Chiropractic vs. Osteopathic Medicine

Closeup of chiropractors hands doing spinal adjustment on senior man

The philosophy of osteopaths and chiropractors are very similar. They both emphasize that the body’s systems are all connected and that the spine is the center of a person’s well-being.

At first glance, you might think that osteopaths and chiropractors have different names for the same job.

However, in reality, the techniques they use are quite different.

Osteopathic Methods Vs. Chiropractic Methods

Chiropractors pride themselves on their non-invasive techniques. They don’t use surgery or medicine to heal your musculoskeletal pain.

Instead of prescribing steroidal medication, your chiropractor recommends different vitamins and improvements in diet, exercise, and ergonomics. Chiropractors adjust your spine and lifestyle to live pain-free.

Doctors of osteopathic medicine (DO) restore the bones, tissues, joints, and fascia with invasive techniques when necessary.  Unlike Doctors of Medicine, osteopaths use prescription drugs and surgery with stretching and manipulation techniques.

Typical Visit with an Osteopath

Your osteopath begins the office visit with a typical medical history examination.

The questions include information on back pain episodes and prior injuries. After the questionnaire is reviewed, your osteopath will perform a physical examination, which includes:

  • Tests, such as MRI’s and X-Rays
  • Physical movement tests to determine mobility in the back, arms, and legs
  • Physical movement tests of the back, arms, and legs to determine joint restriction and pain

The goal of the tests is to determine any “somatic dysfunctions”, defined as an impaired function of the somatic system. Your somatic system includes the bones, joints, muscles, fascia, and peripheral nervous system.

Your osteopath will determine your treatment according to the test’s findings. Osteopaths frequently use Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT), medications, injections, and back surgery.

Often, you will receive a prescription medication with your manipulation. Treatment lengths vary. You could be treated up to two or three times a week for four weeks with follow-up treatments.

Differences Between Chiropractic and Osteopathic Office Visits

The osteopath’s treatment plan can seem similar to a chiropractor visit. They both schedule weekly manipulations for a various number of weeks, except osteopaths often prescribe medications with their examinations.

Unlike most osteopaths, your chiropractor has spent years specializing in healing your pain using purely holistic methods without painkillers.

Prescription medications can have serious side effects. They can cause disorders, diseases and hinder your cognitive processing.

Between 2004 to 2010, major pharmaceutical companies paid out $7 billion dollars in fines, penalties, and lawsuits. Prescription drugs can be dangerous.

Check with your chiropractor to see if a non-invasive technique can help you before using prescription drugs or surgery.

Osteopathic Specializations

Osteopaths look beyond the sickness or disease for the cause. Like chiropractors, osteopaths treat the root of the injury.

The benefits of applying invasive techniques are helping you with a serious injury. An osteopath specializes in more aggressive treatment plans for injuries that include:

  • General Back Pain
  • Muscle Strains and Sprains
  • Sciatica and Headache
  • Viral Infections
  • Bacterial Infections
  • Somatic Diseases
  • Structural and Functional Tissue Abnormalities
  • Joint Restriction and Misalignment
  • Imbalanced Muscle Tissue

Chiropractic Specializations

Chiropractors have spent years specializing in how your spine’s health affects your entire body. The proper function of your musculoskeletal and neurological system can determine the preservation of your health.

Chiropractors can align your spine and neck, and then strengthen the muscles to support your skeletal system.

  • General Back and Neck Pain
  • Muscle Strains and Sprains
  • Headaches
  • Sport Injuries
  • Work-Related Injuries
  • Joint Restriction and Misalignment

Chiropractic vs. Osteopathic

Chiropractors and osteopaths can both alleviate your pain and their healing plan should be considered depending on the severity of your injury.

Osteopaths should be considered for more serious injuries. They provide manipulations but do not have the same intense focus on adjustments as chiropractors.

Your osteopath can provide the prescription medication, surgery, and invasive treatments sometimes needed for recovery.

The choice of whether to visit a chiropractor versus an osteopath usually depends on whether your injury is an emergency or not.


Your body naturally creates all the substances that it needs to heal. This means that after releasing pressure from your nervous system, your body can generate necessary chemicals and repair damaged tissues.

We recommend seeing if a holistic method can help before using dangerous prescriptions. We offer a free consultation where we will explain the scope of care. Please call (360) 260-6903 to get started.