Chiro, Osteo, or Physio? What’s the difference, and who to see when!

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Chiro, Osteo, or Physio? What’s the difference, and who to see when!

Its a question we’re often asked by our patients, and over the years I’ve worked out the simplest way to explain the differences. Many of our patients have experienced all three modalities at some time in their lives, often with chiro being the last tried- the reason usually being that there’s often a misunderstanding, or even no idea of what we do! Or people tell us ‘I’ve tried everything and thought I might give this a go!’


As chiropractors we study not only the spine and skeleton, but the soft tissues (ligaments, muscles and tendons), and how to treat the body through joint manipulation, massage techniques, and rehabilitation exercises (stretching and strengthening). I tend to say to my clients we have experience using all the tools that an osteo or physio has in their box, but we may use them differently, or at least in different amounts. For example, did you know that we also learn how to apply therapeutic ultrasound and tens machines? Something that’s often applied in a physiotherapy setting. Or that we have learned massage techniques that are often applied in an osteopathic setting.


Chiropractic care usually encompasses bits and pieces from both those modalities, however the theory behind chiropractic may explain why we choose to treat the way we do, with spinal and joint adjustments, some soft tissue, and prescription of exercises or stretches.


Chiropractic is holistic. We believe that to gain results that are effective and long-lasting we need to treat the ‘whole’. We hear what your pain or disfunction is, and will treat that area, and others, because we understand the concept that while you may have that specific issue, it may stem from elsewhere, or, be effecting another part of your body. For example, a patient who’s neck always seems to be their troublesome spot. In our frame of thinking, why would we just treat the neck? What if an undiagnosed misalignment of your pelvis kept making your body have to adapt, and your neck was bearing the brunt of this postural change? What if an old shoulder injury was placing undue stress on a muscle that connect to your neck? What if you’re experiencing pins and needles in your fingers, and rather than the issue being caused in your wrist of forearm it was actually stemming from nerve interference at the neck?


The wholistic approach doesn’t just stop at the physical. We’re interested in the way you sleep, your energy levels, your diet, your exercise regime, your job and how that might be affecting you, not to mention your stress levels!


People often have the misconception that we just ‘crack’ without a thought to why. Our university studies are similar to those a doctor has, that understanding of dis-ease. We just choose to help your body heal from the inside out, as opposed to the outside in. We encourage your body to function at its best, so it can be better at healing. We want your nervous system (brain and spinal cord and nerves) to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with the rest of your body, so that your brain can get our the right messages, and can also receive what it needs to from the body.


What are the differences?


So what are those main differences? What could you expect from a chiro, an osteo, or a physio? In my experience, this is the simplest way to put it:


Chiro: Full body approach to your health, especially at Balanced Life Health Care. Specific joint alignment, soft tissue work, advice on rehab (stretching/strengthening). And most importantly each adjustment is like a reboot to your nervous system, it’s like starting a fresh, and allowing for the body to heal itself.

Osteo: Focus on the area of pain or dysfunction, joint manipulation and mobilization, and soft tissue work.

Physio: Focus is on rehabilitation. There can be some therapy involved such as soft tissue work, and ultrasound etc, time spent retraining and strengthening injured joints and muscles, to regain function.


My approach


Now that I’ve said that, let me leave you with this. Working with the human body is by no means a ‘one size fits all’. I will be a different practitioner to the next one, just as you may have had one massage with one person you liked, and one you didn’t like as much. The key is to do what suits you, and this can only be deciphered by trying! Over the years I’ve made a point of trying different practitioners, even if I don’t know if I need the therapy. It’s the way to see what things are, and how they could help you now or in the future. The best way to find a practitioner is to ask your friends, ask your colleagues, just ask. Being referred to someone by someone who’s used the therapy and seen the practitioner will put your mind at ease.


And one more thing to keep in mind along the same lines, your body is different to the next persons, you may heal faster or slower and have different challenges along the way. Remember healing is a bumpy road. Generally we want the direction to be onwards and upwards, but along the way there is no doubt bound to be downs and arounds! If you’re ever not sure of what can help you when, just ask us!


About the Author

Dr Nadine Toussaint


Dr. Nadine Toussaint is one of our amazing chiropractor at Balanced Life Health Care. She is passionate about chiropractic care for all ages including during pregnancy and for kids. To find out more about Dr. Nadine click here or to book a consultation click here. For more from Dr. Nadine you can visit her personal blog here


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