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Choosing The Right Practitioner For Your Joint / Muscle / Nerve Problem
Similarities and Differences

In our truly integrated, alternative and complementary multi-disciplinary practice, we bypass competitive and restrictive professional boundaries when choosing your course of treatment. Our chiropractors, osteopaths, acupuncturists, naturopath, and massage therapist work co-operatively to create the best outcome for you so that you have the best chance of a speedy recovery and return to your work, play, fitness, and/or sport. Your initial assessment is the same no matter which of our practitioners you see. Following a thorough health history, examination, and diagnosis, will we recommend the most appropriate course of treatment. This removes the question of which therapy is best for your needs until after you have been assessed.

Qualifications and regulatory bodies          

Osteopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists in New Zealand engage in a 4 year, university degree programme. 

Once they have qualified, all three professions are regulated by law and must be registered with their respective regulatory board in New Zealand. This means you can be confident that you will receive a standard of care and treatment which meets the criteria of the board for being safe and in keeping with the educational and practice standards set by these boards.

What’s the difference between an osteopath and a chiropractor?

Chiropractors and Osteopaths in New Zealand are trained at separate institutions.  Chiropractic and Osteopathy college are similar but different. Chiropractors and osteopaths spend between four and five years studying anatomy and medical subjects, practising examination, learning treatment methods and techniques, studying various conditions, and then developing their clinical skills and management protocols under supervision in on campus clinics where they provide care for the general public. At Pure Healthcare, their training continues through our regular meetings, mentoring sessions and attendance at professional seminars. We all keep up our Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours to keep our knowledge and skills up to date.

Chiropractors and osteopaths working together at Pure Healthcare, focusing on their areas of particular expertise.  Our Chiropractors focus on spinal and extremity adjustments, as in their training they learn different ways to adjust these joints. Our Osteopaths focus on soft tissue therapy, mobilization techniques and rehabilitation.  Although the Chiropractor can do these treatments, and the Osteopath can perform manipulations, we have them focus on what they do often and what they do the best.  In many cases the patient may not even notice the differences between these two forms of treatment. By having the two professionals working together, they are able to spend time discussing each individual case in the light of their own special expertise, which helps them decide which approach may be most beneficial at a particular stage of care.  Often, patients are seeing both of them, in the early stages of care.  Or, they may see one and then the other.  It all depends on your needs and what is best for you.

 all take a detailed health history, perform a clinical exam, render a diagnosis, form management strategy, and treat the problem by looking at the function of your body as a whole.  As such, you may be referred to our Naturopath and/or acupuncturist in the initial stages.  Or, if massage is appropriate, we may refer you to our therapeutic massage therapist.

It is important to understand that chiropractic, osteopathy, acupuncture and naturopathy are not simply ‘complementary therapies’. They are formal clinical disciplines that can serve you as a “portal of entry” into the healthcare system without the need for medical referral.  The chiropractor or osteopath can open you ACC claim if you have an injury or accident that qualifies under the ACC system.

How are physiotherapists different from osteopaths and chiropractors?

Physiotherapy is very popular within the health system in New Zealand, and is frequently referred to by GPs and hospital doctors and surgeons. This is often done out of habit and familiarity rather than judging the best course of treatment.  Medical doctors are often simply unaware of the training and skills of chiropractors and osteopaths, and are therefore less likely to refer.   Physiotherapy primarily uses soft tissue techniques and exercise to treat and relieve pain and enhance mobility in the musculoskeletal system.

Physiotherapists study the basic sciences at university and then they study specific conditions for which physiotherapy is helpful. They then can choose to focus on specific areas of health.  Chiropractors and osteopaths also study these subjects, however there are a greater number of hours which results in great depth and breadth of study regarding health and disease. The key differences are that Chiropractors and Osteopaths have a greater number of hours in general and musculoskeletal diagnosis.  Chiropractors, unlike the other two, are trained to take and read x-rays and special imaging.  The others, along with the GPs, are not trained to read or take x-rays.  They read the reports from the radiologist.  Chiropractors will use the radiologist report for reference, but can also read the x-rays themselves. 

Physiotherapists are trained with an emphasis on soft tissue manipulation, massage and exercise-based management. They are not trained, as part of their basic physiotherapy education in manipulation, mobilisation or other joint mobility techniques.  However, they can take post graduate courses in manipulation.

Physiotherapists do not diagnose specific ailments or illnesses (this is usually because their patients have been referred to them by a GP, Chiropractor or Osteopath who has pre-diagnosed the problem). As an example, if you have pain, numbness and tingling in your arm or leg, the Chiropractor, Osteopath, or specialist can perform a variety of diagnostic tests, order x-rays, ultrasound, and/or MRI imaging to correctly diagnose whether your condition is due to degenerating joints in the spine, a disc injury (bulge, protrusion, prolapse, or sequestration), a muscle impingement syndrome, a tumour in the lung, or other pathology that can cause these symptoms.  If the problem is a non-surgical problem, and is not a result of a serious pathology, then the problem can be addressed by the Chiropractor, Osteopath, or Physiotherapist.  

Physiotherapy treatment is generally more region-specific. If you were having physiotherapy treatment on your knee, for example, a physiotherapist would mostly work in the area around the knee joint, as well as giving you some specific exercises to do at home to aid muscle recovery.

Alternatively, the osteopath or chiropractor will approach your body, as a whole. They would of course provide treatment to the painful area in the knee, but would also realise that hip, pelvis, low back and foot will influence the functional movement of the knee, and give you advice on how to improve your gait and posture to reduce the strain on your knee.  This wholistic approach treats the underlying cause as well as the symptoms.

So, at Pure Healthcare, we have the full range of complementary and alternative practitioners to help you to heal your joint / muscle / nerve problem.  We often have you start with the chiropractor or osteopath to assess your health history, conduct a physical examination and render a working diagnosis.  This will determine the course of treatment recommended.  You may then be referred to our acupuncturist first, as the scientific studies tell us that acupuncture is an excellent treatment for pain management.  We can have you see our chiropractic doctor for a biomechanical assessment of the potential underlying problems that may be creating the problem, or complicating your healing.  So, if good medical and physiotherapy care has not worked, we can often find the true cause and then treat the cause as well as the symptom.  You may then see the osteopath for soft tissue release, myofascial therapy, and a progressive rehabilitation programme that is designed specifically to meet your needs, based on your age, gender, fitness level, and desired outcome.  The therapy should make you better, not worse – so we take it gently and slowly to get it right, and to make it last.

If this all makes sense, here are your next steps:

  1. Call Pure Healthcare on 09 414-2225 and make an appointment as a new patient.
  2. If you are unsure of which practitioner to see, book with the clinic director, Dr. Cherye Roche.  She is a doctor of Chiropractic, and will see you for an initial consultation to determine the best practitioner and course of treatment that will get you back in action soon.
  3. Engage with the team at Pure Healthcare with the confidence that we will help you to solve your health problem quickly and effectively.  Our job is to get you out of our clinic, and back to your active lifestyle.
  4. Visit our website www.PureHealthcare.co.nz



About the Author

Cherye Roche