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How is Osteopathy Different from Chiropractic?

This question often asked is: What is the difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor? More people seem to know about chiropractors than about osteopaths. This is because historically, chiropractors have been more active in promoting and publicizing their work. Osteopathy is often referred to as “the best kept secret in pain management”.

The primary difference between an osteopathic physician and a chiropractor are their levels of training and the scope of their practice. A chiropractor is not a licensed medical physician, and is not required to have completed a hospital-based residency training, as are MDs and DOs. Osteopaths are able to practice all scopes of medicine or surgery, like MDs. They can write prescriptions, order bloodwork, x-rays or scans.

While chiropractors employ techniques for manipulating the spine, osteopaths employ a wider range of techniques over the entire body, thus taking a more holistic approach to assisting their patient back towards health. Apart from manipulation, osteopaths are also trained in cranial osteopathy or craniosacral therapy, which involves very subtle and gentle movements without any “cracking” of the joints. These techniques are seldom used by chiropractors. Cranial osteopathy manipulates the soft tissues and fluids of the body’s systems to restore circulation, proper alignment and function.

Are DOs The Only Cranial Practitioners?

Some healthcare practitioners including body workers, massage therapists, physical therapists and occupational therapists, have learned a form of therapy called Cranio-sacral Therapy. Cranio-sacral therapists are non-physicians who have taken at least one 25 hour class in craniosacral therapy and have been taught simplified techniques that work on a cranial mechanism, but lack the depth and training of a complete osteopathic medical education. Cranio-sacral therapy is different than Cranial Osteopathy both in principles and practice.

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