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In Part 1 we discussed the history and evolution of Chiropractic, Osteopathy and Physiotherapy as part of our 3 part blog series. This blog we will be expanding into the philosophy of these practices and how they differentiate.


The Chiropractic fundamental foundation is that the body has within itself the ability to heal itself. It is only by removing interference can the body fully begin to heal from injury or dis-ease. Chiropractic sees the spine as the most important structure in the body, housing the spinal column, and thus protecting the nervous system. It is the nervous system that traffics all of the signals from the brain to every part of the body, including muscles, organs, and glands. It is the structural misalignment of the spine and interference of these nerve pathways that Chiropractic believes is the cause of pain and dis-ease in the body, especially to parts of the body connected to these obstructed pathways. These obstructions are called subluxations. Once the subluxation was reduced with a specific manual manipulation, called an adjustment, the pressure on the nerve would be removed. With proper function of the nerve restored, the body’s innate intelligence would perform the healing. This explanation is why we see positive results with the musculoskeletal symptoms related to chronic conditions such as fibromylagia, and asthma. Chiropractic is based on the holistic model of health, seeing the body as a whole, with an innate intelligence, guiding the body to total health and wellbeing.


The main foundation of Osteopathy is that the body functions as a whole organism, all parts working together, that structure – both skeletal and musculoskeletal – and function are intertwined; with any obstruction in structure adversely affecting the body’s function. Once proper function has been returned then the body has within itself the ability to heal from dis-ease. Founder Andrew Still believed that since all parts of the body; ligaments, muscle, arteries, organs, glands, etc, are fed by blood, then it is the obstruction of that blood flow to these parts of the body that cause dis-ease. This differs from Chiropractic and the theory that it is the obstruction to the nerves that causes dis-ease in the body. However both believed that returning function to the body – either through returning proper blood flow, or easing nerve obstructions – would allow the body to heal itself. While Osteopathy looked at both the structural side of the body, the joint and skeletal system, it also looked at the musculoskeletal system. In the early days of Chiropractic and Osteopathy there was a healthy debate between Chiropractic founder D. D. Palmer and Still as to which philosophy and method was correct, and an agreement was made that only time will tell which of the two disciplines will be proved correct. Since this time the foundations of Osteopathy have changed slightly to include lymphatic and neural elements to its principle of function.


Chiropractic and Osteopathy developed independently from the medical community, whereas Physiotherapy developed within it. This means that while Chiropractic and Osteopathy believe in the holistic model, Physiotherapy is based on the medical model, in which the body has a physical ailment that only a physical treatment, be it physical manipulation, drugs, or surgery, can remedy. This model is often defined as diagnoses, treatment, and prognosis, with ancillary tests or physical examination done if required. While Physiotherapy will treat the body as a physical whole, looking at the movements and functions the body performs each day in relation to a physical ailment, Chiropractic (and even Osteopathy) look at the physical whole, the emotional whole, and the mental whole, seeing what effects stresses other that physical can have on the body.

Regardless of the philosophical core of any individual Chiropractic, Osteopathic or Physiotherapy practitioner, as trained and registered primary care health practitioners, all are capable of recognising when a patient is outside of their own scope of practice and would willingly refer the patient for emergency medical care or any care that is required outside of their own professional ability.

In the Part 3 we will discuss the different methods between the three techniques, so stay tuned!