Health Now

What Is The Difference Between A Chiropractor, Osteopath and Physiotherapist?


When you’re suffering from physical pain and discomfort, it can be difficult to determine which healthcare professional is the right fit for your needs, especially when they have common or overlapping speciality areas, such as with a chiropractor, osteopath and physiotherapist. 

These three healthcare professions share various common goals, including their knowledge of the body and musculoskeletal system, experience working with the back (among other areas), and using their services to help you live and move without pain. What differs between the three is the approach they take to achieve these goals. Understanding the differences between these professions and how they work can help you make an informed decision about the most suitable healthcare professional to seek treatment from when pain or injury arise. Here is an overview of the three professionals, so you can seek the best-suited help for the nature of your pain or problem.



Chiropractors specialise in treating conditions related to the bones, muscles, and joints of the spine. They play a crucial role in helping people manage back problems, promoting healthy spine and joint function, and relieving pain that may originate from the spine but affect other areas of the body. Neglecting back pain can have significant negative impacts on a person’s quality of life and their ability to perform regular household tasks, making chiropractic care a valuable asset for those seeking relief.

During a chiropractic appointment, the chiropractor will assess the condition of your spine and nervous system to determine how it is functioning. They will use various techniques to identify areas of subluxation, which are areas where the bones of the spine are not properly aligned, and where hands-on manipulations can be used to make therapeutic adjustments to the position and motion of the bones. These adjustments aim to restore proper alignment, reduce pain, and improve function.

Aside from adjustments, a chiropractor may also prescribe exercises, stretches, mobilisations, and other therapies to help manage pain and promote healing. They may also provide lifestyle advice, such as recommendations for ergonomic changes to your workstation or modifications to your daily routine, to improve your overall spine and joint health.



Osteopaths use hands-on techniques to manipulate and treat conditions related to the bones, muscles, and joints of the body. Although they share some similarities with chiropractors, osteopaths tend to use gentler manipulation techniques. Osteopaths also focus on the entire body, treating patients of all ages, including newborns with issues like colic, feeding difficulties, and favouring one side while sleeping. In adults, osteopaths treat a wide range of issues, including low back pain, sciatica, sports injuries, headaches, and migraines.

The core principle of osteopathy is based on the belief that the body functions best when it moves in the way it is naturally designed to. This helps to promote natural healing and repair processes within the body. During your appointment, your osteopath will conduct a thorough assessment of your entire body, checking its mobility and balance. They will then develop a customised treatment plan that focuses on specific manipulations that address your concerns. Your treatment plan may also include exercises, stretches, and other therapies to help support your healing process between appointments.

Osteopaths may use a range of techniques, including soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, and stretching to help improve mobility and range of motion. They may also use manipulative techniques to correct imbalances or misalignments in the spine or other joints. In addition to treating musculoskeletal issues, osteopaths may also address issues related to other body systems, such as the respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems. This is because of the way that these systems are interconnected, and that dysfunction in one area can affect the function of other areas.



Physiotherapists play important roles in helping their patients recover from injuries, reduce pain and stiffness, improve mobility, and prevent further injuries throughout the entire body. They have a deep understanding of how the body moves and functions, as well as the ability to diagnose and treat various conditions related to movement, such as muscle or joint pain.

During a physiotherapy appointment, your physiotherapist will conduct a thorough assessment to understand the underlying cause of your symptoms. Based on their findings, they will create a customised treatment plan that is tailored to your unique needs and goals. This plan will include various hands-on treatments, such as soft tissue mobilisation, massage, dry needling, and exercise rehabilitation programs to improve strength and movement. The treatment plan may also include education, empowering you to make the best decisions for your body in the context of your injury or condition, so you can continue taking care of your health even after your appointment.

Beyond treating muscle and joint pain, physiotherapists also work with patients to manage medical conditions and diseases such as arthritis, osteoporosis, cancer, and neurological conditions like stroke or Parkinson’s disease. They can also provide guidance on how to cope with the natural effects of ageing, such as maintaining mobility and preventing falls.

In addition to providing treatments, physiotherapists often work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals, including chiropractors and osteopaths, to provide patients with the most effective and comprehensive care possible.


See A Chiropractor, Osteopath or Physiotherapist – Minus The Upfront Cost

While it’s great to feel more confident in the best place to start to help your pain or injury, booking in with a chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist can be met with a significant cost barrier, especially if your symptoms have only recently started and you haven’t prepared for the expense.

Delaying care for pain or injury can leave you vulnerable to the problem worsening, and can affect your ability to go to work or do the things you love. For those whose injuries are covered by ACC, most clinics still charge ACC co-payments, leaving many people stuck and unsure of what to do.

This is where the leading health-focused Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) platform, HealthNow, has stepped in to bridge this gap at no cost to health consumers. Used as an app on your smartphone, your total appointment cost, including the cost of any products, is spread over up to twelve weeks, leaving your upfront cost at only a fraction of what it would otherwise be.

Unlike other BNPL services that charge fees or interest, which further disadvantage those that are in pain and are trying to be proactive about their health, HealthNow remains completely free to users, and podiatry clinics still get paid in full by HealthNow on the day of the visit. This win-win platform is transforming healthcare access for New Zealanders and US residents, enabling them to get the best outcomes for their health by not being forced to delay their care.


To start using HealthNow and claim your $10 credit when you first create an account to use on any health service, sign up for the app. You can also browse HealthNow’s full benefits and features, including a health wallet to store funds set aside for health services that can be contributed to by others including your employer. Access your chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist today.


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