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When you’re in pain or dealing with an injury, you might wonder what type of treatment is right for you. Seeing a healthcare professional like a chiropractor, physiotherapist, or manual osteopath can help offer relief and support for optimal recovery. However, sometimes, it can be a bit confusing to choose which type of specialist to go to, as they all have different approaches and methods to help alleviate pain and discomfort. In this blog, we will help you understand the critical differences between chiropractic, physiotherapy, and manual osteopathy, as well as the benefits and limitations of each.

Chiropractic Care:

Chiropractor giving an upper back adjustment. Chiropractic care might be right for you.

Dr. Andrew, DC

Chiropractic care focuses on diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal disorders, primarily through spinal adjustments. Through gentle manipulations, soft tissue therapy, and adjustments, chiropractors assist your body in healing itself and finding relief from discomfort.

The benefits of chiropractic treatment includes pain relief, improved range of motion, increased muscle strength, improved posture, and reduced stress. Chiropractic care can be especially beneficial for relieving back pain, neck pain, headaches, and sciatica. A chiropractor will also advise on lifestyle modifications to help support the effectiveness of the chiropractic treatments.

While chiropractors offer effective treatments, it’s important to consider a few factors. Spinal manipulation may carry a slight risk of adverse side effects. It’s extremely rare but possible to experience complications like worsening of a herniated disk or nerve compression. Additionally, some individuals may become reliant on regular visits to their chiropractor.

Chiropractic care may be right for you if …

  1. You suffer from chronic pain: Chiropractors can provide relief back pain, neck pain, and headaches and more. They focus on treating the source of the pain rather than just masking the symptoms.
  2. You want a natural approach to healing: Chiropractors use non-invasive, drug-free techniques that allow the body to heal naturally. Often, patients who want to avoid surgeries and medications prefer this approach.
  3. You want to improve your overall health: Chiropractic care is more than treating pain, it can also improve your overall health. Chiropractors can work with you to develop a wellness plan that includes nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle habits.
  4. You want to avoid surgery: For many patients, chiropractic care can provide a safe alternative. Chiropractors can treat an array of conditions that might otherwise require surgery.
  5. You want to improve your athletic performance: Many professional athletes trust chiropractic care to help them achieve peak performance. Chiropractic care can improve flexibility, reduce injuries, and enhance overall athletic performance.
Chiropractor assessing patient's neck

Dr. Andrew, DC

Chiropractic care may not be right for you if …

  1. You have a serious medical condition: Chiropractic care is not a substitute for medical treatment. If you have a serious medical condition, consult your doctor before seeking chiropractic care.
  2. You have a broken bone or fracture: Chiropractors do not treat broken bones or fractures. If you have a suspected fracture, you should seek medical attention immediately.
  3. You are pregnant: While chiropractic care is generally safe for pregnant women, choosing a chiropractor with experience treating them is crucial. You should also consult with your obstetrician before seeking chiropractic care.
  4. You have a herniated disc: Chiropractic treatment is effective for many back conditions, but it may not be appropriate for certain types of spinal injuries, such as a herniated disc. Your chiropractor can help you determine whether a chiropractic adjustment is the right treatment for your condition.


Physiotherapy strives to help individuals regain movement and function after being affected by injury, illness, or disability. This is achieved through the use of different physical modalities, manipulation, mobilization, and exercises. Physiotherapy benefits include pain relief, improved joint mobility, muscle strength and function, balance and coordination, and increased endurance. Physiotherapy can be especially beneficial for sports injuries, musculoskeletal problems, neurological conditions, and post-operative rehabilitation.

It is important to note that physical therapy is not always a quick fix and may require weeks or even months to see noticeable results for some patients. The active nature of this form of rehabilitation necessitates patients’ active involvement, including doing exercises at home. A lack of commitment to these home exercises can prolong the rehabilitation process. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that physiotherapy has its limitations, particularly when addressing internal dysfunctions.

Physiotherapy may be right for you if …

Physiotherapist assessing child. Physiotherapy may be right for you.

Ed Middleton, PT

  1. You have an injury or condition that causes pain, stiffness, weakness, or limited mobility: Physiotherapists are experts in assessing and treating musculoskeletal and neurological conditions, such as back pain, arthritis, stroke, sports injuries, and post-surgical rehabilitation.
  2. You want to improve your physical performance or prevent injuries: Physical therapists can help athletes, dancers, and other active individuals fine-tune their bodies, optimize their movement patterns, and reduce their risk of getting hurt.
  3. You want to manage a chronic condition: If you have a lasting health challenge, such as diabetes, chronic pain, asthma, or heart disease, physical therapy can be a valuable part of your care team. Physiotherapists can help you learn self-management skills, cope with stress and fatigue, develop healthy habits, and enhance your quality of life.
  4. You want a non-invasive approach to healthcare: Many people prefer physiotherapy to other healthcare forms involving medication, injections, or surgery. Physical therapy is a natural and safe way to address health concerns without significant side effects or risks.

