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Osteo vs chiro vs physio: What's the difference?

4 minute read
Woman examining a man's shoulder

If you’ve ever been injured or experienced ongoing aches and pains, chances are a friend or family member has told you about ‘their person’ you must go and see – and the odds are equally high they’re talking about an osteo, chiro or physio.

With all three treatment types commonly used for treating minor to major injuries, aches and pains, understanding who does what, and which is the best choice for your ailment can get tricky.

Summary

What is osteopathy?

According to Osteopathy Australia, osteopaths focus on how the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and internal organs function as a holistic unit and use a range of approaches to enhance function. These approaches include:

  • Manual therapy (mobilisation, stretching, massage and manipulation for ligaments and joints)
  • Exercise therapy
  • Lifestyle advice
  • Patient education

Osteopaths require a minimum of five years' university training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, general medical diagnosis and osteopathic techniques and government registration to practice.

What are the benefits of osteopathy?

Osteopaths can help you with a wide range of complaints including back or neck pain, headaches, sports injuries, stiffness or pain management. Osteopaths work to identify the cause of pain or injury, and develop a safe and effective course of action to manage any health issues.

Woman instructing man on using pilates device

What does a chiropractor do?

A chiropractor diagnoses, treats and prevents conditions of the spine and musculoskeletal system and can treat a variety of conditions such as:

  • Lower back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Headaches
  • Knee pain
  • Shoulder pain

What are the benefits of seeing a chiro?

Chiropractors use hands-on manipulation of your spine to align the muscles and skeleton of your body. Some common reasons a patient might visit is for injury prevention, rehabilitation, to improve athletic performance or reduce pain. It’s always best to talk to your GP for personalised advice before seeking treatment.

What is physiotherapy?

Popular with professional sports players and arts performers alike, physiotherapists can help you recover from injury, reduce pain and stiffness, increase mobility and prevent further injury.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association says physios use a wide range of treatment methods, including:

  • Exercise programs to improve mobility and strengthen muscles
  • Joint manipulation and mobilisation to reduce pain and stiffness
  • Muscle re-education to improve control
  • Airway clearance techniques and breathing exercises
  • Soft tissue mobilisation (massage)
  • Acupuncture and dry needling
  • Hydrotherapy

What are the benefits of physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is an evidence-based clinical health science, with practitioners specialising in rehabilitating and improving a person’s ability to move and function. Physiotherapy treatment can help to improve strength, range of motion and endurance, correct posture, muscle imbalance and joint mobilisation and reduce stiffness and pain.

A physio can also provide assistance with use of aids, splints, crutches, walking sticks and wheelchairs to help you get back on your feet and move around post injury or surgery.

What can you expect from an initial physio, chiro or osteo appointment?

Regardless of which type of treatment you choose, your practitioner will begin with an initial consultation, taking a detailed medical history so bring along any relevant reports, ultrasounds or scans to your appointment. They will also need to conduct an examination, so wear loose, comfortable clothing.

Ready to book an appointment?

If you have Extras cover with nib and would like to make an appointment to see a physio, chiro or osteo, make sure you contact us before booking an appointment to ensure the provider is recognised by nib and that you are entitled to receive a benefit before making a claim.

If you’re not with nib, but you’d like to find out more about our Extras cover options, get a quote today or contact our award-winning member service team on 13 16 42.

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