Osteopathy Or Physiotherapy – What You Need To Know

Special Focus: Sports injuries and rehabilitation

In the world of sports, athletes are constantly challenging their bodies to do more and increase their physical performance. Unfortunately, this means that injuries can occur which can cause a great deal of disruption and limit physical activity.

The most common sporting injuries (according to ACC) are to the head, shoulders, hamstrings, knees and ankles. Most sports injuries are easily preventable – Physiotherapy New Zealand

This is where physiotherapy and osteopathy come in as they offer effective methods for healing and preventing sports injuries.

When it comes to treating, preventing, and recovering from sports injuries, physiotherapy and osteopathy are two great options. These two therapies focus on different solutions for sports injuries that allow athletes to stay at their best.

Let’s discuss physiotherapy first. Physiotherapy is a form of manual therapy that aims to restore full function and mobility to an injured body part. It does this by using specific treatments such as massage, stretching, and exercise to improve joint and muscle flexibility, decrease stiffness and pain, and ultimately help heal and repair the injury. It can also help athletes prevent injuries in the future by increasing strength and providing advice on proper technique and form.


Next, there’s osteopathy. Osteopathy uses a combination of manipulation, massage, and stretching to restore balance and alignment to the body. Unlike physiotherapy, it focuses more on the structure and function of bones and muscles, and works to improve the overall health of the musculoskeletal system. Osteopathy can be used to treat injuries such as sprains and strains, fractures, and tendonitis. It has also been found to be beneficial in reducing pain, restoring range of motion, and improving performance.

Osteopathy is based on the idea that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. Osteopaths aim to restore the body to its natural balance by treating the underlying cause of a patient’s pain or dysfunction. Osteopathy can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including back pain, neck pain, headaches, sports injuries, and more – The Local Osteo

Ultimately, either method can help athletes quickly recover from injuries and prevent future ones. This is why more and more athletes are turning to these therapies to get back to their peak performance level.

So which one is right for you? Let’s look into more detail.


What is Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is a key component of both injury prevention and recovery for athletes of all kinds. Not only does it help injured athletes to regain strength and range of motion, but it can also help prevent injuries from occurring in the first place.

Each year we receive on average 448,000 sport related claims. This is an overall cost of over $570M. –  Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) 

However, the effectiveness of physiotherapy depends on a number of factors and can vary from athlete to athlete. To help you decide whether it’s right for you, here are some of the pros and cons of physiotherapy for preventing and healing sports injuries.



Higher likelihood of returning to active sports

Studies have shown that people who use physiotherapy to manage their sports injuries have a greater likelihood of returning to their pre-injury performance level.

Reduces Recovery Time

Using medication, physical therapy can reduce swelling, inflammation, and the overall symptoms of an injury and help athletes get back to their sport sooner.

Improved Strength & Range of Motion

One of the main benefits of physiotherapy is that it can help improve your strength and range of motion, especially after an injury. Physiotherapists specialize in developing programs that are tailored specifically to you and your needs.

Through exercises and manual therapy, physiotherapists will help you regain mobility, strength, and stability.

Injury Prevention

Physiotherapists can also help to prevent injuries by assessing your movement patterns and creating customized programs that are designed to address weaknesses and imbalances.

By taking a “whole body” approach to injury prevention, physiotherapy is an effective tool for helping athletes stay healthy and perform at their best.

Management of Pain

Physiotherapy can also be used to treat pain, both acute and chronic. Through manual therapy, therapeutic exercise and modalities such as ultrasound and laser therapy, physiotherapists can help to reduce pain and improve function and quality of life.

Improved posture and mobility

Physiotherapy often includes techniques such as manual therapy and targeted progressive exercises that may improve posture and mobility.

Improved psychological health

Pain management techniques used in physiotherapy can help to reduce stress and anxiety regarding an injury and can help an athlete to better cope with potential limitations.




Physiotherapy can be costly and not all insurance companies cover it. As such, you may need to factor the cost of physiotherapy into your budget for sport-related expenses.

Time Commitment

Physiotherapy typically requires that you commit to going regularly for a few weeks or months. If your daily schedule is already full, finding extra time for physiotherapy can become challenging.

Results Vary

The effectiveness of physiotherapy can vary from athlete to athlete. Some may find that it works quickly and well for them, while others may not see results at all. It really depends on the individual and the types of injuries they have.

Risk of further injury

Incorrectly or excessively performed exercises can put one at higher risk for injury.


