely to give exercise programs for injuries or painful conditions, at least to begin with. We are much more interested in the underlying causes; looking for postural problems or weaknesses that may have made the person vulnerable to injury or susceptible to strain.
One to One
Osteopaths (as far as I know) do not offer group sessions, by this I mean we work one to one with patients.