Physio vs Osteo: What’s the Difference and How to Make the Right Choice?

Central Coast Osteopath CentreWe know! There’s a LOT of confusion when it comes to selecting the right health practitioner to relieve muscular and joint pain and/or injury. That is because it’s not uncommon to think that an Osteopath and a Physiotherapist are much the same, given that they both work on relieving pain and injury from muscles and joints.

Yes, both Physiotherapists and Osteopaths aim to improve quality of life through treating pain and injury for their patients, however their approaches to the human body are different and we’re here to help you select the practitioner that’s right for you!

What does a Physiotherapist do?

A Physiotherapist’s various treatments include a different range of techniques than that of an Osteopath such as manipulating joints, electrotherapy, ultrasounds and hydrotherapy. Generally speaking, approximately 60% of a Physiotherapist’s treatment is ‘hands-on’ and their focus is more toward observing specific muscle groups and movement of the patient in the attempt to correct those movements.

Although they do treat patients with sporting injuries as well as neck and back pain, they also work with premature babies, stroke victims, patients suffering brain or spinal cord damage, and people with conditions such as Osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, Arthritis, and Cystic Fibrosis.

What does an Osteopath do?

Osteopaths work with the neuro-musculoskeletal system which supports the body and controls its movements through bones, muscles, nerves and various other forms of tissue. Because they understand how the body should work together, they can understand the consequences and symptoms that can arise when there is a problem and work with the patient to fix it – at the source of the problem.

90% of Osteopath’s work is ‘hands-on’ manipulative manual therapy. Because it includes massage, stretching of muscles and joints along with high velocity movements to the spine which may produce a cracking/popping sound. Osteopaths may also use techniques such as therapeutic needling, lifestyle advice, ergonomics assessment and at-home exercise programs. They are experts in sports massage and relieving sports related injuries, along with remedies to relieve neuropathic pain, back pain, sciatica, joint pain, stiffness/restricted movement of joints and repetitive strain injuries.

With such a vast number of patients suffering back pain, it should be noted that Osteopath’s like those at Central Coast Osteopath, also prepare muscles and joints for back pain treatment by including remedial massage with every Osteopath appointment. Back manipulation, manual therapy, in addition to recommendations, tailored rehabilitation plans and at-home remedies are provided to reduce reoccurrence, by the Osteopath.

In summary, Osteopathy is about the ‘whole body’ – a holistic approach around relieving pain through a focus on circulation and bodily functions.

Should you see an Osteopath or a Physiotherapist?

We recommend that patients book in with an Osteopath for things like back pain, neck pain, sciatica, headaches, joint pain, work-related and repetitive strain injuries and sports-related injuries or arthritis to name a sample of ailments. Especially for those who a looking for a more holistic approach to pain relief and ongoing rehabilitation.

You may choose to see a Physiotherapist if you are addressing a range of conditions and illnesses that negatively affect the body’s muscles and joints for example osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease or effective muscular development of your premature baby.

A physiotherapist can also effectively help with other forms of pain and injury, however the deciding factor for you as a patient would be identifying the style in which you want to address your issues i.e. holistic vs specific muscle groups, more ‘hands-on’ or less ‘hands-on’.

So, there you have it! We hope this has made things a little clearer for you and may even help you when referring a friend of family member in need so please feel free to share the love!

See our tips for selecting: Physiotherapists Central Coast

  • Ask friends and family
  • Visit their website to see the team and their experience levels
  • Reach out to the extended Central Coast community via Facebook and get their feedback
  • Read reviews/testimonials

Looking for an Osteopath on the Central Coast?

At Central Coast Osteopath our vision is to improve and enhance the quality of life of Central Coast locals! So, if you are looking for an Osteopath on the Central Coast (Gosford, Lisarow, Wyoming, East Gosford, Erina etc.) then get in touch with Shane Caulfield on 02 4323 4445.



ABC. (2017, March 16). Physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy: What’s the difference? Retrieved from
Osteopathy Australia (2019). About Osteopathy. Retrieved from