In the ever-growing world of allied healthcare, there are many different ways to help alleviate pain and restore muscle and joint function, two disciplines often entwined are Osteopathy and Physiotherapy. It can be difficult to know which methods are best for you, therefore understanding the differences between them can help you make informed decisions regarding your healthcare. Here, we unravel the main distinctions between Osteopathy and Physiotherapy, shedding light on why Osteopathy is a leading holistic healthcare practice.

Osteopathy: A holistic Approach 

Osteopathy takes a holistic view, considering the connection between the body’s structure and function. It believes in the body’s natural ability to heal and prioritises addressing the root causes of what is preventing the body’s natural healing capacities. So as well as treating undesired symptoms, Osteopaths work on promoting the body’s self-healing mechanisms, primarily through advanced hands-on therapy, and lifestyle advice.


Physiotherapy focuses on reducing pain and improving movement and function, primarily through rehabilitation exercises. These are usually prescribed for specific localised conditions or injuries. The approach is usually goal-oriented and has an active patient role in managing their recovery. Although Physiotherapy was once considered a manual therapy, this line of practice is now becoming more diagnostic and prescriptive. 

Treatment Techniques:

The hands-on techniques used by Osteopaths encompass massage and soft tissue manipulation, joint mobilisation, HVLA’s (carefully applied localised thrusts to mobilise joints) and muscle energy techniques (targeted engagement and relaxation of muscles in conjunction with hands-on mobilisation and stretching). 

Many osteopaths will train in adjunct therapies such as Cranial Osteopathy, Visceral manipulation and dry needling / (Western acupuncture).

Your Osteopath will also empower you and equip you with the skills you need to take your health into your own hands, by demonstrating and prescribing exercises to support your recovery outside the treatment room.

Advice given by Osteopaths will often encompass a combination of lifestyle, movement  and nutritional guidance, which will contribute to both physical and emotional well-being. Conversely, Physiotherapists heavily utilise exercise prescription, may use electrotherapy and some will use manual therapy and massage techniques to assist in the treatment of dysfunction and injury. At a general level, their emphasis is more specifically on enhancing muscularstrength, muscular endurance, and joint mobility to improve overall physical function and health, through better range and quality movement.

Scope of Practice:

Osteopaths and Physiotherapists are both proficient in assessing, diagnosing, and treating various musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, joint problems, sports injuries and headaches. Both can be found in hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centres, and have specialists who provide care for individuals with conditions like stroke, spinal cord injuries, and sporting injuries.

Distinguishing Osteopathy and Physiotherapy:

While there is certainly crossover as both strive for pain relief and healing, their divergence lies in their diagnostic and treatment approaches.

Physiotherapy primarily concerns exercise rehabilitation, aiding individuals affected by injury, illness, or disability through targeted exercise prescription and movement advice. Movement in the body impacts a multitude of processes in the human body to maintain good health, so Physiotherapy looks to exploit these benefits through structured and progressive movement prescriptions and advice. 

Conversely, Osteopathy embraces a holistic stance, and understands the power of combining exercise prescription and hands-on treatment in symptom relief. 

Osteopaths target the problem area that is causing you pain, as well as assessing and treating other, associated areas and systems that are potentially contributing to your symptoms. 

For instance, the diagnosis and treatment for lower back pain will also involve assessment of the pelvis, hips, knees and even the feet, and treating those areas where necessary. 

In addition the osteopath will consider more  global effects such as your stress levels, your ergonomics at work and at home, hormonal changes and balance, and other factors. 

It is worth noting that appointment times vary, but follow up Osteopathic appointments tend to be slightly longer than Physiotherapy follow up appointments, as this allows for a more comprehensive assessment, hands-on therapy and detailed exercise prescription.

Why Choose Osteopathy?:

Osteopathy’s prominence in holistic healthcare stems from several factors:

  • It’s Holistic: Osteopathy’s comprehensive outlook allows for identifying and treating root causes, not just managing symptoms.
  • It’s Hands on: Osteopathic training is comprehensive in manual treatment methods, giving Osteopaths the edge when it comes to the quality of hands on treatment that they are able to provide.
  • It’s Preventative: Osteopathy emphasises the prevention of pain and injuries, and nurturing of future health, by identifying and addressing potential risks before symptoms emerge, and by striving for optimal posture, nutrition and overall health. 
  • It’s Personalised: Taking into consideration not just your medical history and physical capabilities, but also the psychosocial requirements on you that make you an individual, with unique needs.
  • Its Natural, Non-Invasive and Drug-Free: Osteopathy offers a safe alternative to MSK healthcare, without invasive procedures or reliance on medications, and is therefore suitable for people of all ages and can be applied safely alongside many other health issues.

The ultimate goal of the Osteopath is to restore equilibrium within the body for self-healing, optimal wellness and functionality. 


It’s important to find the right therapist for you, so understanding the differences between Osteopathy and Physiotherapy is important in selecting the ideal approach for your healthcare needs. 

While both have merits, Osteopathy’s holistic philosophy, personalised approach, and advanced hands-on treatment capacities distinguish it from its counterparts. This is why people often stick with Osteopathy, once they have tried a number of other treatment modalities in search for long-lasting relief and well-being.

Here at Meadowside, our team of excellent, experienced osteopaths will connect with you, empower you and collaborate with you to achieve long lasting health and resilience within your body. 

Come and be inspired by all the things your body can do for you!

Talk to Us

If there’s anything you’d like to discuss with our Osteopaths, you can make an appointment now for a FREE 15-minute telephone or in-person consultation here: https://meadowsideosteopathy.co.uk/book-online/.