Chiropractor vs. Osteopath vs. Orthopedist – Who do I contact?

There are many medical fields that deal with body pain, and many patients often ask whether they should see a chiropractor, an osteopath, or an orthopedist. While these professions appear to be related, they are actually different health practices, each with their own areas of specialization.

Chiropractors, osteopaths, and orthopedists specialize in different things, so the best healthcare provider for you will depend heavily on your condition or injury. Before making a decision, it’s important to understand what chiropractors, osteopaths, and orthopedists do and what differentiates them from one another so you can easily choose the right doctor.


Chiropractors are people who treat musculoskeletal disorders. They are also called DCs or Doctors of Chiropractic. DCs deal with pain and discomfort related to bones, muscles, ligaments, joints, and nerves. Most of them treat pain conditions in close proximity to the spine. But they also specialize in musculoskeletal pain in the various extremities of the body.

The profession is well established in the United States and is the third largest healthcare profession after medicine and dentistry.

What do chiropractors do? The chiropractic approach is non-pharmacological in nature. Professionals use their hands or various instruments to manipulate joints, muscles, ligaments, and other affected areas. Most treatment plans involve multiple manipulation sessions.

Aside from manual adjustment and manipulation, they can also counsel their patients. Chiropractors do not prescribe medication, but can usually recommend dietary supplements or offer suggestions about exercise and positive eating habits.

Chiropractor training. To practice the profession, a person needs a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree. Achieving this requires 4 years of postgraduate training after earning an associate’s degree. You also need at least 500 hours of hands-on experience and training for manipulation and customization.


An osteopath, or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO), is a medical professional who emphasizes the body’s ability to heal itself. Osteopaths advocate a “whole person” approach to care. They believe that physical problems and abnormalities affect the whole body. To facilitate the body’s healing process, they use manipulative and manual therapy.

What do osteopaths do? Like chiropractors, osteopaths also take a natural approach to healing. They use a technique called osteopathic manipulative treatment, or OMT. This technique allows them to use their hands to diagnose and treat injuries and painful conditions in joints, ligaments and muscles.

DOs typically use gentle forms of manipulation such as stretching and applying light pressure to the affected areas. What differentiates the practice from chiropractic is the fact that osteopaths can write prescriptions and perform surgical procedures.

Osteopath training. Earning a DO degree also requires 4 years of postgraduate study after completing 4 years of undergraduate study. The degree requires students to complete at least one year of internships and rotations in hospitals. They can practice, prescribe drugs, and perform surgeries anywhere in the United States.


Orthopedists are surgeons who specialize in the musculoskeletal system. Although they are surgeons by nature, they do not necessarily use surgery every time. They also use non-surgical means to treat muscle and trauma and injuries, degenerative diseases, tumors, infections and congenital musculoskeletal disorders. The terms orthopedist and orthopedist are often used interchangeably and mean the same thing.

What do orthopedists do?Orthopedists diagnose and treat various diseases of the musculoskeletal system. They diagnose conditions through physical exams, X-rays, and other laboratory tests. Most conditions are usually treated with non-surgical procedures such as physical therapy, exercise, or even pain management methods. In severe cases of pain disorders, orthopedists perform surgical treatments such as joint replacement, soft tissue repair, and arthroscopy.

In cases that do not require surgical intervention, orthopedists may recommend patients to see physical therapists or osteopaths for therapy or manipulation. Because orthopedic surgeons are medical doctors (MDs) by profession, they can write prescriptions for their patients.

Orthopedic Education. Orthopedists must complete a four-year undergraduate degree and four-year medical school. Medical school graduates must then complete a five-year residency program to specialize in surgery. The five-year course consists of one year for general surgery and four years for orthopedic surgery.

who should i see

Finding the right healthcare provider can be confusing for first-time patients. Who you choose will depend heavily on your condition and the type of approach you prefer. An osteopath is a good choice if you want a holistic treatment. If you have acute back pain or pain caused by injury or trauma, a visit to a chiropractor may be a good idea. In the case of extreme pain or pain caused by other underlying physical illnesses, however, an orthopedist can be recommended.

Thanks to Dr. John Holland | #Chiropractor #Osteopath #Orthopedist #contact

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