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What is the Difference Between Osteopathy and Physiotherapy?

What is the Difference Between Osteopathy and Physiotherapy?

“What is the difference between Osteopathy and Physiotherapy?”

This is a question that comes up a lot when patients are trying to decide who to call when physical issues arise.


I advise patients that we have a background in the study of muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, the spine and their relationship to structure and function.

What makes us different is the way we look at the body.

Generally in Physiotherapy and Athletic Therapy we are taught to look specifically where the pain is.  Which makes sense!  The painful area can be the problematic area, but it may not be the root of the issue.

In Osteopathy, we look at the area that is sore to make sure that it is structurally intact.   So, if you had an issue with your knee, we would look there first.

Then we look at the foot, hip, and pelvis to see how they influence the knee.  After that I would look at how the diaphragm in the chest moves.


If you don’t breathe properly, the tension can pull on your knee! I know this sounds odd, but everything is connected though our anatomy. The hip flexor attaches to the diaphragm, and runs down the lumbar spine and attaches to the femur, your upper leg bone.  There is a connective tissue (fascia) that looks like Saran Wrap and it connects everything.  Think about it this way;  The fascia covers everything from the hip flexor to the quadricpt muscle to a tendon in the front of your knee!

So, your poor shallow breathing can affect the tension in your knee. Make sense?

In Orthopedics, we are taught the anatomy, however, I have received a more in depth education in Athletic Therapy school.  The only limitation with athletic therapy alone is that we were taught the anatomy in a segmented way, where everything is separate.  In over 7 years of studying Osetoapthy we went into great detail and study viewing the body as a whole.

So is Osteopathy the answer to everything?

No. I will refer out to physiotherapy if I feel there is a problem the patient would benefit from,

more, like in cases of post surgical treatments for joint replacements, or tears in muscles or ligaments that need multiple treatments per week, as an example.

In other cases we will work together for the benefit of the patient.  With the example of the knee replacement, I will have patients see the physiotherapist immediately post surgery to get them moving and then our Osteopaths will see them within a month, to help by looking at the rest of the leg, pelvis and lower back to ensure that the rest can move.  As I mentioned earlier – we will view the body as a whole.

So who do you call when you have an issue? 

Call your Manual Practitioner Osteopath to get things going, and then they will refer you out if needed.

David Ellis, Manual Osteopathic Practitioner, Oakville


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