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Osteo, Chiro or Physio – Which should you choose?


Ever wondered why some people tend to choose different clinicians, with complicated names like PhysioChiro and Osteo for different illnesses they have? This is one of the most common questions I was asked during the conversation about my job in Hong Kong which laid me a foundation to make people aware of where exactly the difference lies in these 3 separate fields of therapy.

It is a known fact that most people find it bit difficult to identify any key differences in these modalities of therapy which ends up practitioners, left with a fuzz on what subject to choose for further studies as well as practice.

From this article, I am going to provide a brief description about all these entities along with the unique features they own which would help to distinguish one from the rest, so next time when you get an illness, you will know whom to refer and where to go.

  1. Let’s start with the Physio-therapist:

“Physiotherapists help people affected by injury, illness or disability through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice. 

This profession facilitates the recovery and enable people to stay active and independent for as long as possible”*

 Physiotherapists mostly treat patients  referred by Physicians.

  • A widely recognised and respected form of western medicine, it is one of the most common modalities referred to for patients with musculoskeletal  pain. It is generally covered by most health funds.

In Hong Kong and several other western countries, patients are often referred to physiotherapy which can require  10-20 sessions for a common back, knee , shoulder pain etc. These conditions can often be effectively fixed by a different modality in just in 2 sessions. So a sound assessment of the injury by a knowledgeable Physician is essential. Physiotherapists are ideal for rehabilitation, therapeutic massage and sport massage.

2. Chiropractor:

“A health profession concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health. There is an emphasis on manual treatments including spinal adjustment and other joint and soft-tissue manipulation”*

  • Chiropractors are known to manipulate spine and joints to relieve the pressure in nerves and balance the musculo skeletal system. In Hong Kong, most of the chiropractors tend to practice quite the same techniques used in Osteopathy, including Spinal and soft tissue manipulation.
  • The major drawback of this entity of therapy is that, their treatment would completely depend and focused on a basic biomechanical theory of the body, which is quite difficult to be applied in the real practice.

3. Osteopath:

Traditional Osteopathy, as presented by the Canadian College of Osteopathy, is defined as:

“A natural medicine which aims to restore function in the body by treating the causes of pain and imbalance. To achieve this goal the Osteopathic Manual Practitioner relies on the quality and finesse of his/her palpation and works with the position, mobility and quality of the tissues.”

  • Osteopathy is rapidly expanding in the modern world, due to its highly effective treatment modalities perfectly combined with latest technological interventions. Major therapeutic Practices and techniques used in Osteopathy would vary depending on the country in which you are trained, your philosophy of health, mentors and postgraduate training.

The basic philosophy of Osteopathy includes:

  • The understanding of interactions between our body structures and their function
  • Our body is an organic unit which contains several self-regulatory mechanisms
  • However, the major drawback in Osteopathy lies in the fact that, a practitioner with poor understanding on bodily mechanics, biophysics and physiology can practice a very esoteric osteopathywith inefficient technics or ones only has a placebo effect. And on the other hand, some Osteopaths will be trained in a very similar way to chiropractors and practice the same technics as them.

E.g. An Osteopath, touching your head at the first session which might last as long as for about 40 minutes .

As a personal point of view, I would define myself as a“Natural/holistic Health Practitioner” (like in Germany, “heilpraktiker”) which refers to a health care professional who has got specialized in numerous different fields such Osteopathy, Chinese medicine, Acupuncture, energetic therapy, Nutrition in my case.


You might not have extracted the full essence of this article, especially if you are new to all these terms and their usage. However, it is advantageous to know at least few highlighted points to nourish your comprehension, in order to choose the best modality of treatment available out there.

Physiotherapist: Rehabilitation following injuries, cardiovascular or pulmonary illnesses and specific diseases such as strokes, Parkinsonism etc. whereas Therapeutic massages mainly target injured sports persons or athletes.

Chiropractors and Osteopaths: If referred to a good practitioner, they will definitely treat your condition, lying on the foundation of inherent philosophy of relevant fields. Therefore, it is always wise to choose the best by referrals or recommendations, to avoid negative consequences. Generally Osteopaths have a much better understanding about the whole body along with numerous more technics in treating different tissues in your body.

  • Additionally, Multidisciplinary clinics (which verify the medical background of the therapist), currently available worldwide will also help you in finding the most appropriate therapy, depending on the requirements.
  • People who have already got exposed to different types of these practices can obviously choose the next best stop, depending on their experiences by comparing the techniques, effects, results and the communication skills of various practitioners.
  • To make the things easier, you can always ask your insurance, if they own a practitioner list which will enable to you to find the best therapy center.


Louis-Adrien Ollu , Osteopath D.O. , Hong Kong Central .