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At some stage in our lives we will probably need to see a health professional to treat and help us manage a muscular injury such as back or neck pain, headache or sport injuries. When faced with such an injury we want to be confident that we can choose a health professional that is right for us, who can effectively relieve our discomfort and create a plan to manage the injury and let us get on with our busy lives. Physiotherapy, Osteopathy and Chiropractic therapies are popular treatments for musculoskeletal pain and injury and it can be a difficult decision choosing which one is right for you. Each individual’s needs differ, so your choice will be based upon your knowledge of the practice, your preference and also the type of injury involved.


Physiotherapy is probably the most widely used and recognised health remedy focused on musculoskeletal movement or manual therapy. Physiotherapy is available within both the public and private health care systems in Australia. Physiotherapists specialise in the rehabilitation and treatment of painful joint and muscular injuries to optimize movement. Physiotherapy treatment tends to focus on exercises and massage but may also include ultrasound, hydrotherapy, heat therapy or electrotherapies. Increasingly, physiotherapists are also using alternative treatments such as acupuncture and reflexology. Although traditional physiotherapy is probably best known for treating sport or work-related musculoskeletal injuries, they can also work in other health settings. These can include care of the aged in stroke recovery or mobility after a fracture, hydrotherapy for arthritis, the fitting of splints and braces, incontinence, mental illness, occupational therapy and removing secretions from the lungs of patients in intensive care.


Osteopathy is a holistic therapy that diagnoses and treats problems with our muscles, ligaments, nerves and joints. This helps the body return to natural balance and mechanical function and in doing so it assists with the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Osteopathy is commonly used to treat musculoskeletal problems as well as other functional disorders of the human body. Osteopaths believe that injury and pain results from abnormalities in our body’s structure and function. They focus on how the different elements of the body function together as a holistic unit. In order to treat symptoms effectively, the underlying cause of the injury needs to be treated. This form of treatment will also prevent recurrence of the injury. Treatment can include using a variety of techniques on muscles, ligaments and other soft tissue such as gentle manipulation, joint mobilisation, stretching, exercise, nutrition, soft tissue massage and trigger point therapy.


Chiropractic treatment is also a holistic therapy focusing on musculoskeletal problems. The discipline is based on the premise that the body is capable of self-regulation and healing itself, which is controlled by the brain, the spinal cord and the nervous system. Chiropractors focus on the relationship between the structure of the spine and pelvis as coordinated by the function of the nervous system. This relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health and the ability of the body to resist disease and ill health in the future. Chiropractors focus on the position of the vertebrae in the spine. If the nerve pathways of the spinal cord are affected by bony pressure or misalignment of vertebrae, problems are created in surrounding muscles and tissue and other areas of the body. For this reason what may appear to be a non-spinal condition may also require spinal adjustment. A chiropractic treatment would typically involve adjustments or manipulation with attention to the spine, pelvis or skull to help remove the interference or blockages of the nervous system and in turn relieve pain, muscles spasm and provide overall good health.

With differing philosophies, all three health professions are capable of treating a range of musculoskeletal and other conditions. If you have a health problem you feel would benefit from these treatments, advise your practitioner as well as your family doctor of GP. A healthy lifestyle combined with good nutrition and exercise is recommended to maximise well-being and good health. Contact your local physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor for more information.