Osteopaths are masters of palpation, using their hands to detect sites of tension, weakness or strain. They look at the body as a whole, rather than just the injured site. The aim is to redress imbalances anywhere to alleviate symptoms. Sessions are likely to include passive joint movements, neuromuscular techniques and high-speed adjustments.
Best for: Chronic injuries and postural imbalances
Traditionally, a physio would focus on the affected area, but some now take a more holistic approach to injury. Treatment is more exercise-based and less hands-on than osteopathy. Taping, ultrasound, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), laser treatment or acupuncture may be used alongside stretching, soft-tissue massage or manipulation within the session.
Best for: Acute and overuse injuries
While osteos and physios are trained to deal with all musculoskeletal problems, a sports therapist specialises in sport and exercise injuries, with a strong focus on sports first aid. A treatment plan is likely to include massage and taping, along with remedial exercises and, if necessary, specialist referral. However, the profession is unregulated.
Best for: Immediate attention of acute injuries, rehab plans
Chiropractic treatment is aimed at treating problems with the bones, muscles and joints, with a focus on the spine. It’s mostly used for back pain and chronic problems. Chiropractors use high-speed ‘adjustments’ to help restore movement to joints, sometimes resulting in a ‘crack’ or ‘pop.’ X-ray is often used to assist diagnosis.
Best for: Management and treatment of back pain and related neural conditions such as sciatica
Sports massage therapist
These therapists are not qualified to diagnose injuries, but the techniques they learn (not just massage but other forms of soft-tissue manipulation, such as assisted stretching) can aid recovery and assist healing. Regular treatments also allow a practitioner to spot the warning signs of injury before you become aware of them. Unregulated, so qualifications vary.
Best for: Prevention and recovery