Physiotherapy and the exercises it entails can cause pain and discomfort, especially with respect to the targeted area of injury.

Having said that, your physio will likely ask you to stop an exercise if it causes pain. When doing stretches or exercises it is important to be gentle and heal slowly and effectively. Don’t try to rush the process.


How to become a Physiotherapist

Chances of getting a job as an physiotherapist are good due to high demand for their services – Careers NZ

To become an physiotherapist you need to have the following qualifications:

Physiotherapists need to be registered with the New Zealand Physiotherapy Board and have a current Annual Practising Certificate.

Physiotherapy can be an effective tool for treating and preventing sports injuries, but it may also come with certain costs and challenges. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of physiotherapy before making a decision.


With the guidance of an experienced physiotherapist, athletes can develop an individualized treatment plan based on their goals and needs.


What is Osteopathy?

Osteopathy is an effective therapy that takes a holistic approach to treating and preventing sports injuries. Osteopaths use a variety of hands-on techniques to identify and treat areas of imbalance and dysfunction in the body. Osteopaths use assessment and treatment techniques focusing on the musculoskeletal system, which encompasses the soft tissues, joints, nerves, muscles, ligaments and tendons.

The most common treatment techniques used by osteopaths are manipulation, stretching, and massage.

  • Manipulation, typically referred to as joint mobilization, applies a gentle imprecise force to a joint to restore movement.
  • Stretching helps to reduce musculoskeletal pain and improve range of motion, strength and flexibility.
  • Massage can be used to relax tense and tight muscles, improve circulation to injured areas, and enhance recovery.

Your osteopath may also provide education and advice to help you manage your condition between treatments. This may include giving you exercises to do at home or work – Osteopaths New Zealand

Osteopathy can be used to prevent a sports injury, as well as to heal and recover from one. By addressing muscular imbalances, range of motion restrictions, and poor postural habits, osteopathy can help reduce the risk of a sports injury occurring.

On the opposite side, should a sports injury occur, a combination of manual therapy and exercise prescription can be utilized to best treat the injury and help restore the body back to its optimal functioning state.


Osteopathy can also be used as part of the rehabilitation process to help the body properly heal and recover from an injury. This includes reducing inflammation, promoting tissue healing, and restoring range of motion and strength.

Osteopaths are front line health professionals and work with other registered health professionals including general practitioners, specialists and radiologists to provide the best service to their patients – Osteopathic Council of New Zealand




Osteopathy is non-invasive giving it a lower risk of side effects. It does not rely on medications or drugs, instead relying on specific movements, stretching, and massage therapy to aid the body’s natural healing process.

Focus on Cause

Osteopathy focuses on identifying the underlying structural or functional imbalances that can cause pain and dysfunction. By addressing the root cause of an injury, it can often prevent the issue from recurring.

Osteopathy seeks to identify and treat the underlying cause of the injury rather than just the symptoms. This helps to ensure that the injury is totally addressed and that the recovery process is quicker and more complete.


Osteopaths generally take a holistic approach to treating the whole body and not just the injury site.

Scientifically proven

It is evidence-based and draws on both modern scientific research and traditional principles to create tailored treatments.

Overall health

Osteopathy can help reduce inflammation, promote natural healing, and restore reduced mobility. It can also effectively improve circulation, reduce toxins, and encourage healing.

Correct Posture

Osteopathy can correct poor posture, misalignments, and poor movement patterns that can put

extra strain on areas of the body which can lead to sports injuries.

Whole Body

Osteopathy focuses on the whole body and not just the area of injury, so it can help to protect against future injuries. Osteopathy has been proven to be beneficial in treating a range of conditions, including lower back pain, neck and shoulder pain, sports injuries, and headaches.

Reduce recovery time

Osteopathy can help reduce the recovery time so athletes can return to activity sooner.

Less medication

Osteopathy can reduce the use of anti-inflammatory medications, which can lead to fewer potential side effects.

Risk Prevention

It helps to improve posture and muscle balance, which reduces the risk of injury and improves physical performance.


Osteopaths are trained to use gentle manipulations and massage techniques to improve muscle and joint flexibility, as well as range of motion.



Mild Discomfort

Osteopathy does have the potential to cause mild to moderate discomfort as the practitioner carries out manipulations and massages. 

Can be expensive

Osteopathic treatments can be expensive and the number and frequency of sessions needed can vary depending on the individual.