Physiotherapy may not be right for you if …

  1. You have a medical emergency or severe acute pain: If you have a life-threatening condition or sudden severe pain, you should seek immediate medical attention from a hospital or emergency department. Physiotherapy is not a substitute for urgent care; physical therapists do not provide medical diagnosis or emergency treatment.
  2. You have a condition or injury that requires specialized medical or surgical attention: In some cases, physiotherapy may not be able to replace or avoid surgical or medical interventions. For example, if you have a tumour, you may need surgery first and then physiotherapy to support your recovery.
  3. You have a personal or cultural preference for other forms of healthcare: Everyone has different beliefs, values, and preferences when it comes to healthcare. If you do not believe in holistic approaches like acupuncture, chiropractic, or naturopathy, physiotherapy may not align with you.
  4. You are not ready or motivated to participate in the treatment: Physiotherapy requires active participation from the patient to be effective. If you are unwilling or unprepared to engage in the treatment, such as attending appointments, doing exercises, following instructions, or communicating with your physiotherapist, you may not benefit as much as possible.
Patient receiving cranial sacral work

Cranial Sacral Therapy

Manual Osteopathy:

Manual osteopathy, on the other hand, focuses on the manual manipulation of the body’s musculoskeletal and visceral systems. Visceral manipulation is a hands-on therapy that targets the internal organs, addressing functional and structural imbalances within multiple body systems. Visceral manipulation can address dysfunctions caused by both physical and emotional factors.

The benefits of manual osteopathy include pain relief, improved range of motion, digestion, blood flow, organ function, sleep, and reduced stress. With its roots in indigenous medicine, bodywork and healing arts, manual osteopathy can be especially beneficial for conditions like chronic pain, digestive problems, irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual pain, bladder problems, anxiety, depression, migraine headaches, and hormonal imbalances.

Manual osteopathy also has limitations, such as long-term commitments due to gradual, gentle manipulations. Not all healthcare practitioners recognize it, and finding a practitioner who practices it in some areas can be challenging. Additionally, some health insurance plans do not cover or allow direct billing for manual osteopathy, which can lead to more significant out-of-pocket expenses for some patients.

Manual osteopathy may be right for you if …

  1. You experience chronic pain: Manual osteopathy is an effective method of pain relief for headaches, back pains, and neck pains. If you are tired of relying on medication to cope with your pain, manual osteopathy could be the solution.
  2. You prefer non-invasive treatments: Unlike invasive treatments like surgery or injections, manual osteopathy is a non-invasive therapy that involves hands-on techniques.
  3. You’re looking for a holistic treatment: Manual osteopathy focuses on the body as a whole. Therapists diagnose and treat the root cause of your problems, not just the symptoms.
  4. You want to improve your overall well-being: Manual osteopathy is known for balancing the body’s natural rhythm and facilitating the body’s capacity to self-heal.


Patient receiving manual osteopathic treatment. This may be right for you.

Gagandeep Watts, MO

Manual osteopathy may not be right for you if …

  1. You’re facing a medical emergency: Manual osteopathy is not a substitute for emergency medical care. If you are facing a severe medical emergency, seek medical attention immediately.
  2. You have an acute illness: Manual osteopathy is ineffective for acute illnesses like flu, viral infections, and bacterial infections. In such cases, you may need to receive conventional medical care.
  3. You have broken bones: Manual osteopathy is not the correct treatment if you have broken or fractured bones. You will need to see an orthopedic surgeon for medical assistance.
  4. You are pregnant: It is necessary to speak with your doctor before undergoing treatment. Although manual osteopathy is generally safe, it is important to consult your doctor before considering it.



Choosing the treatment that is right for you is important. Whether you decide on chiropractic care, physiotherapy, or manual osteopathy, each offers a unique approach to helping alleviate pain, restore function, and promote optimal health. The choice often comes down to personal preference and what type of issue you’re dealing with. It’s always a good idea to research and seek recommendations when choosing a healthcare professional to ensure they’re qualified, experienced and are right for you. A combination of these therapies may be beneficial for achieving optimal health and wellness.

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Written by: DeVera Nybo, MBA

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