Physio, Osteo or Chiro for back pain?

Physiotherapists, Osteopaths and Chiropractors all fall under the title of ‘Manual Therapists’… BUT what’s the difference?? That is a very good question!!

Over many years, skills, research and evidence has evolved and contributed to the current diversity that is used within each field.

The overall role of manual therapy is to help:

∙       Reduce your pain

∙       Improve the mobility, range and overall function of your joints, muscles and neural tissues

∙       Return you to normal or full function

Across the professions, the philosophies have some subtle differences, but the aim is usually the same, and the techniques used often depend more on the experience of that specific therapist, as opposed to the profession. One of the most common questions we face from our patients though, is ‘who should I see… a physio, osteo or chiropractor?

Osteopathy and Physiotherapy:  

The approaches of a structural osteopath and a musculoskeletal physiotherapist within the private sector have seemingly merged closer and closer over recent years. So much so that we really don’t think our patients would know if they had seen a physio or osteopath. At the Back and Body Clinic, this is even more so because physio’s and osteo’s all train together- sharing their skills and knowledge with each other. They also read the same research studies and attend specialist additional training courses and are all constantly developing themselves… this is one of the key reasons the Clinic has the amazing reputation it has today!!

Both professions will always look to resolve the acute presenting complaint first but will also take a global view as to why this injury has happened, often looking for muscular imbalances, movement or postural alignment issues or dysfunction… but also lifestyle choices like sporting or occupational postures and techniques for example. Treatment modalities are diverse and can often be inclusive of joint mobilisation and manipulations (with a click), alongside soft tissue release, acupuncture/dry needling, stretches and strengthening work. Your therapist will often be combining a number of these techniques to formulate a well-rounded, targeted and progressive treatment plan. 

A Chiropractor: 

Just as osteopaths and physiotherapists do, a chiropractor will take a detailed case history. With regards to treatment of back pain, the primary techniques include joint ‘adjustments’, which are the same as a physio or an osteopath doing a ‘manipulation’. Some Chiro’s can also choose to use a spring-loaded tool called an ‘activator’ and will often treat the soft tissues too. A Chiropractor may choose to explain this as helping with ‘correct spinal alignment’, and they often feel it is a helpful way to describe what they are doing to the patient.

The key with any treatment in our opinion, is that hands on/manual therapy must be- as soon as is appropriate, combined with the correct rehabilitation, stretches, strengthening and exercises to address the underlying issues… and a good osteopath, physiotherapist or chiropractor will usually make sure their patients are doing this too, rather than just becoming reliant on an ‘adjustment’.

*** Please be very cautious of any therapist trying to sign you up to expensive treatment plans and telling you that you will require extensive treatment over weeks and months to avoid major long-term disability!! This, or really cheap costs or special deals is usually a sign that something is not quite right… a cheap session in the short term can end up costing you a lot more in the long term!!

The Bottom Line

Just like, GP’s or plumbers, or teachers… there are good and not so good manual therapists out there… and the last thing you want is to find yourself in the hands of someone who is not working ethically or does not have the skills to treat your pain effectively- or doesn’t have a focus on getting you better as quickly and effectively as they can!!

Furthermore, whatever anyone tells you, there is no need to see just a physio, or just an osteo or just a chiro if you have back or neck pain, or any other musculoskeletal pain for that matter. Put simply, in our opinion, all three professions are just as capable as each other… please just make sure you do some research on, for example Google Reviews to know that where you are going and who you are seeing has a strong reputation and the right qualifications!! Also, if you go and don’t feel completely comfortable and confident in who you are seeing, or feel like you might need a second opinion… listen to your gut… you can always call us if you want to discuss what you have been told so we can help you to know if that sounds right or not!  

We would encourage you not to be price driven… but reputation driven with your choice of therapist… you wouldn’t buy a cheap dodgy tyre for your car… so don’t do that to your body either!!!

Some common causes of back pain that we see a LOT of at the Back and Body Clinic: 

∙       Lumbar disc herniation 

∙       Acute facet entrapment 

∙       Sciatica 

∙       Muscle strain or acute spasm 

∙       Pregnancy related back pain 

∙       Postural pain 

∙       Upper cross syndrome 

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How can The Back and Body Help?  

At the Back and Body Clinic we have both physiotherapists and osteopaths who are highly skilled and experienced and LOVE treating your aches and pains. When we recruit, we are open to having physio’s, osteo’s or chiropractors working at the clinic as long as they have the right skills, qualifications and have genuinely friendly and caring attitude towards their patients. All our therapists have undergone additional high-level in-house training too, where they have shared and developed their assessment, diagnostic and treatment skills so you can come here and access the very best treatment and advice.

We also take a complete bio-psycho-social approach to ensure that we address both your symptoms, but also the underlying cause of the problem. This journey provides you with the education and skills to take an active and collaborative role in your care and take some responsibility in improving your quality of life.

What to Expect

When you first meet your therapist, they will take you to your room with a big smile, sit with you and take a detailed case history of your presenting complaint… asking lots of questions to help get a clearer idea of what the diagnosis could be. From here they will run through a series of special diagnostic tests, which along with the case history will enable them to formulate both a diagnosis and treatment plan with you.

Some of the techniques they employ to help you may include; joint mobilisation or manipulation, muscle stretches, soft tissue work, dry needling and strengthening with appropriate follow up home exercises to reduce the risk of future episodes.  They will discuss this with you and make sure that you know that you are in the right place and on the right expert hands.

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We love nothing more than to see you walking out of the Clinic with a big smile on your face!!

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