Difference Between Chiropractor & Osteopath

May 29, 2020

Comparing Chiropractors to Osteopaths

The bones, muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments of the body make up the neuromusculoskeletal system, and chiropractors use manipulation and spinal adjustments as neck and back pain therapy. Osteopathic doctors also use manipulation of joints, muscles and spine, as well as more standard medical methods, for diagnosis and treatment. Below you will find a comparison of these two healthcare careers.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2019)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Chiropractor Doctoral or Professional Degree $70,340 7%
Osteopath Doctoral or Professional Degree equal or greater than $208,000 (for physicians and surgeons) 7% (for physicians and surgeons)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Chiropractors vs Osteopaths

Chiropractors and osteopaths utilize imaging tests and manipulative techniques to diagnose problems with the neuromusculoskeletal system, including the bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, and ligaments. The major difference between the two is their focus. Chiropractors mainly use spinal manipulation and adjustments of the disks to help alleviate pain or repair problems in specific areas. Osteopaths are medical doctors who use osteopathic manipulative medicine on patients to diagnose and treat the whole body. In addition, osteopaths may choose to specialize in any area of medicine, such as obstetrics, family medicine and surgery.


Chiropractors believe it is the proper adjustment of the spinal column that affects the body's overall health. To raise one's resistance to disease, chiropractors are firm in their understanding and practice that proper alignment will keep one healthy. Chiropractors use alternative forms of treatment, including spinal manipulation, as well as heat or cold applied to a patient's troubled areas. They may recommend things like shoe inserts or braces along with specific types of exercise. Some chiropractors specialize in more limited areas such as neurology, nutrition, sports or pediatrics.

Job responsibilities of a chiropractor include:

  • Identifying neuromusculoskeletal problems through x-rays
  • Reviewing medical histories and adjusting diagnoses after hearing patients' pain descriptions
  • Adjusting vertebrae to promote good health or pain treatment
  • Evaluating problems using hands-on manipulation and viewing of posture


Osteopathic therapy is a complementary medicine meant to work with traditional methods. Osteopaths use hands-on manipulation to aid in both diagnosis and treatment. These specialists believe in the health and wellness of the body as a whole, thus most of their work with the neuromusculoskeletal system is to promote health and disease prevention. As of 2017, these doctors are licensed in all states to practice the full range of medicine, and over 20% of the U.S. medical students are training to become osteopaths.

Job responsibilities of an osteopath include:

  • Interpreting various MRI images and physical examinations
  • Monitoring a patient's health improvement after hands-on manipulation treatments
  • Informing patients about health problems caused by nutrition, posture, etc.
  • Prescribing medications

Related Careers

Massage therapists use various modalities, or types of massage, to relieve pain and increase circulation, and those interested in chiropractics may want to check out this career. Podiatrists are doctors who diagnose and repair foot problems by utilizing traditional medical methods, and individuals who are thinking of pursuing osteopathic medicine may want to take a look at this profession.

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