What Is The Difference Between Sports Therapy, Physiotherapy, Osteopathy and Chiropratic Professions?

Posted on 2nd May 2021

I have been graduated for nearly 12 years now and one of the difficulties I have experienced within this period is trying to explain and help people understand what the difference between Sports Therapy/Rehabilitation, physiotherapy, Osteopathy and Chiropractic is.

The first thing is to say there is a lot of crossover between these professions as they are all musculoskeletal or MSK.

What is MSK? Well put simply it is the muscle, joint and nervous system, so whether you have a muscle strain or pull, ligament damage, bad back or neck to have the experience of nerve pain like pins and needles or sciatica in the leg - this is what we ALL treat.

The biggest issue is is there a superior profession? No there isn’t. Some people will claim theirs is. However that is personalities more than the professions as we have worked with people in these professions and never experienced this.

Recently I had the unfortunate experience of being accused by the health and care professions council (HCPC) of promoting myself as a Physio/Physiotherapist, which was false as there had been some oversights due to the perils of technology and misunderstanding by others. This was quite a stressful time and without going into detail I thought the handling by the HCPC was quite frankly aggressive and threatening from the outset, before understanding the facts. This is why generally physios and other MSK professionals I have encountered have been great.

There is always going to be differences between professionals, in the case of MSK this is both inter and intra professional. There is a desire from the inter professional collaboration more and more. Sports Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation is still the little brother in the group due to the younger age of the professions. The skills we have are tailored to all things MSK from injury treatment early to late stage recovery, focusing on the return to play and activity utilising skills from both anatomy and physiology to sports science and general health. This comes from the depth learnt in university and continued professional development.

The reason for this point is some other professions develop differently and work in NHS settings, work in a variety of other health areas such as respiratory or with limited MSK knowledge, others then go to develop their MSK knowledge and have good experience with this.

Ultimately, the point I want to make is this, choose a professional with experience, time and knowledge in this area. They are caring and willing to work with you (In and out of the clinic) focusing on the whole, from anatomy, psychology, collaboration, developmental and supportive aspects . MSK is more than a title, knowing where muscles are or a person with lots of letters after their name. It is in its essence a vocational in its inception as there is rarely a quick fix, or the ability to put you back in place which makes the aforementioned qualities important. Choose those and you will be on the right line.

Thanks for reading, and feedback or questions please do not hesitate to ask