Massage in Osteopathy and Chiropractic Therapies

Category: Health Posted: 18 Nov 2019

Posted: 18 Nov 2019

chiropractic, osteopath massage, lower back pain

When it comes to manual manipulation therapies there are several alternatives available, from general therapeutic massages to specific regulated treatments such as osteopathy and chiropractic.

Each of these treatment styles involve massage and are commonly used to help with conditions such as lower back pain, neck pain and even arthritis.

But how do the various options differ and are they complementary to each other?

To find out which physical therapy might be best for you, first we need to consider the key differences between them and decide which is most appropriate.

Osteopathy in a nutshell

Closely related to remedial massage in many respects, osteopathy is the physical manipulation of muscles and joints to improve health and wellness.

Osteopaths use special tools and equipment to identify underlying skeletal conditions which may be causing joint or muscle pain. Following the initial assessment and diagnosis, an osteopath will set out a recommended plan of remedial manual therapy treatments. These are usually delivered at a steady pace over a period of time with the aim of gradually fixing the issues identified.

Osteopaths often use stretching, rotation and a range of massaging techniques (known as osteopathic massage) to improve flexibility in joints and reduce tension in problematic muscles, ligaments and tendons.

Cracking Chiropractic

Similar to osteopathy, chiropractic therapy also focuses on diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal issues.

Most chiropractors perform treatments using their hands, exerting force into very specific points on their patient’s body. The overall idea is to manipulate and manoeuvre joints, bones and muscles back into better aligned positions (chiropractic alignment).

Chiropractors are often associated with using quick, snapping movements to align joints or muscles along the spine. This is popularly called ‘back cracking’ but contrary to popular belief, the cracking sound is not joints clicking into place. The sound of cracking joints is in fact just small gas bubbles which form between cartilage and then pop during the movement of adjacent bones.

A range of relaxed techniques, such as massage or stretching, are also used alongside realignment skills. As well as treating lower back pain, chiropractors can treat other common joint conditions like painful hips or knees.

Therapeutic Massages

So, massage is commonly used within chiropractic and also osteopathy. Additionally, there are numerous practitioners who are neither chiropractors nor osteopaths but offer excellent therapeutic massages to alleviate muscle and joint pain.

Some of these therapeutic styles, such as sports massage and physio-style massage are closely linked to chiropractic and physiotherapy treatments. Others, such as the popular classic Swedish massage, are more associated with providing general relaxation rather than assessing musculoskeletal issues or curing specific injuries.

Many massage therapists are also qualified health professionals who have decided to widen their treatment range to offer more holistic therapies to benefit both physical and mental health.


In the UK, depending on the type of treatment you choose, the practitioner may need to be independently registered (osteopaths and chiropractors fall within this category) or they may be free to perform treatments without any formal training or qualifications (such as massage therapists).

An important consideration therefore, if you opt for a therapeutic massage in London, is to select a massage therapist that has been extensively tested and accepted as talented and experienced.

Comparing mandarins?

Comparing the various forms of manual manipulation therapies such as osteopathy, chiropractic, therapeutic massage and even physiotherapy is a bit like comparing oranges, satsumas, tangerines and clementines.

These fruits all have their own specific individual characteristics. However, they are all part of the mandarin family, so unsurprisingly there is significant overlap and many similarities between them.

Similarly, osteopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists all employ various forms of massage therapy including many of the techniques used by general massage therapists.

Cost of treatments

Generally speaking, in the UK the cost of a massage is significantly less than the cost of treatments such as osteopathy or physiotherapy.

Accordingly, some people get an initial assessment and recovery plan developed by a regulated professional such as an osteopath or chiropractor. They then opt to receive regular massage treatments, in line with the recovery plan, from a more generalist massage therapist who is tried and trusted.

Any of these manual therapies can be used in conjunction with conventional medicine to provide complementary benefits or as an alternative to drugs or surgery.

In conclusion, we recommend that instead of trying to assess whether osteopathy is better than physiotherapy, or, whether you should visit a chiropractor or have a mobile sports massage therapist come to you, you might be best off with a combination.