Chiropractor and Osteopath FAQs

Please see below for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we get at the clinic about seeing a chiropractor or osteopath and treatment here. For more information on opening hours, treatments, prices, and how to get to our clinics, visit the Fees and Contact Us pages.

What is a chiropractor?

Chiropractors are specialists in diagnosing and providing effective treatments for musculoskeletal conditions (problems with the joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves of the body).

Chiropractors undergo a 4 year university training degree to become doctors of their profession. In addition, the profession is regulated by law by The General Chiropractic Council.

Chiropractic means ‘to do by hand’ reflecting the historical origins of the profession as experts in manual therapy, and this continues to define our approach to health care as a drug free profession that focuses on restoring function and freedom of movement. Today, chiropractic training combines a manual approach with a medical model of interpretation and understanding, and globally it has grown into the third largest health care profession.

What is an osteopath?

Osteopathy is based on the principle that the wellbeing of an individual depends on their bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue functioning smoothly together. As such, osteopaths are specialists in diagnosing, treating, managing and preventing musculoskeletal conditions (problems with the joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves of the body).

In order to become a practitioner, osteopaths must undertake a 4 year university training degree course which covers anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, nutrition and biomechanics, plus at least 1,000 hours of clinical training. Once qualified osteopaths are legally required to register with, and are regulated by, the General Osteopathic Council, who work to set, maintain and develop standards of osteopathic practice and conduct.

Once a diagnosis has been reached, osteopaths utilise a range of safe and effective techniques such as physical manipulation, cranial therapy, stretching and massage to increase the mobility of joints, relieve muscle tension and pain, enhance the blood supply to tissues and help the body to heal. For more information on what to expect when you visit an osteopath at the Bristol Back Pain Clinic, click here.

Why might I go to a chiropractor or osteopath?

Most people book an appointment with a chiropractor or osteopath as they are in pain and want to be pain free again. Some people feel out of sorts and are looking for realignment and help with posture. Others may come in just to stay in tip top health or for help in achieving physical goals.

Do chiropractors and osteopaths just treat backs?

Chiropractors and osteopaths are famous for fixing backs, however they are trained to diagnose and treat all types of musculoskeletal conditions (problems with the joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves of the body). For more information, click here.

Do I need a GP referral?

No - you can simply call us to make an appointment. Chiropractors and osteopaths are primary health care professionals meaning we are trained to be able to diagnose and order further tests and imaging (eg. Xrays and MRI scans) if necessary.

What is a visit like?

On your first visit you will get the chance to explain your symptoms and concerns. Our job is to find out the cause of the problem and to provide you with a diagnosis. We do this by taking a case history, evaluating posture and examining the function of the nerves, muscles and joints with a series of tests. If necessary we will send you for an X-ray or MRI scan. The subsequent diagnosis will be explained to you and your treatment options will be discussed. A treatment is available on your first visit.

Chiropractors undergo a 4 year university training degree to become doctors of their profession. In addition, the profession is regulated by law by The General Chiropractic Council.

Chiropractic means ‘to do by hand’ reflecting the historical origins of the profession as experts in manual therapy, and this continues to define our approach to health care as a drug free profession that focuses on restoring function and freedom of movement. Today, chiropractic training combines a manual approach with a medical model of interpretation and understanding, and globally it has grown into the third largest health care profession.

How many treatment sessions will I need?

GP guidelines suggest 9 sessions over a period of up to 12 weeks*. On average we see people for 6 sessions to resolve a particular complaint, but always work closely with our patients to create a treatment solution that suits your individual needs and circumstances.

*NICE guidelines 2010 for lower back pain.

What is a chiropractic or osteopathic adjustment?

A chiropractic or osteopathic adjustment or manipulation is the profession’s most well-known technique – it is a highly skilled procedure that involves identifying a spinal lever or joint that has become fixed or restricted and freeing it with a short impulse or manipulation that often results in an audible pop as pressure is released. It is an effective treatment designed to improve the function of your spine and relieve interference to the related nerves. It is not painful and often provides instant relief.

Will it hurt?

Treatments are not painful but it is quite normal for a small minority of patients to feel a little sore for a short time after the first treatment session. Most of these go on to experience relief but if you have any concerns following treatment, do not hesitate to call us on 0117 9723 518.

Is it safe?

Chiropractors and osteopaths use a number of different treatment techniques, from adjustments and manipulation to acupuncture, all of which are considered safe and effective when it comes to pain relief. Chiropractic and osteopathic treatments have far fewer risks than many other treatments, such as drugs or surgery. However, we understand you may be unsure about receiving treatment so will only ever use techniques that you are 100% comfortable with, and are happy to discuss any concerns you may have regarding treatment in advance.

Do I have to have my neck or back cracked?

No. Although manipulation of spinal joints - which can produce an audible 'pop' or 'crack' - can be a very useful tool in your recovery, if you are unsure or do not want manipulation or any other type of procedure, we will simply use other treatments like mobilisations, stretches or dry needling instead. Please feel free to discuss any concerns you have with your practitioner at any time.

What makes the cracking noise?

Manipulation of spinal joints, otherwise known as adjusting, can sometimes produce an audible 'pop' or 'crack'. This is the sound of pressure changing – or bubble of gas releasing - in a joint as it moves. This is because there are lubricating fluids found between the surfaces of the spinal joints. When these surfaces move apart very quickly, as with some adjusting techniques, a bubble can form due to a change of pressure; like how bubbles form when you open a bottle of champagne. It can sound particularly loud when your neck is adjusted because the sound is transmitted directly through bone to your inner ear.

Is chiropractic or osteopathic treatment suitable during pregnancy?

The body changes rapidly during pregnancy. This can place a large amount of stress on the musculoskeletal system as the joints in the body try to compensate for these rapid changes which can in turn make the joints sore and stiff, accounting for a lot of pregnancy aches and pains. Gentle adjustments by a chiropractor or osteopath can be used to help minimise back pain as your pregnancy progresses, without the need for drugs or surgery, and is safe for both the mother and baby. 

What shall I wear?

In order to assess movement and posture you may be asked to remove some outer layers of clothing if they are likely to hinder our assessment. Please note assessments are carried out in a private treatment room, where gowns are available at all times. The best clothing to wear for an initial consultation is tracksuit bottoms or leggings and a sports top.

What is the difference between a chiropractor and an osteopath?

The chiropractic and osteopathy professions are very similar in their training and approach to treatment, so it’s actually easier to list the similarities rather than the differences between chiropractors and osteopaths:

• Both undergo a 4 year university training degree in order to be able to practice their profession and both professions are regulated by law – chiropractors by the General Chiropractic Council and osteopaths by the General Osteopathic Council
• Both offer a hands on, drug free approach to pain and wellbeing
• Both specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal complaints (problems with the joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves of the body)
• Both can refer you for further diagnostic investigation if required such as X-Rays or an MRI or Ultrasound scan
• Both use a range of treatment techniques from classic mobilisations and manipulations or adjustments of stiff joints, muscles and tendons, to stretching and rehab exercises, cranial therapy and acupuncture for tension and pain

In fact the only real difference is the terminology used to describe the treatment technique both professions are most well known for: in layman’s terms, cracking or clicking joints. Osteopaths call it ‘manipulation’ whereas chiropractors refer to this technique as an ‘adjustment’.


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