Welfare. Physiotherapist or osteopath? Both wish you well

The professions of massage therapist and osteopath seem close and are sometimes confused. While there are some similarities between the two approaches, major nuances exist between these professionals and their practices.

A different status

First difference: the masseur-physiotherapist is a health professional. Like doctors or midwives, he is registered with an order, his actions are governed by the Public Health Code and can be reimbursed by Medicare when he intervenes on medical prescription.

Conversely, osteopathy is not a health profession but falls within the framework so-called unconventional care practices, in the same way as hypnosis, mesotherapy or chiropractic. It is therefore not covered by Medicare, but more and more complementary health insurance offers reimbursement for one or more sessions per year.

Physio: “prevent, maintain, restore”

At the end of his 5 years of studies concluded by a State diploma (1 year of selection and 4 years of preparation for the diploma), the physiotherapist will have learned a certain number of techniques which he will mobilize “with the aim of preventing the alteration of functional capacities, of contributing to their maintenance and, when they are altered, of restoring or compensating for them”describes the Ministry of Health.

More concretely, the masseur-physiotherapist intervenes on the loss of mobility or flexibility of the joints or certain areas of the body, after an accident or an operation for example, but also to relieve pain or correct bad postures. For this, he uses manual techniques (massages, stretching) or instrumental techniques (medicine ballultrasound, water, heat, cold, etc.).

Osteo: “global approach”

The osteopath holds a diploma prepared in 5 years within an establishment approved by the Ministry of Health. It is there that he acquires the bases of his discipline “Patient-centered, which emphasizes the relationship between the structures and functions of the body, stimulates the body’s natural ability to heal itself and promotes a whole person approach to all matters relating to health and well-being. development of good health, mainly through manual treatment”according to a common definition of European representatives of the discipline, adopted in 2015.

Clearly, the osteopath considers the body as a whole and acts on its mobility via gentle manual techniques or manipulations in order to trigger its self-healing mechanisms. However, it should be noted that scientific work differs as to its real effectiveness.

Who to consult?

If you have sudden sciatica or suffer from chronic low back pain, start by consulting… your doctor, who can prescribe medication to relieve the pain. He will then direct you, if he deems it necessary, to a physiotherapist. You will then benefit from several sessions, reimbursed by Medicare.

But you can also, on your own initiative, make an appointment with an osteopath: some studies suggest that osteopathy could be effective against back pain.

If you are tempted by both approaches, you can also not choose: some massage therapists complete their training in order to obtain the title of osteopath and combine the two disciplines.

Sources: Health insurance, Ministry of Health, legifrance.fr, French union of osteopaths, BMJ – September 2022

Welfare. Physiotherapist or osteopath? Both wish you well