In a Nutshell: A Comparison Between Osteopathy and Physiotherapy in Singapore

How does the study of osteopathy compare to physiotherapy in Singapore? There are likely more similarities between the two professions than differences. Osteopathy and physiotherapy are both manual therapies that treat musculoskeletal pain. Physiotherapists and osteopaths receive extensive training in anatomy, physiology, and pathology.

Origins and Philosophy of the Two Practices.

If you read the definitions of physiotherapy and osteopathy, you will notice that they are strikingly similar to each other. Even though physiotherapy and osteopathy in Singapore have very different beginnings and philosophies that guide their practices.

Osteopaths and physiotherapists treat many similar conditions; however, their approaches to treatment and reasons for performing a particular treatment technique may differ. Physiotherapy assists individuals with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through movement training and exercise, manual therapy, education, and counselling. They maintain the health of people of all ages, assisting patients with pain management and disease prevention. An osteopath in Singapore focuses on the body’s structure and function. It’s rooted in the principle that a person’s health depends on the harmonious functioning of their skeleton, muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues. Osteopaths utilise manual manipulation, stretching, and massage techniques.

Osteopathy is a non-invasive manual therapy focused on enhancing the health of all body systems. Osteopaths use many hands-on Osteopathic techniques to achieve and promote good health and treat and manage your injury and symptoms holistically. Osteopaths and physiotherapists employ manual therapy and exercise prescription in their treatments. However, to differentiate them, osteopaths focus more on manual therapy than physiotherapists, who use more exercise prescriptions in managing and treating their patients.


Andrew Taylor Still, an American physician, developed osteopathy in the nineteenth century. Dr Andrew believed in treating many diseases through manipulation of the musculoskeletal system, sparing patients the side effects of drugs, thus linking to the osteopathic principle that the body has self-healing mechanisms, promoting the body’s natural healing abilities. The term “Osteopathy” is from the Greek words “osteon” for bone and “pathos” for pain. Osteopathy practice in Singapore reaffirms the theory that disease and physiological dysfunction can manifest in the musculoskeletal system.


Per Henrik Ling, the “Father of Swedish Gymnastics,” established the Royal Central Institute of Gymnastics in 1813 and advocated using massage, manipulation, and exercise. The National Board of Health and Welfare of Sweden granted physiotherapists official registration in 1887. Afterwards, other nations followed the practice, and physiotherapy began to expand in New Zealand and the United States.

In the late 1950s, physiotherapy practice expanded from hospitals to outpatient orthopaedic clinics, universities, rehabilitation centres, medical centres, and geriatric settings. Hence it has grown tenfold and has influenced physiotherapy hospital and clinic practice in Singapore.

Philosophy of the Two Practices.

Osteopaths adhere to the philosophy that “the body is a whole”: all of its systems interconnect, and the body has a self-healing mechanism. On the other hand, physiotherapy is more aligned with conventional Western medicine. Rather than focusing on the entire body, the focus remains on the damaged area and treatment is tailored to that area.

Training and Education.

Osteopathy and physiotherapy in Singapore are both undergraduate university degrees. Physiotherapists receive four years of a college education. Physiotherapists may work in various settings, including hospitals and private practice clinics. Hospital-based physiotherapists may assist patients with spinal injuries, stroke, postoperative complications, and cardiac issues, to name a few.

Osteopathy requires a four-and-a-half to a five-year undergraduate degree. Osteopaths frequently work in private practice clinics, but osteopaths may also be in other professional settings. These may include facilities for elderly care, sports clubs, medical clinics, health clinics, and research.

Assessment Process.

During your initial consultation, an osteopath and physiotherapy expert in Singapore will take a comprehensive case history, which asks about your current symptoms or injury, medical history, medications, and any other factors related to your health and wellbeing that may be related to your concerns. It enables your practitioner to obtain a complete picture of what may be causing your symptoms and other factors influencing them, thereby initiating the process of developing a treatment plan tailored to you and your condition. The clinician will then conduct a physical examination of your presenting complaint.

Your physiotherapy examination in Singapore may include a variety of tests, including active and passive ranges of motion, strength testing, orthopaedic testing, neurological testing, movement testing, and postural assessments.

Osteopaths take a holistic approach to treatment. To get a better picture of your health, they may look at areas of your body that are not directly related to your symptoms. In the case of lower back pain, an osteopath may examine and treat the lower back and the pelvis, hips, knee and ankle, as dysfunction in these areas may relate to your complaint.

A physiotherapy clinic in Singapore may conduct a comprehensive evaluation and assess areas specific to your presenting complaint and areas that may be contributing to your concerns.


Osteopathy vs Physiotherapy – Which Should You Choose?

Osteopaths and physiotherapists treat many similar conditions; however, their approaches to treatment and reasons for performing a particular treatment technique may differ. There are more similarities than differences when comparing physiotherapy and osteopathy. Both professions possess the knowledge and experience necessary to diagnose, treat, and manage many musculoskeletal conditions and presentations. The choice between seeing an osteopath or a physiotherapist ultimately comes to personal preference and the approach that may work best for the patient.

Despite their philosophical and therapeutic differences, both osteopathy and physiotherapy in Singapore aim to alleviate pain and improve the body’s function. Additionally, it is essential to remember that no two practitioners will administer the same treatment. It is worthwhile to conduct research and experiment with various practitioners to find the one who best meets your needs and preferences.

Both careers are complementary to one another. Osteopaths provide specialised pain relief treatments, while physiotherapists provide excellent rehabilitation after injury or surgery. If you are suffering from an injury or chronic pain, it is recommended that you see both concurrently or at different stages of your rehabilitation. Hopefully, between the two, you will soon be pain-free and living your life to the fullest.

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