Physiotherapy : the physiotherapist is a specialist in rehabilitation. After an injury (fracture, surgery, CVA...) the physio will rehabilitate the patient with massages, mobilisations, ultra-sound, exercises or even teach a patient to use crunches. His approach is generally symptomatic and his recommendations are often statisticly based (eg : in chronic low back pain a series of 3 push ups, 5 sit ups and 7 pulls of the right ear lobe improve the symptom by 47% over a period of 7 weeks. Please don't try this at home, this is just an illustrative example !!!).
Why is this ? I believe that physiotherapists are the right hand of the medical field and have been formed to fit the medical way of thinking. Therefore anything they do must be proven effective and safe, even merely effective is fine as long as it is safe.
The problem is that proving something is hardwork, time consuming, money consuming, and often another study will few months later proves the opposite to be true. A study is often too specific or too global to be constructive.
This approach avoid to talk about the "Unicity" of the patient. It does mean that if two patients complain from the "same" areas or symptoms they will be given the same treatment regardless the root of the problem which is not necessarly the same. The outcome of the treatment is therefore not as effective as it could be : it does not address the root of the problem but the treatment is as safe as it can be.
Chiropractic : Here is a joke for you ... what is the difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath ? 60 000 $ a year.
Chiropractic has been developed in the US at the end of the 19th century by Dr Palmer. Chiropractors claims that the source of our problems comes from the nervous system. Therefore corrections of "subluxed" vertebrae tend to lead us towards balance and recovery. Chiropractors will use spinal manipulations, ultra-sounds, massages, TENS, or other "high-tech" equipments. Often the massage, US, TENS(...) is given by a PA (physician assistant), then here comes the Chiropractor who will manipulate the spine. The chiropractor may need to see you up to 3 times the first week then will decrease the frequency of the treatments.
Personnally I am far from convinced that a back pain necessarly comes from a "subluxed" vertebrae but if you believe that the key of your problem comes from your spine, well then go for it. If you are not getting any better then make your next stop the Osteopath ;)
Osteopathy : Any traumas, injuries, sugeries, infections you had in the past are affecting your body in some way today by creating some restrictions and series of compensations. After a while your body cannot compensate any more, you bend forward to pick up a pen and "click", a vertebrae moved a bit too much and you just suffer from an acute facet lock. Now, is it just a vertebrae or a whole pattern of compensations, interactions, fascial connections, visceral dysfunctions, nutritions(...) that is responsible for your agony ? I would like to believe that we just need to correct a vertebrae, as it would make the work a bit easier, but the human is a little bit more complicated.
Generally an Osteopath will spend between 30 and 40 min with you and only you. During that time at least 40% of the treatment is spent in diagnosis in order to understand where the problem is coming from, this allows a more accurate treatment.
Osteopaths only use their hands, as machines tend to be imprecise and often scare the patient.
Personally I will never see a patient more than once a week and rarely more than 3 times the first month. Some Osteopaths are even reluctant to do more than one treatment every other week. (for some more details about the treatment content please check the other posts !)
What ever therapist you see do no hesitate to try different ones and stick with the one you feel the most appropriate. If you do not feel any improvement after 2-3 sessions, look for another approach or opinion.