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Osteopath Vs Chiropractor Vs Physio

16 Apr 2024

Osteopath Vs Chiropractor Vs Physio

Osteo vs Chiro vs Physio: Who Should I See?

If you’ve been dealing with some aches and pains - whether that’s a sore back caused by working from home or a pulled hamstring after exercising - it may be time for you to see a health professional to get it sorted. But when you’ve got different recommendations thrown your way, how do you know which option is best to help manage your condition?

You’re likely to turn to one of three experts - an osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist. Although all of them can treat similar problems such as injury management, back and neck pain, and other joint or muscle disorders, it’s important to understand their difference in approach, before deciding which treatment suits your needs.



Starting off with the similarities…

As part of the primary healthcare sector, all three practices require their practitioners to undergo 4-5 years of training to a degree or master level. They’re qualified to assess and diagnose patients, treat their cases through a hands-on method, and are trained to recognise conditions which require further medical referral.

In New Zealand, osteos, chiros and physios are required to register with their respective regulatory council which ensures all practitioners are competent and fit to practise. Although many people are referred by their doctor or a healthcare specialist, you can also make appointments directly with your chosen clinic and they can lodge ACC claims for you if you’re eligible.

Now on to the differences…


What is osteopathy and what does an osteopath do?

According to Osteopaths New Zealand, the practice is a type of manual medicine, focusing on how the different functions and structures of the body holistically work together to treat symptoms and identify root causes. Working with the skeleton, joints, muscles, nerves, circulation, connective tissue and function of internal organs, osteopaths help heal the problem via:

  • Manual therapy through mobilisation, stretching, massage and manipulation for specific joints and soft tissues through direct or indirect techniques
  • Exercise therapy
  • Lifestyle advice
  • Patient education


What are the benefits of osteopathy?

Through a holistic, non-invasive and drug-free approach, osteopaths can help treat a range of problems, including back and neck pain, pregnancy-related issues, sports or work injuries, stiffness and pain management.

In the diagnosis and treatment process, osteopaths consider not just your physical body, but also your emotional wellbeing and how you relate to the world around you. The treatment is tailored to your needs, and focuses on optimising the movement of all the structures in the body, allowing them to work better together.


What is chiropractic treatment and what does a chiropractor do?

Chiropractors treat your body through focusing on the spine and musculoskeletal system. As messages from the brain to the nervous system get blocked by strains and stresses of life, it can cause you to feel discomfort elsewhere in the body. A chiropractor treats this through making adjustments to the spine, nervous system and soft tissue, ranging from dynamic thrusts to very light forces and contacts.


What are the benefits of chiropractic treatment?

Chiropractic treatment can help optimise your body’s natural ability to adapt and heal by restoring motion and improving spinal function. Additional results from seeing a chiropractor vary from feeling more energised, having a better night’s sleep, increased concentration and a greater ability to resist diseases.

While chiropractic care helps improve the function of your nervous system, it is not a substitute for medical care or medicine.


What is physiotherapy and what does a physio do?

Physiotherapists help you restore and improve your movement and function, covering a wide range of health problems and concerns. They use proven techniques such as:

  • Manual therapy or manipulation
  • Trigger point release
  • Massage therapy
  • Postural correction
  • Acupuncture or dry needling
  • Exercise therapy such as Pilates and yoga


What are the benefits of physiotherapy?

Known to be popular amongst sports professionals, physiotherapy treats injuries, but also helps prevent injuries in the first place. Physiotherapy helps to improve your strength, range of motion, endurance, posture, muscle imbalance, joint mobilisation and reduces stiffness and pain. They do this by assessing for muscle and postural imbalances, prescribing exercises and giving health advice – empowering you to feel better in your body.


What can you expect from an initial osteo, chiro or physio appointment?

Ultimately the decision lies with you (or your doctor) to choose which treatment is best for you. With each initial consultation, your practitioner will start with a thorough medical history and a physical examination, so remember to bring any relevant medical reports, exams or material and wear comfortable loose clothing. After they have a clearer idea of your condition, they will outline your diagnosis and provide treatment plans.

In some cases, they may give you activity to complete after your consultation, such as exercises, activity modification and further reading material to help you better understand your condition.


What are the average costs and ACC benefits for each treatment?

Depending on your condition, location of clinic and the practitioner’s qualifications and expertise, costs for treatment can differ.

To give you an idea, here are some approximate costs for treatments in major cities in New Zealand:

  • Osteo: $85–$115 per returning private visit, $55–$69 per returning ACC visit.
  • Chiro: $50–$70 per returning private visit and $29–51 for ACC. Some clinics also offer free consultations for new patients with their first adjustment.
  • Physio: $60–$102 per returning private visit, $30–$65 for follow-up ACC visits.

If you qualify for ACC, a flat rate fee for each consultation or an hourly rate based on the time you receive treatment will be covered. When you make an appointment with your health provider, you should ask how much of the treatment is covered by ACC and how much you can expect to be paying out of pocket. You can also check out your clinic’s website, as they usually list prices online.

Benefits of health insurance for those unexpected moments

If you’re concerned about the cost to visit one of these providers, you could benefit from having health insurance. Even when you’re covered by ACC, you could still claim back 80% of your costs, up to a $500 annual limit, after two months of continuous cover, following your join date, if you have Premium Everyday Cover with nib. Our Everyday policies include osteopathy, chiropractic and physiotherapy treatments! Avoid any potential added stress by seeing how much nib health insurance costs.