The Difference Between Osteopathic Medicine vs Chiropractic Medicine
At one point or another, most people experience chronic, low-severity health problems: the kind where you aren't sick but you also aren't well. Who should you see when you have a persistent health problem but aren't ill? There is a range of professionals in the homeopathic space who can help with these kinds of issues, but which doctors should you visit? What exactly is the difference between osteopathic medicine and chiropractic medicine, and who would be better to talk to about your chronic pain?
To help you better understand what provider might be best for you, let's start at the beginning and unpack the similarities and differences between osteopathic medicine and chiropractic medicine.
What does osteopathic mean?
"Osteopathic" refers to osteopathy, which is a branch of medicine in the United States that focuses on full-body health and wellness. Osteopathic medicine emphasizes how the body's systems are interrelated and need to work together to maintain health. A doctor of osteopathy, also called an osteopath, or DO, attends medical school and is a fully licensed physician.
What does chiropractic mean?
Chiropractic comes from Greek (essentially meaning "done by hand") and is a system of therapy that focuses on the interactions of the spine and nervous system. Chiropractic treatments mainly focus on adjustments to segments of the spinal column. A chiropractor graduates with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree but is not a medical doctor.
What are the education and training requirements for an osteopath vs a chiropractor?
In the United States, there are two kinds of doctors who can practice medicine: a doctor of medicine (MD) and a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO). DOs attend medical school, complete residencies and work in hospitals, surgery centers and family practice offices. DOs can prescribe medication and perform surgery.
A chiropractor does not attend medical school but, rather, obtains a graduate level of schooling. A chiropractor typically works out of a private practice and cannot prescribe medicine or perform surgery.
What is the difference between osteopathic medicine vs chiropractic treatments?
Osteopathic medicine uses the latest science and technology to treat patients but also considers options to complement medication and surgery, like osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT).
A chiropractor typically uses their hands to apply controlled, rapid force to an injured or damaged joint, to help the joint move in a normal manner and reduce inflammation and pain.
What is osteopathic manipulative treatment?
Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT) is a hands-on treatment approach used by DOs to treat and prevent illness or injury. During OMT, a DO will move a patient's joints and muscles with specific techniques, including some stretching and gentle pressure.
A DO receives 300 hours of additional training in the musculoskeletal system to perform OMT. This advanced training focuses on the muscles, nerves and bones that provide the framework for the entire body and gives DOs a deep understanding of how all of the body's systems are interconnected. Everyone can receive OMT, meaning people of all ages and backgrounds can benefit from the treatment. While often used to alleviate pain, promote healing and increase overall mobility, OMT can also help with:
- Asthma and sinus disorders
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Menstrual pain
What's the difference between OMT vs chiropractor adjustments:?
When doctors use OMT, they move the patient's joints and muscles using stretching, resistance and gentle pressure. When a chiropractor makes an adjustment, they use "force, leverage, direction, amplitude and velocity which is directed at specific joints and anatomical regions."
Is an osteopath better than a chiropractor?
The answer to this question depends on what kind of treatment you are looking for. An osteopath is a licensed physician who can practice in any area of medicine and uses their medical degree and training to provide healthcare for the whole person. DOs listen to and partner with their patients. Osteopathic medicine focuses on prevention and wellbeing of the mind, body, and spirit. A chiropractor uses their training to provide treatment to help align the spine which, in turn, can reduce pain or provide relief from other ailments. Chiropractors focus on the musculosketal system and how the whole body is connected.
At the end of the day, issues like persistent headaches and back pain are health problems that can be treated by either a chiropractor or a DO. Making an appointment with a provider is the first step in finding relief.