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Physio, chiro or osteo – which one should I see?

January 2022

If you’re experiencing aches and pains, recovering from an injury, or having trouble with movement and mobility throughout your body, there are a few health practitioners you can seek help from – Physiotherapists, Chiropractors and Osteopaths. But how do you choose between a physio, chiro or osteo?

Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and Osteopathy all have slightly different approaches, but there is also a lot of crossover in the treatments they provide and the injuries/conditions they help fix, so it can be hard to know which one is the right one for you to see.

The best bet is to first visit your GP to talk about your injury, or the issue(s) causing you pain and discomfort. They can advise you on which type of treatment might be most helpful and provide more information to guide you to the right profession.

Physio, chiro or osteo Health professional looking at a patient's back with graphic of spine superimposed » HCi

However, we’ve put together a brief run-down on Physiotherapy, Chiropractic treatment and Osteopathy so you can better understand these professions, and how they can help you on your health journey!

Physiotherapy (or physio)

Physiotherapists are experts in body movement and function. They use physical techniques to help you recover from injury, reduce pain and stiffness, improve movement and mobility, and prevent further injury. They often work with people affected by chronic diseases and physical disability that might have come about because of an accident/injury, surgery, or a condition they’ve had most of their life.

Physiotherapist’s use a wide range of treatment methods to treat pain or dysfunction, and to improve your mobility. These range from exercise programs (to improve flexibility and strengthen muscles), joint manipulation and mobilisation, muscle re-education (to improve control), airway clearance techniques and breathing exercises, soft tissue massage, hydrotherapy, and assistance with use of aids (e.g., splints, crutches, walking sticks and wheelchairs).

Common reasons people visit a physio include

  • muscle & joint stiffness or pain
  • sports injuries (e.g., knee, ankle or shoulder injuries)
  • Arthritis
  • back and neck pain
  • headaches
  • incontinence
  • neurological conditions (eg Parkinsons Disease)
  • Chronic diseases (eg diabetes, obesity)
  • recovery from broken bones
  • rehabilitation after surgery
  • managing after a stroke
  • developmental delays in children.

All HCi Extras options (Healthy Extras, Active Life Extras and Premier Extras) provide cover for Physiotherapy services/consults, and associated treatments such as Hydrotherapy, at differing levels.



A Chiropractor focuses on the spine, joints and other musculoskeletal aspects of the body and their connection with the nervous system (nerves and spinal cord).

Chiropractic treatment is focused on treating and preventing spinal and musculoskeletal problems throughout the body, predominantly using hands-on manipulation of the spine to reduce pain and improve mobility and function. Spinal manipulation or ‘adjustment’ is using the hands to apply controlled force to a joint or the spine to align the muscles and skeleton of your body.

Depending on your diagnosis, chiropractors can also use a range of other treatments to help you, from stretching exercises, mobilisation techniques (gentle movement of the joint to increase its range of motion), application of heat or ice, acupuncture, soft tissue massage, and activity modification advice (changes to your everyday activities to help alleviate pain).

People commonly visit a Chiropractor for help with:

  • back and neck pain
  • sciatica
  • headaches
  • whiplash
  • elbow & wrist pain (eg tennis elbow)
  • shoulder pain (eg frozen shoulder)
  • arthritis
  • hip pain
  • knee and ankle/foot pain

All HCi Extras options (Healthy Extras, Active Life Extras and Premier Extras) provide cover for Chiropractic services/consults, and associated treatments such as acupuncture to help your recovery journey.

Osteopaths (or osteo)

Osteopaths focus on your neuro-musculoskeletal system; how the bones, joints, muscles, nerves, and other tissues function as a ‘holistic’ unit and support the movement of your body. Osteopaths look at the health of the entire body, rather than just the injured or affected part. They try to pinpoint what’s stopped working well within the body to cause overloading and pain in the area that’s sore.

Osteopaths provide many different treatments, depending on your individual assessment and diagnosis. These include manual therapy (massage, stretching and manipulation for ligaments, joints, and muscles), clinical exercise programs (including movement, positioning and postural advice), therapeutic needling techniques (such as acupuncture or trigger point therapy), as well as lifestyle advice about diet, stress management or other factors that could be influencing your pain, injury, or body movement.

Common reasons for seeing an Osteopath include:

  • headaches and migraines
  • arthritis
  • sciatica
  • postural issues
  • balance & walking issues
  • scoliosis
  • neck or back pain
  • osteoporosis
  • tendonitis
  • sports injuries (eg muscular sprains/strains)
  • workplace injuries

All HCi Extras options (Healthy Extras, Active Life Extras and Premier Extras) provide cover for osteopathy services/consults, and associated treatments, at differing levels.

Article resources:

HCi used its best endeavours to ensure this information was accurate at the time of publication. From time to time, circumstances relating to the subject matter may change which may impact the accuracy of the information. This information is also general in nature and does not take into account any specific health or financial situation. Before making any decisions in relation to this information, you should consider your own financial and health situation and seek professional advice. Health Care Insurance Ltd ABN 43 009 579 088. A Registered Private Health Insurer.

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