Should I See An Osteopath, Physiotherapist Or Chiropractor For Pain?

Should I See An Osteopath, Physiotherapist Or Chiropractor For Pain?

When you’re injured and are in pain, it’s important to be seen and treated by a qualified healthcare professional to get started on your recovery, prevent your symptoms from worsening, and help you achieve the best outcomes. So how do you know whether you should be seeing an osteopath, a physiotherapist or a chiropractor when you’re experiencing pain, and what’s the difference between the three?

Osteopathy: Restoring The Body’s Innate Balance And Function

Osteopathy is a form of hands-on therapy that uses manipulations, mobilisations and other gentle yet powerful techniques to address the deeper underlying causes of the pain and symptoms we experience. At the core of osteopathy is the understanding that the body is a cohesive unit with all of our body systems and processes working together in a very intricate and complex way - even though it happens without us ever thinking about it.

Osteopathy acknowledges that the body is well-designed to heal and repair itself when things go wrong. Unfortunately, the stresses and demands of everyday life can interfere with this natural repair process, leading to the body following less-than-ideal pathways in our movement, function and alignment that can then bring on painful symptoms or predispose us to injury. Osteopaths use their skills and techniques to address these imbalances in our body and its systems, thereby helping the body do what it was designed to - heal and repair effectively.

What conditions do osteopaths treat?

Osteopaths work across all age ranges, from newborns to older adults. If you have a pain or problem that keeps recurring without ever fully resolving, this may be a sign that you can benefit from osteopathy care to help get to the underlying cause of the problem. Concerns that we work with include:

  • In babies: we can help with problems including torticollis (a one-sided head preference), suckling and feeding issues, colic, irritability, poor sleeping patterns, abnormal postures and more.
  • In children: we often see growing pains, muscle tension and pains, unexplained tummy aches, odd walking patterns, breathing difficulties that may contribute to asthma, unexpected behaviour, unusual posture, difficulty concentrating, and more.
  • In adults: we often work with low back pain, neck and shoulder pains, headaches and migraines, sciatica, sports injuries, breathlessness, and other muscle aches and pains across the body.

We also work extensively with expecting mothers throughout their pregnancy and postpartum journey, helping manage the strains and stresses placed on the body from both pregnancy and childbirth.

Physiotherapy: Comprehensive Musculoskeletal Care

Physiotherapists have extensive knowledge and understanding about the body’s musculoskeletal system, and how the way we move loads and stresses this system to lead to pain and injury. They also know the right ways to help achieve smooth and painless movement, accounting for a wide range of injuries, disabilities or health conditions. If you want to stay as active as possible for as long as possible, a physiotherapist is the perfect person to help you achieve your goals.

Physiotherapists have a wide range of evidence-based techniques and services available to help you achieve your treatment goals. We often use hands-on treatments such as soft tissue mobilisation, massage, dry needling, and exercise rehabilitation programs to help you improve your strength and movement. While rehabilitating injuries and problems is the first step, it’s equally important to set you up for success in terms of healthy movement and function for life, which is why we’ll always look to address areas of weakness, restrictions and imbalances as part of your prevention strategy. We may also recommend physiotherapy-guided clinical Pilates, which is another powerful tool to optimise your recovery and set you up with healthy foundations going forwards. You can read about how Pilates helps prevent injuries here.

What can physiotherapy help with?

Physiotherapists play a key role in helping you recover from a wide range of lower body and upper body injuries including heel and Achilles injuries, shin splints, knee pain, running injuries, quad and hamstring injuries, pelvic pain, back pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain, hand and wrist pain and neck pain. These injuries don’t have to be related to sports - many of the pains we see are sustained as a result of things like posture, workplace ergonomics, and even household stresses like lifting heavy objects up onto a shelf. We also work with those recovering from trauma-related injuries such as whiplash and concussions, as well as with those recovering from surgery.

Beyond injuries, physiotherapists also work to help manage and improve your quality of life across a range of medical conditions and diseases including arthritis, osteoporosis, cancers, neurological conditions (like a stroke or Parkinson’s disease), as well as those that are struggling with the natural effects of ageing.

Another large group of people that we work with here at PhysioCentral are athletes and gym-goers, to help optimise their technique and movement, long before they have an injury. As an athlete, muscle imbalances, weakness and having a sub-optimal form means you achieve your training goals more slowly while being predisposed to injury. Identifying these areas using our comprehensive assessments and actively working to improve these areas and techniques can then make a large difference to a person’s performance and safety.

Chiropractic Care: Aligning The Spine For Optimal Health

Like osteopathy, chiropractic care also emphasises the body’s ability to heal itself by supporting the nervous system (which is protected by the spine) in relaying messages throughout the body. Chiropractic care also shares some similarities with physiotherapy in terms of working on muscles and tissues around the spine, although this may be approached in different ways.

As such, chiropractors focus on two key areas: the first is managing pain problems related to the bones, muscles and joints around the spine, which helps promote healthy spine and joint function, enhances spinal mobility, and reduces pain and discomfort related to the spine and in turn, the rest of the body. The second is by supporting the management of health concerns beyond the spine, knowing that these issues may still originate in or around the spine when certain issues are present and are causing disruptions to the nervous system.

Your chiropractor can utilise a range of techniques to assess the condition of your spine and nervous system, and then use hands-on manipulations and therapeutic adjustments (typically delivered via quick and gentle thrusts) to support spinal health and alignment.

When Is The Best Time To Book In For Treatment For Pain?

Research demonstrates that for acute musculoskeletal injuries, including acute low back pain, early interventions help to restore mobility, improve biomechanical function, and even reduce the chance of developing chronic pain from 15% down to 2%. So the earlier, the better. We recommend making an appointment when you first notice pain starting, as when it worsens, this indicates that your injury has likely worsened, too.

So, Who Should You See To Help Manage Pain And Injuries?

The best answer to this really does depend on your unique circumstances - including what has caused your injury, the structures involved, the severity and extent of your injury, and more. We have an extensive team here at PhysioCentral that are dedicated to helping you achieve the best outcomes for your health using evidence-based therapies and strategies, and are continually refining our skillset and broadening our knowledge base to deliver exceptional care to our clients.

If you’re unsure where to start or who to book in with, give our reception team a call on +852 2801 4801 and we’ll get you booked in with the right practitioner to start your recovery.

Our team is also highly skilled in sports physiotherapy - read about the benefits of seeing a sports physiotherapist here.