Osteopathy Bodywell

What’s the difference between Osteo, Chiro and Physio?

TL:DR – Everything and nothing, find a practitioner who listens to your story and creates a treatment plan that matches your goals.

Manual therapy has been documented as far back as at least 360BC, with evidence of its use in many different cultures across the globe. It has taken on many different modalities with varying underlying principles, all with the aim of providing therapeutic relief from pain and dysfunction. Historically a wide range of diseases were thought to be treatable with manual therapy, however, as healthcare moves towards an evidence based model of practice, manual therapy has narrowed its focus to predominantly addressing musculoskeletal complaints.

In Australia, typically, when someone experiences musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction their first port of call will be either physio, chiro or osteo. The question then arises? What’s the difference between them? To answer this question it is worth understanding how they developed and where their focus lies today.

Osteopathy began in the late 1800’s with an American physician and surgeon named Andrew Taylor Still in Kirksville, Missouri. After the death of his wife and 4 of his children, Still was somewhat disillusioned with the medical system. Medicines were often ineffective and occasionally harmful, with unsanitary surgical practices often resulting in widespread infection and death. He turned his attention to human anatomy to explore the relationship between structure and function of the body. He concluded that by treating the musculoskeletal system he could support the body’s inherent healing mechanisms, therefore avoiding treatments he felt offered greater risk than reward. Still developed the concept of the “osteopathic lesion”, where tension within the tissues impacted fluid movement. Increasing fluid movement the tissues to have the best environment for optimal function.


From his finding, Still established 4 osteopathic principles for practice:
  1. The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.
  2. The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
  3. Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
  4. Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.



Chiropractic was developed by a magnetic healer and spiritualist called D.D. Palmer. Palmer in the late 1800s. He developed the theory of the ‘neuro-skeleton’, with the skeleton being the protector of the nervous system and ‘nerve-tension’ being the root of disease. Palmer coined the term ‘chiropractic subluxation’, which he described as “a mishap that interferes with such regulation and requires an adjustment.” He proposed that adjusting the skeleton reduces tension on the nervous system which facilitates the inherent healing mechanisms of the body. Modern Chiropractic maintains a focus on manipulation of the skeleton to impact the nervous system as a means to promote health.



Physiotherapy has its modern roots in Sweden during the early 1800’s. Per Henrik Ling, founded the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics, where massage, manipulation, and exercise were prescribed to rehabilitate injured gymnasts. In 1887, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare officially recognised and registered physiotherapists. Physiotherapy’s focus on rehabilitation gained popularity as advances in orthopaedic surgery highlighted the need for postoperative care. In the 1950s physiotherapy stepped out of the hospital setting, with outpatient and private clinics opening to service the wider community with a continued focus on post-surgical and post-injury rehabilitation.

Physiotherapy bodywell

It is important to note, that although the three modalities have their individual roots and underlying principles, osteo, physio and chiro are not singular in their approach. Each practitioner will have their own experience, post-graduate training and approach to treatment. Where different practitioners within the same modality will share similarities, no two will be the same.


At Bodywell Healthcare we understand that pain and dysfunction are a very personal and individual experience. Our osteopaths build on the foundation of osteopathy by taking an evidence-informed, empathetic and collaborative approach, where you are heard and respected and education is at the forefront.

To make an appointment at Bodywell Healthcare click on https://www.bodywellhealthcare.com.au/book-online/ or call one of our friendly reception team on 9717 1200.