There are, in fact, many similarities between practitioners of the two professions and here we have tried to provide an insight into the similarities and differences of physiotherapy vs osteopathy.

Contrary to the stereotypes osteopathy is not just ‘cracking bones’ and physiotherapy is not just prescribing exercises!


Physiotherapy has its beginnings in various therapy treatments originating thousands of years ago in places like China, India and Greece. Most of these therapies involved exercise of one form or another. In 1813 Henrick Ling introduced a therapy known as Swedish exercises. By the 1860s these exercises included massage and the use of exercise machines. In 1894, in Britain, four nurses founded the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, but it didn’t acquire legal status as a professional organisation until 1900.

Osteopathy grew out of the medical profession. It was founded, in America, in the late 1800s by the physician and surgeon Andrew Taylor Still. His philosophy was that to achieve the best possible health all parts of the body should be treated together in a harmonious way. All body systems are interrelated and depending upon one another for good health.

Osteopathy eventually came to Britain with the foundation of the British School of Osteopathy in 1917. The London College of Osteopathic Medicine was opened in 1946 and offered osteopathic courses to medical professionals. In 1993 it became a legally regulated profession.


The Oxford Dictionary offers these definitions:

Osteopathy is defined as ‘A system of complementary medicine involving the treatment of medical disorders through the manipulation and massage of the skeleton and musculature.’ Oxford Dictionary

Physiotherapy is defined as ‘The treatment of disease, injury, or deformity by physical methods such as massage, heat treatment, and exercise rather than by drugs or surgery.’ Oxford Dictionary

None the wiser? Not surprising as the definitions are very similar, so let’s look at the definitions from the governing bodies.

General Osteopathic Council –

Osteopathy works with the structure and function of the body. It is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together. Osteopaths use physical manipulation, stretching and massage to:

  • increase joint mobility,
  • relieve muscle tension,
  • enhance the blood and nerve supply,
  • and to help your body’s own healing mechanisms

Chartered Society of Physiotherapists –

Physiotherapy helps people affected by injury, illness or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice. They maintain health for people of all ages, helping patients to manage pain and prevent disease


Both professions have extensive training in anatomy, physiology, pathology and hands on techniques but there are differences with the two professions training

Osteopaths train for four years to achieve a Masters’ Degree. necessary for their clinical practice in private clinics. Their training specialises in musculoskeletal health, and they are well versed in the application of spinal and joint manipulation, a core part of their 4 year training.

Osteopaths tend to work more with their hands to manipulate joint (sometimes with the characteristic click), stretch or massage muscles or articulate joints into greater ranges of movement.

Osteopaths also advise on different ways of moving, how to exercise safely, how to alleviate acute pain and also how to target lifestyle changes to reduce chronic pain or joint stiffness.

Physiotherapists in the UK train for three years to achieve a Bachelors’ degree and complete over 1000 hours on clinical placements including the NHS, which is needed for clinical practice in public healthcare settings. Their training and rotations are in musculoskeletal, neurological, orthopaedics and respiratory care.

Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy refers to bones, muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments and is more aligned with the Western ‘Medical model’, treating less with their hands and more with exercise and modalities.

Physiotherapists will give advice about lifestyle to improve your general health and techniques to use in order to avoid injury, direct their attention primarily to improving that part of your body which is causing the problem, through treatment, pain management and movement.


Both Clinicians have the same aim – to treat people in order to reduce musculoskeletal pain, improve mobility and improve the quality of their patients’ lives. In addition, both have trained extensively in anatomy, physiology and pathology.

If people who primarily focus on muscles sit at one end of a spectrum (i.e. massage therapists to relax or personal trainers to strengthen) and people who primarily focus on joints sit at the other (i.e. chiropractors), physiotherapists and osteopaths sit together in the middle.

Both physiotherapists and osteopaths take a detailed clinical history and carry out a comprehensive assessment of your presenting condition.

They will both examine;  Osteopaths probably assess from a more holistic point of view which is why they may be looking at your hip if you have a neck pain and Physiotherapists assess more locally to the painful area but will also consider it as part of the overall function of the unit.

A few words from our Lead Physiotherapist, Claire Parker:

Being a Physiotherapist is incredibly rewarding.  I love empowering my patients with the knowledge and skills they need to recover from a condition, injury or surgery and use my manual therapy skills to help them achieve their goals.  It is also inspiring seeing my patients make positive changes to their lifestyle and health following my guidance.

Each will make a diagnosis and provide a treatment plan.  Here at Inkberrow Physiotherapy & Acupuncture all our Physiotherapists and Osteopaths will centre their treatment around exercises and rehabilitation as well as offering hands on therapy to get you back to doing what you love as quickly and safely as possible.

A few words from our Osteopath, Chris Wilkes:

Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with incredible physiotherapists and osteopaths. It’s evident that we share a multitude of common ideas and approaches, and interestingly, there is also a remarkable diversity within each profession. Personally, I thrive on collaborating with my patients, understanding their challenges, and facilitating their swift return to optimal function. I use a combination of hands-on treatment, exercise, and lifestyle coaching to support my patients in achieving their goals.

Here at Inkberrow Physiotherapy and Acupuncture we champion a collaborative team approach to client care and where necessary, we will consult with each other to ensure you receive the best treatment.

Helping you live your healthiest and happiest life. Revival Health & Wellbeing Centre offers a variety of treatments, clinics, counselling and holistic therapies from our specialist team of practitioners.

Please contact us on 01386 792 126 to discuss your consultation.