What is the difference between chiropractic and osteopathy?
This is a question I heard many times since I moved back to France so I wanted to address it. Before I could do so, I had to educate myself on what those differences in France are. In the USA – where I have lived for more than 10 years – american osteopaths do not have the same scope of practice as osteopaths in France.
This is one of the first differences between the two professions: chiropractic is international, meaning that a qualified chiropractor can work anywhere in the world. For osteopaths, it is not the case. Like chiropractic, osteopathy was born in the United States. It arrived in Europe in 1917 when John Martin Littlejohn started the first osteopathic school in London. Later on in the USA, osteopathy evolved in a different direction where it became a specialization within the medical curriculum. Unlike French osteopaths, American osteopaths have the title of physician. This means a French osteopath is not allowed to practice as an osteopath in the US.
Osteopathy arrived in Europe about 30 years before chiropractic did. In France, both osteopathic schools and chiropractic schools have a 5 year curriculum after high school. There are about 30 different osteopathic schools in France whereas there is only one chiropractic school. Both professions had difficulties integrating the French healthcare system, but they are now progressively being more and more recognized and used for the benefits that they can bring.
In my opinion, the chiropractic and osteopathic approaches are similar as they both consider the whole body to evaluate its health. They are holistic approaches that can be complementary to each other. Historically, osteopathy is focused on the circulatory system (arterial, cranial, visceral…) while chiropractic is focused on the nervous system (spine, brain, nerves…). Both professions use many different manual techniques on the whole body.
There are also some differences in the regulations in France between osteopathy and chiropractic. The most striking one being that chiropractors are the only non-medical practitioners allowed to manipulate the cervical region (the neck) without needing a medical approval.