Before answering this question let’s look a question I get asked all the time ‘What is the difference between a Physiotherapist, Chiropractor and Osteopath’?

I’ll be honest, this can be a difficult question to answer as from personal experience I don’t know that much about Chiropractic or Osteopathy. When you do a Physiotherapy degree you don’t get taught anything about these other professions. Therefore the experience I have had mostly over the years is hearing from patients who have been to a Chiropractor or an Osteopath in the past. Some of their experiences have been positive and at times for various reasons less positive and they wanted to try Physio instead.

Some patients have not liked their ‘joints being clicked’, especially their necks (which on very rare occasions be dangerous) or have found treatment to be a little aggressive or ineffective over the long term due to a lack of prescribed aftercare / exercises. I’ve heard too many times over the last 20 years patients coming to me after seeing particularly a Chiropractor and being told that ‘Their Pelvis is out’ and they need regular adjustments to ‘put it back in’. This is an outdated approach and there is no evidence that the pelvic joints ‘slip out of place’. The pelvic joints are two of the most stable joints in the body and when these joints are stressed sufficiently the bone will fracture before the joint ‘comes out’. Using terminology that ‘your pelvis is out’ can create fear and anxiety with can be detrimental to recovery, especially as we know that our thoughts and feelings have a huge impact on the pain we experience. Manipulation (where joints are sometimes clicked), can be very effective (and we regularly do this at Thorpes Physiotherapy when indicated) but unless the underlying root causes of the problem are identified and addressed (e.g poor posture, poor ergonomics, muscle weakness / imbalance, training errors etc) then problems tend to come back. Patients have then come to us to try and get longer lasting resolution of their problem.

I do realise however that this is a restricted, slightly biased and limited point of reference and I want to put forward a more balanced viewpoint in this blog. I’m sure there are lots of Chiropractors and Osteopaths out there who have patients come to them as they have not been satisfied with the treatment they have received by Physiotherapists. At Thorpes Physiotherapy we also see this, people coming to us as they have had a bad experience with other physio’s. For example it’s all too common nowadays, especially more so in the NHS (with restricted number of sessions due to budget restrictions) for patients to just be given an exercise leaflet by a physio and told to come back in 3-4 weeks or may be not even told to come back at all! In my opinion this isn’t good enough and is damaging to the Physiotherapy profession. There is also a huge variation in the skill level, clinical diagnostic ability and approaches used by different Physiotherapists. I’m a Module Co-ordinator for the Society of Musculoskeletal Medicine, and I have been teaching on post-graduate courses for Physiotherapists, Doctors and other Allied Health professionals for the last 13 years. It’s amazing how much the standard within the Physiotherapy profession can vary –therefore don’t assume that all Physio’s are the same- once you have found a good one that you TRUST, then stick with them (the same applies for Chiropractor and Osteopaths, trust is the most important thing and if you have found a good one, stay with them)

In my opinion below is a list of the similarities between the 3 professions:-

  • We all treat Musculoskeletal problems (back pain, neck pain, knee pain, shoulder pain etc –so it can be confusing when deciding who to go to!)

  • We have University based Education (at least 3 years full time courses)

  • We all have protected titles, which mean that a therapist can’t call themselves a Physiotherapist, Chiropractor or Osteopath unless they have completed the relevant accredited course.

The main difference between a Physiotherapist, Chiropractor and an Osteopath put simply, is in the philosophy of each profession. There is also a fundamental difference in the approaches we take with patients

As mentioned earlier in this blog, I can talk about Physiotherapy all day but I have limited knowledge about Osteopathy and Chiropractic. I want to put a more balanced viewpoint across based on evidence and I have found a really interesting article, written by Dr Leaver (who knows more about the other professions than me). To read this well balanced article please click here.

In Summary

In my opinion there are really good and not so good Physiotherapists, Chiropractors and Osteopaths out there, I hope this blog has given you a little more insight – the key thing is finding a clinician / clinic that works for you, has aligned values with you and more importantly who you trust. Some people will prefer the Physiotherapy approach, (I am biased, this is my preference and what I recommend to friends and family) others will prefer a different approach; this is entirely up to you. I can only really comment on the approach and philosophy at Thorpes Physiotherapy –my private Physiotherapy clinic.

At Thorpes we exist to educate, motivate, treat and inspire our patients to become more active, mobile and live a pain free life, without medications, injections or surgery.

Our aim is to help you make the best, educated decisions for your health. It for these reasons we offer the following:-

  • Free reports on many topics -to give you more knowledge

  • Free Phone consultations

  • Free Discovery visits

  • A dedication to customer service

  • Money back guarantee if you’re not happy with your service

Before you come to see us, we want to be sure that we can help your particular problem and that you trust us.

Below are the additional reasons why I think Thorpes Physiotherapy is a good option:-

  • We can offer many different types of treatments depending on what you need. This can include manipulation, massage, biomechanical investigations, Exercise prescription, Strength and conditioning training, Exercise classes, Electrotherapy, Pilates, Hydrotherapy, Neurological Physiotherapy, acupuncture, Diagnostic Ultrasound scans and much more.


  • Thorpes Physiotherapy have won many awards over the years, including BUSINESS OF THE YEAR in Camberley multiple times and the NUMBER 1 PHYSIOTHERAPY CLINIC IN THE UK.  You can therefore have confidence that you are in the best hands to help you with your rehabilitation


I hope this has been an interesting read for you. If you would like any further information about Thorpes Physiotherapy or would like any of the free reports, phone consultations or Discovery visits, please visit our website at

Jonathan Smith MSc,BSc, FSOMM, MCSP

Principal Physiotherapist and Director