Osteopath vs. Chiropractor

Dr. John Wagner

When you have chronic pain or pain that isn’t getting better after an injury, chiropractors and osteopaths are healthcare providers that can help you find relief. Knowing which one to see can help ensure that you get the right treatment to ease pain and other symptoms. The following information on osteopath vs. chiropractor can help you determine which type of provider to visit.


Chiropractors are health professionals who are trained to use different techniques, such as spinal adjustments, to ease pain, stiffness, and other symptoms. These professionals generally focus on treating the spine, including the upper and lower spine, in order to help patients find relief. Chiropractors receive training at chiropractic colleges after completing an undergraduate college program. After graduating from a chiropractic college, they are required to pass national board exams for proper licensing. Chiropractors must also keep meeting continuing education requirements each year to maintain a license to practice.


Osteopaths are licensed doctors who focus on helping patients improve their health and wellness in general using various techniques, such as stretching and making musculoskeletal adjustments. These doctors can also perform surgical procedures and prescribe medication as needed. Osteopaths might work as primary care doctors, but some specialize in a certain field, such as cardiology. These physicians complete 4 years of training at a medical school, then work as residents, fellows, or interns for a few or several years after that. An osteopath is also required to pass a state exam for licensing.

Similarities Between Chiropractors and Osteopaths

Chiropractors and osteopaths both treat spinal problems using similar techniques, such as deep tissue massage or joint manipulation. These techniques are designed to help improve blood flow, ease tension, and promote a healthier spine and nervous system overall. Both types of health professionals might also recommend ways to improve a patient’s well-being, such as through nutritional changes or physical activity.

When you see a chiropractor or an osteopath, you can expect to answer questions about your medical history, as well as questions about your current symptoms. This information helps these health professionals determine a treatment plan for you. Both chiropractors and osteopaths have extensive knowledge of the spine and musculoskeletal system, which is needed in order to create effective treatment plans.

Differences Between Chiropractors and Osteopaths

Chiropractors and osteopaths might perform similar techniques when treating patients. However, chiropractors focus mainly on the spine and nervous system, such as treating pinched nerves or lower back pain. Chiropractors also treat pain and stiffness that affects other joints or parts of the musculoskeletal system, but they do so only through the use of spinal adjustments and similar techniques in order to align the spine. Unlike osteopaths, chiropractors cannot perform surgical procedures or prescribe medication.

Chiropractors typically rely on imaging tests, such as X-rays, in order to determine the right kind of treatment for patients. These imaging tests can help them see where misalignments in the spine might be occurring, so they can work on correcting them through spinal adjustments.

Osteopaths treat the same conditions as chiropractors, but their focus goes beyond providing pain relief. They focus on how different structures within the body interact in order to improve a patient’s wellness overall. These doctors offer several other treatments to help patients achieve improvements in their physical well-being. This might include medication and surgery, for example, in addition to muscle manipulation and other techniques. Osteopaths use hands-on techniques, known as osteopathic manipulative treatment, to diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses.

Osteopaths might use imaging tests to diagnose injuries and illnesses and come up with a treatment plan. However, they are trained to use a hands-on approach with a physical exam to determine a patient’s condition.

When you receive treatment from a chiropractor, you might only go for a few sessions or for a short period of time. Once you find relief, you might not need to go back for additional chiropractic treatment. When you go to an osteopath for treatment, you can expect to see them several times over the course of several months or longer as needed.

Which Should You See?

Knowing whether to see an osteopath vs. chiropractor depends on the kind of symptoms you’re having and the type of injury or illness you’re dealing with. A chiropractor or osteopath can help if you’re having problems with your muscles or joints. However, you might consider visiting an osteopath if you have a different kind of injury, since these doctors are able to treat a wide range of conditions.

If you’re looking for relief from back pain or pain in other joints or muscles, keep in mind that you might be treated for a longer period of time if you see an osteopath. If you prefer keeping treatment shorter overall, a chiropractor might be a better choice. However, if you’re having other medical problems, an osteopath has the training and licensing required to diagnose and treat your condition.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is not intended to be medical advice.
Please contact and consult with your doctor before beginning any health treatments.

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