physiotherapist and patient

What is the difference between a Physiotherapist, Sports Therapist and Osteopath?

Georgie Mai Clinic Director

Georgie Mai-Manning
Clinic Director

We are able to support our clients in several different ways, and one of the most common questions we get asked by those considering treatment and rehabilitation is:

“What is the difference between physiotherapy, sports therapy and osteopathy, and how do I decide who to work with?”

At the Rehab Hub, we are fortunate to have a ‘multidisciplinary’ team comprising of three different approaches to treating and rehabilitating your injury – physiotherapy, sports therapy and osteopathy. We can appreciate that deciding who to work with can be difficult.

In this blog, we will identify the important factors to consider when deciding who to work with and the differences and similarities between the three professions to help you choose the right treatment pathway. We will also consider the importance of experience, specialism, personality and partnership when selecting the person you work with. Ultimately, you need to work with somebody with the skill and expertise to help you recover from your injury, but you also need to connect with that person.

Of course, if it’s easier for you, please pick up the phone and talk to us, and we will be happy to partner you with the right practitioner!

The differences between sports therapy, physiotherapy and osteopathy

Our sports therapists, physiotherapists, and osteopaths all share the goal of promoting health, improving function, and aiding recovery from injuries. We aim to enhance physical well-being through various techniques, exercise prescriptions and manual therapy. However, the professions differ in their specific methodologies and areas of focus.

Sports therapy was initially developed about twenty years ago to meet the rising need to treat and rehabilitate sports people and their injuries. More recently, sports therapists have developed a wider musculoskeletal field of practice – soft tissue, joint and skeletal injuries affecting the general population. It is now widely recognised that three years (minimum) of studying musculoskeletal injuries and dysfunction makes sports therapists specialists in all MSK injuries. They can support everyone from a young footballer to a builder with a bad back. Therefore, our sports therapists spend half their time helping non-sporty people back to their day-to-day activities and half of their time helping people back to their chosen sport. They love the broad spectrum that it provides! Their treatment approach is very hands-on and covers a range of physical interventions, home exercise prescriptions, patient education and support. They have additional expertise in evaluating and providing immediate treatment on the field and implementing movement-specific rehabilitation programs to aid a speedy recovery and prevent future injuries.

Physiotherapy has a broader scope and covers various conditions beyond musculoskeletal injuries. Physiotherapists are healthcare professionals who diagnose and treat various musculoskeletal, neurological, and respiratory conditions. They employ evidence-based techniques such as manual therapy, exercise therapy, electrotherapy, and education to help patients regain functional movement, reduce pain, and improve overall physical well-being. Physiotherapy is often recommended for post-surgery rehabilitation, chronic pain management, neurological disorders, and respiratory conditions. If your condition extends beyond musculoskeletal injuries, physiotherapy might provide a more comprehensive approach to your treatment.

Osteopathy focuses on the musculoskeletal system and aims to restore balance and promote natural healing within the body. Osteopaths use a holistic approach in addition to evidence-based assessment and treatment skills to identify and address the root causes of pain or dysfunction. Through manual manipulation, stretching, and massage, osteopaths seek to improve joint mobility, enhance circulation, and alleviate pain. Osteopathy is often sought for conditions like back and neck pain, joint problems, and headaches. They are particularly well suited to help you if you are suffering from nerve pain and spinal conditions.

The importance of professionalism, experience and partnership

As mentioned earlier in the blog, a practitioner’s discipline is not the only factor to consider when choosing who to work with. Their education provides the basis for their expertise and approach; every practitioner will also go on to study additional treatment techniques and develop areas of particular proficiency, both because of experience in the clinic and personal interest. All of our practitioners undertake continual learning to keep up to date with research and to develop their knowledge and understanding of injuries and treatment techniques to enable them to provide the best treatment for their clients.

You must have faith in your rehabilitation, so partnering with a practitioner that you feel comfortable with and enjoy spending time with is of high importance. We are fortunate to have a wonderful team of practitioners at the Rehab Hub. We regularly cross-refer patients between us if your rehab needs a slightly different approach or specialism.

Ultimately, the decision between sports therapy, physiotherapy, and osteopathy should be based on your needs and preferences. Each discipline has its strengths and approaches, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another.

Here is some further information about the team here at the Rehab Hub. You are very welcome to contact us to discuss your individual circumstances, and we can ensure you are partnered with the practitioner best equipped to support your journey to recovery and improved physical well-being.