416 Ilam Road, Fendalton, Christchurch 8052

Clinic Hours: Monday - Friday 7am - 8pm

416 Ilam Road, Fendalton, Christchurch 8052

Clinic Hours: Monday-Friday 7am-8pm

Osteopath vs Chiropractor

Published by Better Health Osteopathy on 20 October 2018, Uncategorized

What is the difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath? This is a very commonly asked question when people are considering seeking some health and wellness advice for a variety of musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, neck pain and headaches.

Osteopaths and chiropractors are two distinct healthcare professions that are often associated with musculoskeletal injuries. Although both professions are concerned with the maintenance of good health and treatment of pain and discomfort, they differ in philosophy, training, treatment approach, and conditions treated. In this article, we will explore the differences between an osteopath and a chiropractor in New Zealand, to help patients make informed decisions when seeking healthcare services.


One of the key differences between osteopathy and chiropractic in New Zealand is their philosophical approach to treatment. Osteopathy takes a more holistic approach, viewing the body as an interconnected system. Osteopaths believe that the body has a natural ability to heal itself, and their role is to facilitate this process by removing barriers to healing. They focus on treating the underlying causes of musculoskeletal problems, rather than just focussing on the symptoms.

Chiropractic, on the other hand, has a more mechanistic approach to treatment. Chiropractors believe that health problems can be attributed to misalignments in the spine, and that by correcting these misalignments, the body can heal itself. Chiropractors tend to focus on the specific area of pain, rather than the whole body, and often use X-rays to diagnose spinal misalignments.


Both osteopaths and chiropractors undergo rigorous training before they can practice in New Zealand.

Osteopathy is a four year degree program that covers a wide range of subjects, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, and clinical diagnosis. Osteopathic training emphasises hands-on manual techniques, including soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, and spinal manipulation, to improve the functioning of the musculoskeletal system.

Chiropractic training in New Zealand is a four-year degree program that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal problems, with an emphasis on spinal manipulation. Chiropractors also receive training in anatomy, physiology, and pathology, but their training is more specialised in spinal manipulation techniques.

Treatment Approach

The treatment approach of osteopaths and chiropractors can differ in terms of the techniques they use and the conditions they treat.

Osteopaths use a wide range of manual techniques to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal problems. These techniques include soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, and manipulation, as well as stretching and exercise therapy. Osteopaths are also renonowned for their palpation skills, which is the process of using the hands to feel and assess the body’s tissues and structures, thereby identifying the tissues in the body that need to be treated, for healing to take place.

Chiropractors primarily use spinal manipulation to correct misalignments or subluxations in the spine. The technique involves applying a controlled force to the affected area to restore normal joint mobility and function. Chiropractors may also use other modalities, such as exercise therapy as part of their treatment.

Conditions Treated

Both osteopaths and chiropractors can treat a range of musculoskeletal conditions. However, there are differences in the conditions they are most commonly associated with.

Osteopaths are trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of musculoskeletal problems such as back pain, neck pain, headaches, as well as problems in other systems of the body, such as the respiratory and digestive systems. Osteopaths may take a holistic approach to treatment and may address underlying issues such as stress, poor breathing mechanics, poor posture, muscle imbalances, and lifestyle factors that contribute to musculoskeletal problems.

Chiropractors are most commonly associated with the treatment of back and neck pain, as well as headaches.  Chiropractors focus on the correction of subluxations in the spine and may also address other musculoskeletal problems, such as joint pain and stiffness.


In conclusion, osteopaths and chiropractors are two distinct healthcare professions that differ in philosophy, training, treatment approach, and conditions treated. The key for all patients is to find a qualified health professional with a good reputation who understands your complaint and provides you with a personalised treatment plan.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact our Osteopaths at Better Health Osteopathy. We would be happy to chat further with you. Or simply book your appointment onlineCall 027 755 5700. 

Better Health Osteopathy

Lorraine Herity is the Clinic Director of Better Health Osteopathy in Christchurch, New Zealand. She previously worked in Osteopathic clinics in London and Ireland, before moving to New Zealand. Lorraine trained at the British School of Osteopathy in London, where she gained her Master of Osteopathy (M.Ost). Lorraine is a dedicated and passionate Osteopath. Her main aim is to help her patients regain their health and to return her patients back to their everyday activities, in as quick a time as possible. Lorraine is also a clinic tutor on the Osteopathic Course in Ara and relishes the opportunity to teach the next generation of osteopaths.