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Chiropractor Vs. Osteopath Vs. Orthopedic Doctor – Who Should I See?
There are many medical fields that deal with body pain, and many patients often ask whether they should see a chiropractor, osteopath, or orthopedic surgeon. Although these professions seem related to each other, they are actually different health practices, each with their own specialties.
Chiropractors, osteopaths, and orthopedists specialize in different things, so the best healthcare provider for you will greatly depend on your condition or injury. Before making a decision, it is important to understand what chiropractors, osteopaths and orthopedists do and what differentiates them from each other so that you can easily choose the right healthcare professional.
Chiropractors are people who treat conditions related to the musculoskeletal system. They are also called DCs or Doctors of Chiropractic. DCs treat pain and discomfort related to bones, muscles, ligaments, joints and nerves. Most of them treat painful conditions near the spine. However, they also specialize in musculoskeletal pain in the various extremities of the body.
The profession is well established in the United States and is the third largest healthcare professional field after medicine and dentistry.
What do chiropractors do? The chiropractic approach is non-pharmacological in nature. Professionals use their hands or various instruments to manipulate the joints, muscles, ligaments and other affected areas. Most treatment plans involve multiple manipulation sessions.
Besides manual adjustment and manipulation, they can also provide advice to their patients. Chiropractors do not prescribe medications, but can usually recommend nutritional supplements or give suggestions on exercise and positive eating habits.
Chiropractor training. To practice the profession, a person needs a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree. To achieve this, it takes 4 years of higher education after obtaining an associate degree. They will also need at least 500 hours of hands-on experience and training for handling and adjustments.
An osteopath or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) is a medical professional who focuses on the body’s ability to heal itself. Osteopaths advocate a “whole person” approach to care. They believe that physical problems and abnormalities affect the whole body. To help facilitate the body’s healing process, they use hand and hand therapy.
What do osteopaths do? Like chiropractors, osteopaths also follow a natural approach to healing. They use a technique called Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment or OMT. This technique allows them to use their hands to diagnose and treat injuries and painful conditions of joints, ligaments and muscles.
DOs typically use gentle forms of manipulation such as stretching and applying gentle pressure to affected areas. What makes the practice different from chiropractic is the fact that osteopaths can write prescriptions and perform surgeries.
Osteopath training. Obtaining a DO degree also requires 4 years of higher education after completing a 4-year undergraduate degree. The degree requires students to complete at least one year of internship and hospital rotations. They can practice, prescribe medications, and perform surgeries anywhere in the United States.
Orthopedists are surgeons who specialize in the musculoskeletal system. Although they are surgeons by nature, they do not necessarily resort to surgery every time. They also employ non-surgical means to treat muscle, trauma and injury, degenerative diseases, tumors, infections, and congenital disorders of the musculoskeletal system. The labels orthopedist and orthopedic surgeon are often used interchangeably and mean the same thing.
What do orthopedists do?Orthopedic surgeons diagnose and treat various musculoskeletal problems. They diagnose conditions through physical exams, X-rays, and other lab tests. The majority of conditions are usually treated with non-surgical procedures like physical therapy, exercises, or even pain management methods. In severe cases of painful conditions, orthopedists perform surgical treatments like joint replacement, soft tissue repair, and arthroscopy.
In cases that do not require surgery, orthopedists may refer patients to physical therapists or osteopaths for therapy or manipulation. Since orthopedic surgeons are doctors by profession, they can write prescriptions for their patients.
Orthopedic training. Orthopedic surgeons are required to complete a four-year undergraduate degree and four years of medical school. Medical school graduates must then undergo five-year residency training to specialize in surgery. The five-year training includes one year for general surgery and four years for orthopedic surgery.
Who should I see?
Finding the right healthcare provider can be confusing for new patients. Who you choose to see will greatly depend on your condition and the type of approach you prefer. An osteopath is a good choice if you want holistic treatment. If you have acute back pain or pain caused by injury or trauma, a visit to a chiropractor may be a good idea. An orthopedic surgeon, on the other hand, may be recommended for extreme cases of pain or those caused by other underlying physical conditions.
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