This is quite a difficult question to answer, and in some respects it does depend on who you speak to. Certainly the two professions as practiced in the UK are very similar. They both use the hands to diagnose and treat and they both are trained in ancillary diagnostic techniques such as blood tests and X Rays. Osteopaths would only use an X Ray to confirm a diagnosis in the cases of fracture or the suspicion of a serious pathology affecting the bone or joint. Chiropractors tend to use X Rays to diagnose subluxations or chiropractic lesions in the spine. The osteopath is concerned with a global appreciation of the problem which might involve an understanding of the contribution of the viscera (internal organs) to the problem or the patient’s lifestyle and emotional state. Chiropractic tends to be more associated with pure spinal lesions.
The techniques used are quite different. Both professions use manipulations (cracking) of the joints of the spine. Osteopathy is concerned with functional mobility and the part that restricted mobility can play in causing and maintaining dis-ease in the spine. Osteopaths use many other manual modalities in their treatment such as myofascial treatments, functional techniques, soft tissue release techniques, visceral techniques and cranio sacral techniques in order to restore balance in the tissues under investigation and treatment. It is not common for osteopaths to use electro therapy such as ultra sound or interferential in their practices whereas these machines are commonly found in chiropractic practices.