Similarities and Differences Between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor

Many people may become confused by the terms “chiropractor” and “osteopath,” to the extent that they think the two are the same thing. This confusion is entirely understandable. Osteopaths and chiropractors are similar in many ways. They often take a comparable approach to treating patients and may perform manual manipulations. However, there are also some significant differences that are important to understand before you choose to see one or the other.


Both chiropractors and osteopaths are trained in manual manipulation to treat patients. This means that they may use their hands to mobilize, stretch, or place pressure on certain parts of the body with the aim of treating the underlying condition, thereby relieving pain.

Another way in which the two practitioners are similar is that they tend to take a holistic approach to treating patients. This means that they consider the whole body and how the different systems work together when diagnosing and treating patients. This is different to the approach often taken by a medical doctor in treating symptoms rather than the underlying cause.


While both osteopaths and chiropractors train to perform manual manipulation, their techniques are not the same. A doctor of osteopathy learns osteopathic manipulative treatment. While there may be some overlap, OMT is different from chiropractic technique. Though manual manipulation, also referred to as adjustment, is still the cornerstone of chiropractic work, it is increasingly the exception, rather than the rule, to find an osteopath who uses OMT on a regular basis.

Perhaps the most significant difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor is the education and training that each receives. Both receive specialized training after obtaining an undergraduate degree. However, an osteopath attends medical school and gets an education similar to what medical doctors receive. Following medical school, they complete internships and residencies the same as MDs do. Once they complete this training, doctors of osteopathy receive degrees and credentials that are commensurate with what MDs receive. Like MDs, osteopaths can perform surgery and prescribe medications.

Chiropractors do not go to medical school. Instead, they attend a special chiropractic college for four or five years after obtaining an undergraduate degree. This program teaches them the necessary techniques and qualifies them to become licensed doctors of chiropractic. However, chiropractors do not earn a medical degree, so they cannot prescribe medicine or perform surgery.

Whether you need to see an osteopath or a chiropractor, like a chiropractor in Riverdale, MD, depends a great deal on your condition. It is never a bad idea to ask the opinion of your primary care doctor. Additionally, we will be happy to answer any questions you have about chiropractic care when you contact our office.

Thanks to AmeriWell Clinics for their insight into similarities and differences between an osteopath and a chiropractor.