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What is the difference between osteopathy, chiropractic and physiotherapy?

This really is the most frequently asked question!

Osteopathy, chiropractic and physiotherapy are all regulated health professions and practitioners of all three disciplines train to degree level and must maintain their clinical skills and professional standards. They are all manual therapies but are based on different beliefs and principles.

One of the principles of osteopathy is that the body seeks to heal itself and an osteopath will work with you to remove any obstacles to healing and, in this way, to restore optimal function. For more details about what osteopathy involves, see the osteopathy section.

Generally speaking, osteopathic treatment probably involves more work on the soft tissues and fewer thrust techniques than chiropractic. Physiotherapy tends to be more exercise led, with less hands on treatment. Physiotherapists also use more electrotherapy equipment (TENS, ultrasound etc) and the majority of physiotherapy is within the NHS.

However, I believe there are many areas of overlap and some patients find the approaches similar. Practitioners of all three disciplines vary in their approaches and post qualification training. If you have any questions or queries, then please contact us.  

So who should I see?

That really is down to your personal preference. Rather than worrying about the differences between practitioners, look for a therapist who you think will suit you. The aim of treatment will be the same, i.e. to get you better, but the style of treatment may be different. However, this can also be true between individuals within the same profession. You need to feel relaxed and trust your therapist. If you don’t, then you may not respond as well, or as quickly, as you otherwise would.

But most importantly of all, if you have a problem…do something about it now! It is better that you see an osteopath, a physiotherapist, a chiropractor or your GP than see no one at all!

Is there evidence to show that osteopathy is effective?

The National Council for Osteopathic Research collates relevant research and information for patients and prospective patients. You can also find further information on the General Osteopathic Council the Institute of Osteopathy websites.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recognises the benefits of osteopathy (as a manual therapy) as part of a treatment package in its guidance for the treatment of low back pain and sciatica in over 16s. The NICE guidelines for the treatment of osteoarthritis recommend the use of manual therapy and exercise and the guidelines for headaches recommend the use of acupuncture for the prevention of tension type headaches.

Is osteopathy safe?

Yes. Osteopaths undergo rigorous clinical training. We are primary healthcare practitioners and your safety is our primary concern. In common with medical practitioners and dentists, all osteopaths are regulated by our own professional body, the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC). To check if your osteopath is registered you can search the register on the GOsC’s website.

Rona and Katherine are both Registered Osteopaths. Students of osteopathy follow a four or five year degree course, during which they study anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, nutrition and biomechanics. Training includes a minimum of 1,000 hours of supervised clinical experience.

We are trained to recognise any concerning symptoms (so called “red flags”) and will refer you back to your GP, or another healthcare professional, if we believe further investigations are indicated. The General Osteopathic Council sets the standards of osteopathic education and requires qualified osteopaths to update their training throughout their working lives, a process known as continuing professional development (CPD).


Will I have to undress?

You will be asked to undress to your underwear so you can be examined. As osteopaths we are not just interested in the area giving you symptoms; we look for the root cause of your problem. This may involve examining areas of your body which are not giving you symptoms. Please wear appropriate underwear or shorts so that you are comfortable. We appreciate that you may be embarrassed about undressing – please don’t be.

You can bring a friend or relative with you if that helps you to feel more at ease. Once we have performed our examination and you are lying on the treatment table, we can cover you with a blanket. If you are concerned about undressing, please discuss this with us and we will work with you to ensure that we are able to examine and treat you whilst respecting your wishes.

Will the treatment hurt me?

There are some deep tissue massage techniques that can be quite uncomfortable, but the majority of the treatment shouldn’t hurt. We always check that any technique is within your tolerated levels and your osteopath will ask you to let her know if a technique is too uncomfortable for you.

There is a difference between “good pain” and “bad pain” and you can often tell the difference. “Good pain” is where you can feel like the technique is working into something tight and it feels like it is doing something good. Patients actually find this reassuring because they can tell we have identified the area causing their symptoms and, even though there is discomfort, they feel that the area needs to be worked on. “Bad pain” just feels wrong – and you shouldn’t experience any bad pain during treatment.

If anything in the treatment is too uncomfortable for you, then please tell us. If you are uncomfortable for any reason, then you will not be able to relax and any technique, no matter how useful, will not have the desired effect. If you are comfortable and relaxed, you will get better  more quickly.

You may feel some soreness or stiffness for 24-48 hours after treatment. We compare this to the aching you can get after doing a new activity and using muscles you never knew existed.

