Osteopaths, Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, Myotherapists, Massage Therapists. The list of who to see when you are in pain seems to be getting longer and more confusing.


In my field, treating body pain or musculoskeletal therapy, there are so many competing professions and therapists offering treatment for the same injuries and it can be very confusing for the injured consumer.

Even just near my clinic in Broadway, Sydney there are osteopathic clinics in all the surrounding suburbs — the CBD, Annandale, Newtown, Surry Hills—the list goes on and on. And that’s just the osteopaths, who are the least numerous of the three recognised manual therapy professions – Osteopaths, Chiropractors and Physiotherapists. This isn’t even looking at the scores of massage therapists, reiki practitioners, energy workers, Bowen therapists, craniosacral therapists and any number of others who will all keenly welcome you for treatment, sometimes using dodgy diagnoses and treatments to push you to come back for more ineffective or inappropriate treatments.

It’s a big problem as many patients find trying to work out the best treatment option a nightmare. They have to rely on hearsay or pot luck to find good treatment. And if they have been burned by a shonk, by the time they get to a trustworthy therapist, not only has it used up valuable time but their experience may have poisoned their trust in therapists.

I hope this article might reach some of these prospective patients and help clear up confusion about who to see.

If you need treatment for pain or injury, there are a few things you should look for when you enter the office of your chosen remedial therapist.

Osteopaths Physiotherapists and Chiropractors

Firstly, Osteopaths, Chiropractors and Physiotherapists HAVE to be registered with a government registration board. This registration is essential – it is illegal for a member of one of these professions to work without it. Registration should ensure they don’t have criminal or sexual convictions, are keeping up to date with research and developments in their field and uphold some necessary standards when dealing with the public. In short, it should ensure they are an upstanding and trustworthy member of society; as safe as possible for you to see in a therapeutic context. This should ensure you get a higher standard of treatment.

Professional Registration

Next, look for practitioners who are members of their professional association. This holds doubly true for unregulated therapists such as massage therapists, naturopaths, reiki practitioners and the like. As these therapies are held to no government-regulated professional standards, the professional body acts as a de facto regulator.

Being a member of a professional association like Osteopathy Australia or the Australian Physiotherapy Association means they show some added commitment to professional standards, clinical development and their profession and are willing to put their money where their mouth is. All professional body registrations are voluntary and usually quite expensive.

Good Listeners

A therapist of any kind should demonstrate other certain characteristics and abilities before you place your trust in them.

In the treatment room, the therapist should not rush but should give you time to explain everything about your complaint as you see and feel it. They should take a history of your problem and ask about your general health and medical history, all essential for understanding the nature of most complaints.

You should also feel they have really listened and understood your pain and complaint. You should feel free to ask questions and have these answered to your satisfaction. Expectations are crucial in a healthy interaction and should be discussed in a meaningful way.

Good Communicators

Before treating you the therapist should clearly explain what they are going to do, including any risks of injury from treatment. You should have a chance to ask questions about it and have some say in the treatment. Good communication is the backbone of a successful therapeutic experience and can lead to trust and rapport between therapist and patient.

They should also come to some clear degree of diagnosis. Importantly, they should clearly explain this in terms you understand. They should give you an idea of what is wrong, how long the problem should last and how they propose to fix it.

So, who should you see?

Ultimately, who you choose to consult for your body issues is a personal decision, but you should feel comfortable with your therapist and have trust in their judgment and advice. This is essential to a productive clinical encounter and the therapeutic relationship.

So who is best out of an Osteopath, a Physiotherapist or a Chiropractor? In truth, there is not a better profession, as there are certainly strong and weak practitioners across all 3.  Follow my guidelines when selecting a therapist and you should be well served and avoid the worst of them.

I’m an Osteopath, so I’m biased, but I feel that Osteopaths are a great choice for treatment of issues stemming from your body – back pain, neck pain, sports injuries, tendonitis etc. We historically have taken more time considering psychosocial contributing factors to body pain, a position that is becoming more strongly backed up by new research on pain and suffering. We are highly trained in obtaining a diagnosis and we always use hands-on techniques for pain relief. As we are smaller and less visible most patients find us after trying Physio and Chiro first before settling on an Osteo. If you’ve not tried an Osteopath and are having trouble, book an appointment and get some treatment today.

Tips for avoiding Bad Therapists:

  • Stay away from people asking you to pay upfront for multiple treatments. This can be a ploy to sell you more treatments than necessary.
  • Be cautious if you are being told you need upfront X-Rays. This is rarely the case outside of traumatic injuries and goes against almost all newer evidence-based guidelines.
  • Beware of pressure selling techniques. You should never feel pushed to keep making appointments, especially if your pain is getting better.
  • Beware the merchants of fear: If anyone tells you you are going to end up in a wheelchair without their treatment give them a wide berth.

Sound like your pain?

Book an appointment or contact us today!

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