Costs of treatment vary between clinics and around the country. Remember to ask when you book your appointment. Some private health insurances will reimburse your fees, and treatment for an ACC-covered injury will be less than a full fee, as you are only required to make a co-payment. Your osteopath can help you with all the paperwork, and lodge the claim for you. Let your osteopath know if you have had an accident and wish to lodge a claim.

Life change

Osteopaths may suggest lifestyle changes that are not always convenient or immediately practical. This could include diet, posture and sleep habits.

Skill needed

To gain the full benefits of osteopathy, the patient must ensure that the right methods are used. This requires the practitioner to have a good knowledge and experience in the field, as well as the patient following the advice correctly.

No guarantee

Like other methodologies, Osteopathy cannot guarantee that it will completely resolve an injured athlete’s issues. It may only provide temporary relief from the pain or injury and may not fully resolve the underlying cause.

Time consuming

Osteopathy is not an immediate solution and may take some time to achieve the desired effects. The recovery process can take weeks or even months depending on the severity of the injury and the athlete’s age.

With the appropriate use of osteopathy, sports injuries can be prevented, healed, and recovered from. Osteopathy cannot successfully treat all types of injuries, so it is important to consult with a qualified and experienced osteopath who can determine the best course of treatment for each individual.


How to become an Osteopath

Chances of getting a job as an osteopath are good due to high demand for their services – Careers NZ

To become an osteopath you need to have the following qualifications:

  • 4-5 years of training required
  • Bachelor of Musculoskeletal Health or Applied Science
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Osteopathy

Osteopaths need to be registered with the Osteopathic Council of New Zealand and have a current Annual Practising Certificate.


Are they the same?

At first glance it might seem that there are more similarities than differences between the two practices.

Physical therapy (physio) and osteopathy are two health disciplines that emphasize the interconnected structures of the body to bring about healing. While they share many of the same goals, the methods they use to reach them differ in many ways.

Physiotherapy and osteopathy both aim to help improve health and overall wellbeing, but they differ in the approach and type of treatment they offer.

Let’s look at how they differ from one another.

Different Treatment Goals

  • Physiotherapists primarily focus on restoring movement, strength, physical performance, and balance, often through exercises and physical therapies.

    Physios focus on the muscular system, treating conditions such as strains, sprains and Fibromyalgia.

  • Osteopathy treats the body holistically, seeking to restore its natural balance and health.

    You’ll usually find that osteo looks to treat issues within the skeletal system, such as bones, ligaments and joints.

    Osteopaths utilize both soft tissue and joint manipulation techniques to diagnose and treat the entire musculoskeletal system, often taking into consideration lifestyle factors as well.


  • Physiotherapists focus on examining a patient’s physical condition, including the musculoskeletal system, to identify any problematic areas or disabilities.

    They use a range of techniques including clinical examinations, history taking and diagnostics tests to diagnose and treat physical injuries.

  • Osteopaths use various techniques to look at the patient’s overall health, from their physical to lifestyle habits.

    Osteos use palpation and physical inspection to diagnose and treat restrictions in the skeletal system.

    Osteopaths also look at the way gravity affects the body, posture and body mechanics.

Different Methods

  • Physiotherapists use a wide range of therapies such as manual therapy, exercise, modalities, and education to aid in treatment.

    Because they treat individual injuries to improve movement and strength, they often work with physical therapies such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation (TENS), massage, and exercises. They may also use ice or heat therapy, ultrasound, electrical muscle stimulation, taping and bracing, and exercise therapy.

    Physiotherapists can use exercise-based rehabilitation methods to reduce pain and improve movement. These include dynamic stretching, strengthening exercises and balance exercises.

    Physios will work with you to help you develop an overall exercise plan that meets your requirements.

  • Osteopath’s treatments will often be more holistic and may include massage, joint manipulation, stretching, cranial-sacral therapy. They also use manipulation techniques such as spinal manipulation, stretching, and massage to treat the injuries.

Different Approaches to Health and Pain Management

  • Physiotherapy works to reduce pain and improve function through movement-based treatments.
  • Osteopathy uses manipulation to treat nerve impingements, improve posture, and address the underlying cause of pain, which may not be directly related to sports injuries.


  • Physios commonly use medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants and corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain.

  • Osteos generally don’t prescribe medications, instead relying on self-care measures and rest to support recovery.



Ultimately, physio and osteo can provide different benefits to patients. As with any health discipline, it’s important to speak to your doctor to find a solution that works best for you.

With thorough research and knowledge of the differences between physio and osteo, you can make an informed decision about which type of therapy is best for your condition.


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