How quickly can I get an appointment?

We aim to see new patients within 48 hours and do our best to see you on the same day if you need to see us urgently.

If you need an appointment at the beginning or end of the day, or an appointment with a specific practitioner, then you may need to wait a little longer, but we will always do our best to accommodate your wishes as quickly as possible.

If you require a same day appointment, it is helpful if you can ring us on 01202 888439 as early as possible so we can try to fit you into a cancellation slot or reschedule other commitments.

Do I need to be referred by my GP?

You do not need to see your doctor before seeing an osteopath. If further investigations are required we may write to your GP, but only with your consent.

Can I claim for my treatments on my private medical insurance?

Usually yes. We ask that you pay us directly and then claim the cost back from your insurers. Before coming to see us, you will need to check your private medical insurance policy to check whether:

  • osteopathy is included
  • you have an excess
  • you need to be referred by your GP.

Unfortunately, we are unable to accept any BUPA or AXA/PPP patients.

What does the word “osteopath” mean?

Osteopath can be broken down into “osteo” and “path” (from Greek); osteo means bone and path means disease. An osteopath is someone who practises osteopathy which can be defined, in general terms, as a therapy which works on problems of the musculoskeletal system.

Many people think that we just work on bones and only treat backs and necks but we can (and do!) treat any joint or muscle in the body including necks, knees, shoulders, ankles and feet. We can also work on the viscera (the organs such as the digestive system, the liver or the lungs).

The term “osteopath” is a legally protected term and you can only call yourself an osteopath once you are registered with the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC).

Is my data safe with you?

Yes. We comply with current data protection legislation. You can view our privacy notice here. We only send you our newsletters if you have opted in.

How does osteopathy help to prevent problems like back pain?

With our lives becoming increasingly busy, yet more sedentary, we can offer advice on stretching exercises, lifting techniques, posture, breathing and stress reduction which can help you to maintain your own health. In addition some lifestyle changes, including diet or workplace ergonomics (e.g. desk set-up), can dramatically improve your health and reduce your on-going health costs.

Early intervention by an osteopath means you can be aware of potential sources of future problems and how you can make changes to your lifestyle now, so you won’t have to deal with pain later on.

Preventing injuries means reduced time off work and therefore more time keeping active and enjoying the benefits of good health, such as continuing to play golf or tennis or look after your grandchildren. It is vitally important for everyone to be aware of how injuries can occur (they are usually the culmination of a gradual build up) and what we can all do to avoid them.

What’s the ‘click’ you hear with manipulation?

Nobody knows for sure but it is believed that the click is the noise of gas escaping from the joint fluid. Manipulation should not hurt, but the noise can be a little disconcerting.

How many treatments will I need?

It is hard to say how many treatments you will need but our aim is to get you better as quickly (and therefore as cheaply) as possible. This depends on your condition and how long you have had it. Some conditions may always cause you pain but you may be able to reduce it to a manageable level with treatment. Other conditions may only cause pain for a week or two, depending on the severity.

The sooner after your symptoms start that you come in for treatment, the easier it will be to help you get back to normal. Patients often say “I thought it would go away on its own…” – as a general rule, if it hasn’t gone within a week or two, then it is unlikely to go on its own. Sooner is always better than later.

After your initial consultation we will explain to you exactly what your issue is, what the prognosis is and how many sessions you are likely to need. This information will be based on our clinical experience and expertise. Your recovery may be quicker or take longer than the initial prediction, but the more you can do to help yourself between treatments, the more quickly you are likely to improve. At Wimborne Osteopathic Clinic, we will:

  • do our best to get you back to normal in the fewest possible number of treatments
  • refer you on to another healthcare professional if that is what we think is best for you
  • never keep you coming back unnecessarily.

In a recent audit (of new patients attending the clinic in the first quarter of 2018), the average number of visits was just under four.

Does osteopathic treatment have side-effects?

Osteopathy is a very safe and effective form of treatment. Some patients may experience some discomfort for a day or two after treatment, but this usually subsides quickly. It is always a good idea to take it easy after treatment to allow the body to recover. Please call us if you have any concerns.

Following medical acupuncture, a small minority of patients may experience drowsiness or fainting, in which case you are advised not to drive. There can be minor bleeding or bruising and, as with osteopathic treatment, symptoms can get worse after treatment. Rare but serious risks include damage to an internal organ from the insertion of a needle and infection. Again, please contact the clinic if you have any concerns. For more information and further questions in respect of acupuncture, please see the Medical Acupuncture section.

