article contributed by: David Wells, Osteopath & Kinesiologist

What’s the difference? They all sound like they do the same thing! Confused? We asked our friend David Wells, an Osteopath & Kinesiologist, to explain to us in simple English. No more confusion after this!

Sooner or later these words are going to come up. Most of the time
it’s because you’ve gotten injured, or recovering from a surgery or your
body is generally out of sorts physically. Sometimes painkillers and rest aren’t going to cut it.

The two main distinctions in approach are either:

  1. Clinical; the perspective of Western Medicine. This relies on technology to identify the cause of pain or dysfunction, and takes a pharmaceutical approach to address symptoms. This approach is often considered to be a ‘sticking plaster’, dealing with symptoms rather than underlying causes. It may be better for those who are not so interested to understand their health complaint, nor committed to changing the reason behind them.
  2. Non-Clinical; which takes a more natural perspective based in functional medicine. Whilst practitioners in this field have medical training, the perspective is significantly different. Focus is on restoring a normal balance of body chemistry (physiology) thus allowing the reasons for aches and pains to go away naturally. Healthy bodies don’t hurt. Pain is a sign that something is wrong.

Clinical disciplines

  1. Orthopaedic surgeons are specialist clinical doctors who deal with bone and joint issues. Their work most commonly addresses severe injuries, such as fractures or dislocations, and degenerative conditions such as osteo or rheumatoid arthritis. Clinical diagnostic methods include X-ray, MRI scan and blood tests. Treatment protocol is based on pharmaceutical intervention and/or surgery.
  2. Physiotherapy is another clinical discipline which addresses aches and pains in soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons). It is usually quite symptomatic in approach, focusing on easing muscle tension thereby helping to restore a better physical balance and proper function. Techniques include soft tissue massage, ultrasound and stretching/strengthening exercises.
  3. A Massage Therapist uses manual technique to relieve tightness or stiffness in overworked muscles. No matter which form of massage is used, the intention is to mobilize congested blood cells and waste products in the soft tissues, helping to restore a good blood supply, allowing proper repair,  thereby returning a more normal function. In normal function there is no pain.  Massage, like stretching, offers only temporary relief unless the underlying cause of stiffness is addressed. Tightness in one particular muscle while running, for example, is most likely due to poor running technique, bad shoes or underlying mechanical disturbances. Thus it may be eased through massage, but will likely reoccur. It is important to understand that during hard exercise, muscles break down at the microscopic level. Whilst this is normal, repair needs time to take place. In this respect, a hard ‘no-pain-no-gain’ massage may well be counter-productive. In addition, if you get pain in the same place repeated, it is telling you something else needs addressing.

Non-clinical disciplines

  1. Chiropractic, was originally an off-shoot of Osteopathy, and works on the principle that misaligned vertebrae influence the musculo-skeletal system, through peripheral nerve irritations, leading to poor bio-mechanics, producing aches and pains. By manually correcting those misalignments, normal function is restored to both the musculo-skeletal system and to internal organs, improving general health. The techniques used are focused primarily on the spine in the form of characteristic ‘clicks’ associated with this discipline. X-ray is sometimes used to aid diagnosis.
  2. Osteopathy was developed as a complete system of health, originally to combat infectious disease. The principle is that ‘structure governs function’ and vice-versa. Aches, pains and health complaints are all indications that normal body function is compromised somewhere. Through highly focused manual treatments, problem areas are restored to normal.  If you are keen to really learn the underlying reason for your pains and ill-health, Osteopathy is likely the best non-clinical approach. In addition, manual adjustments tend to be softer than Chiropractic.

Note, both Osteopaths and Chiropractors undergo intensive training to achieve their medical degrees, including both natural and clinical medicine. As such their knowledge of anatomy and physiology is often far in excess of a normal GP.

Each of the practitioners mentioned above have their own specialized certifications. Charges vary.

Osteopathy and Chiropractic tend to produce faster, longer lasting results for simple musculo-skeletal aches and pains than pharmaceutical intervention. There are however no miracle cures. Pain is a sign that something is wrong. Pharmaceuticals tend to mask problems, whilst manual treatments attempt to look for the cause. Once the cause is found however, if you expect pains to go away, you must change something. None of the practitioners above can stop your knee strain if you continue to run with poor technique or bad footwear. The same is true for every sport.

In addition to the disciplines mentioned above, another very useful process for sportsmen and general health is a comprehensive diagnostic process known as Applied Kinesiology, which can identify the right and wrong foods for your body and highlight nutritional deficiencies. For sportsmen participating in a typical Asian climate, this is a crucial factor in optimum performance.

Article contributed by:
David Wells BSc. (Hons) Ost., cert. ICAK (UK)
Osteopath & Applied Kinesiologist

David has practiced in Singapore for 15 years and now shares his time here and in Portugal. He is the only ICAK qualified practitioner in Singapore dealing primarily with health issues which have not responded to the more common approaches. As a 20 year qualified Osteopath, he is experienced with all muscolo-skeletal complaints. He too is an active sportsman and has treated Olympians and F1 drivers in the past.

Contact us for an appointment with him.


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