This is a question I have been asked so many times over my career. My answer has undoubtedly changed over the years since I qualified (last century)! As a Physiotherapist training in the 90’s, I went to University and completed a degree in Physiotherapy. Armed with my degree and the confidence of youth, I went straight into the NHS.

It soon became evident that despite this confidence and our shiny name badges, we were in fact, still very much at the start of the learning process.  My stint in the NHS allowed me the time to gain the experience, further learning, and mentoring that came with the post of Junior Physiotherapist. There was a clearly delineated chain of command and expertise (in the main); regular problem patient sessions, patient handling sessions, in service training and lots of reassurance from more experienced colleagues.

All of this support proved invaluable to me and I’m not quite sure how people cope without this safety cushion? It’s one of the reasons that even though I now work in private practice, I have enjoyed mentoring a number of recently graduated Physiotherapists. looking to try and gain the training, experience and reassurance, that seems so hard to gain now.

I therefore have nothing but admiration for Physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths, who are often not afforded such a helping hand. In fact, having worked closely with many, it is not as simple as saying one profession is better at this and another better at that. It’s more nuanced.

So what is the difference?

So to return to the original question, what exactly is the difference? Whilst it makes it no easier for the prospective patient, my most recent answer is to say simply:

“It’s complicated. I know just as many good Osteopaths and Chiropractors as I do Physiotherapists. What you should do is look for a well qualified, experienced practitioner. They should be registered with all the necessary professional bodies (HCPC for Physiotherapists) and preferably have some post graduate qualifications too. This can often show an on going commitment to their continuing professional development. If you can find all of that in a person local to you, with good local reviews, that’s a bonus”!


The most recent attempt I’ve seen, trying to explain the difference between the 3 professions is here. It hit the news in the last month in this article in ABC news:


All our Physiotherapists are highly qualified, experienced with a variety of post graduate specialisations. If you or anyone you know would like to have a physiotherapy assessment with the team at Dorking , Leatherhead or Crawley , contact us here.

Blog post written by Sam Bowden, Head2Toe Physiotherapist and Director at Head2Toe DorkingLeatherhead, & Crawley Clinics.