If we are going to perform an Epley manoeuvre in respect of vertigo, we will advise you in advance that you may feel worse for a short time after the treatment and that you will be unable to drive yourself home after your appointment.

Will I be crunched and clicked?

Not if you don’t want to be! We have undergone extensive training and thrust techniques (i.e. the “clicking”) are only a small part of our wide range of techniques. Other techniques we use include specific massage of soft tissues, (e.g. muscles, tendons & ligaments) gentle mobilisation of joints, gentle cranial osteopathic techniques and medical acupuncture. For more information, please visit our what to expect section.

If you do not want to be “clicked”, please advise your osteopath. In any event, we would always seek your consent before using these, and any other, techniques. Occasionally, we may feel that it really would be helpful to use a thrust technique, in which case we would discuss it with you further and try to address any concerns you have. Ultimately it is your treatment and you do not have to consent to anything.

Do you treat more than backs?
Yes we do! We don’t treat conditions, we treat you. Some of the most common reasons patients visit the clinic include:
  • back pain
  • joint pain
  • muscle tension
  • minor sprains and strains
  • arthritic pain
  • nerve pain
  • minor sports injuries
  • sciatica
  • neck ache
  • headache (from the neck)
  • shoulder problems
  • work strain
  • postural issues
  • pregnancy
If you are unsure whether osteopathic treatment is suitable for you, please contact us.

We are trained to look at you as a person and your body as a whole. For example, a pain in your knee could be the result of an imbalance in your pelvis. In this case, if we just treated your knee symptoms, they would keep coming back as the underlying problem had not been addressed.

The great thing about osteopathy is that we treat the whole person and like to get to the cause of your symptoms. Often symptoms are exacerbated by other factors such as your working posture or stress and we can advise you on ways to reduce these and thus improve your health. Why not visit our patient stories section to see examples of the kind of people and conditions we treat?  

Do you offer anything other than osteopathy?

Rona is trained in medical acupuncture and dynamic taping and incorporates these into osteopathic treatment, where appropriate.

Rona is also a Pilates instructor and offers  group classes in Wimborne on Mondays and 1:1 Pilates sessions at the clinic. For details of Rona’s Pilates classes, please click here or contact us if you require further information.

Elite Feet operate a podiatry/chiropody clinic within Wimborne Osteopathic Clinic. Please contact Carole directly on 01202 885401 or visit her website for more information.

Paula is a soft tissue therapist who uses techniques derived from sports massage, Thai yoga massage and Barral Institute visceral and neuro-meningeal manipulation. Paula works in the clinic on Tuesday afternoons and Wednesday mornings. For more information, please call Paula directly on 07957 224633 or visit her website.

Do you offer the Epley manoeuvre?

Yes, we offer the Epley manoeuvre for the treatment of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Both testing and the manoeuvre itself can make you feel temporarily worse and we will always advise you to sit quietly for a while in reception following treatment and not to drive afterwards. Please do call us for advice prior to booking an appointment if you think you may have BPPV.

Do you have disabled access?

Unfortunately due to the age of our building we are not fully accessible to anyone in a wheelchair. However we are on the ground floor and, generally speaking, accessible to the ambulant disabled. We have two steps at the front of the building with handrails. If you require assistance with a pram or walking frame just tell us when we answer the buzzer and we can help you. If you are concerned about access, please let us know when you book and we can advise you accordingly and make alternative arrangements if necessary.

What should I do if I am unhappy with the service I have received?

If you have a concern about any aspect of your treatment, please contact the clinic as soon as possible. A copy of the complaints procedure is available from the clinic or can be downloaded here.

What patients say:


“It’s money well spent.” or “I’ve been able to start running again.”


“I couldn’t recommend Rona more highly.”


“I felt the benefit after even the first session”



At Wimborne Osteopathic Clinic, we are always happy to discuss your individual concerns and requirements.


What should you do next?


Click the button below to book a consultation as soon as possible or call us on 01202 888439 and we will be happy to advise you on your next steps.


Clinic hours

Monday2pm - 8:00pm
Tuesday8:30am - 3:00pm
Wednesday2pm - 8:00pm
Thursday8:30am - 4:00pm
Friday8:30am - 2:00pm


Appointments are available at other times by arrangement. Please contact us for further details.