Are you wondering whether you should see a chiropractor, a physiotherapist, or both? Let’s put an end to your doubts and relieve the pain!
Both physiotherapy (also known as physical therapy) and chiropractic care are disciplines that treat and manage pain and stiffness in the body, primarily in the muscles. We (both) treat pain, immobility and strength deficits in the muscles and joints.
Chiropractors may address the entire body, but they focus primarily on the spine (this includes the neck, mid/upper back and low back). Physical therapy treats dysfunctions throughout the entire body (spine and extremities)
What does a Physical Therapist (Physiotherapist) do?
A physical therapist/physiotherapist, or PT, helps you perform exercises and stretches while focusing on the body’s mobility and functionality. Additionally, PTs perform manual treatments and other modalities aimed at alleviating pain, restoring joint range of motion and neuromuscular re-education (restoring nerve pathways that impact sensation, movement, balance and coordination).
A physical therapy session with a physiotherapist may include:
- Interview process to aid in the PT gaining an understanding of the patient’s health conditions and needs.
- Instruction in exercises to develop a home program that aids in recovery
- A focus on the mindset of patients and their motivation to achieve goals.
- Postural education to prevent further injuries and improve functional performance
- Manual therapy or additional modalities as needed to reduce pain, swelling, inflammation and discomfort
- X-rays may be requested if needed.
Physical therapy may include:
- Hot/cold therapy to reduce pain, swelling or inflammation
- Exercises and stretches to strengthen the body and increase flexibility
- Use of additional modalities such as electrical stimulation, laser therapies, ultrasound, traction, ect. to reduce pain and improve overall function.
Are there different kinds of PT?
A physiotherapist can specialize in several different areas of care. Some of those include: sports, orthopedics, neuro, pediatrics, geriatrics, etc. or more disease-specific areas like MS, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, lymphedema, temporomandibular joint (TMJ), etc.
What does a Chiropractor do?
A chiropractor focuses on diagnosing and treating health conditions related to the spine, (including mobility, functionality), neurological tissues, and the nervous system.
Chiropractors, similar to PTs are focused on treating musculoskeletal disorders, such as:
- Neck, back, and lower back pain
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Sports injuries
- Whiplash and automobile injuries
- Arthritis and sciatica pain
- Chronic headaches
Your first chiropractic session may include:
- General analysis of your medical health and injury history.
- Hands-on manipulation techniques focused on the spine.
- X-ray of the spine if needed.
Chiropractic treatment may include:
- General diet and nutrition advice.
- Use of manual techniques. Slight pressure on the spine, muscle stretching, and movement of injured joints.
- Spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation is the therapy in which the chiropractor applies slight force on the muscles, bones, and ribs around the spine.
Similarities between Physiotherapy and Chiropractic Care
There are many points where physical therapy and chiropractic care can complement each other. Both professionals (PT and chiropractor) have the same goal in mind but take on different approaches.
- Both focus on improving your posture and mobility.
- Both may help in reducing pain.
- Both professionals earn postgraduate clinical doctorate degrees after years of studies and practice.
- Both evaluate the symptoms of patients while gathering a thorough history and understanding of the client’s symptoms
- Both may improve the life quality of their patients.
Main Differences: Physiotherapy and Chiropractic Care
|PHYSICAL THERAPY (PHYSIOTHERAPY)||CHIROPRACTIC CARE|
|Pain-free movement, restoration of strength and mobility are key goals.||Ideal posture and alignment of the vertebral column are primary goals.|
|Physiotherapy deals with a wide variety of movement disorders including the spine and all extremities||Chiropractic care mainly deals with issues related to pain and dysfunction in the neck and back, but may also address other joints of the body|
|A physiotherapist helps you optimally perform exercises including specific stretches.||Chiropractors perform different manipulation techniques to provide pain relief.|
|A physiotherapist uses several techniques and tools during therapy.||Chiropractic care requires modern specialized equipment to perform adjustments and manipulations.|
|A physical therapy session is typically 45-60 minutes.||Chiropractic sessions may take up to one hour or more.|
Which Therapy is better for you?
Chiropractic care therapy could be beneficial to you if you are suffering from:
- Severe back pain.
- Unbearable neck pain.
- Accumulation of joint fluid and joint pain (like your knees, hips, elbow)
- Headaches or migraines.
Physical Therapy can be beneficial to you if you suffer from:
- Sports/other injury.
- General muscle pain.
- Joint fluid accumulation.
- Post-surgery rehabilitation.
Or you can have physical therapy if you want to:
- Improve your posture.
- Improve mobility.
- Relieve the symptoms of a specific health condition.
The most important question is, “Where is the pain coming from?” Joint pain is typically described as deep, achy and present with weight-bearing activities. Whereas muscle pain is often more superficial (like you can touch it) and can be sharp and radiating. Pain that is exclusively in the muscles will be less intense during passive movement activities.
Both PTs and chiropractors work with clients who experience nerve pain. Nerve pain is typically described as sharp, radiating, burning, and may be accompanied by numbness or tingling.
Clients should approach care from both professionals with an eagerness to learn and understand. Ask lots of questions, follow through on your home exercise program (HEP), get explanations for all treatments received, be mindful to follow recommendations carefully as to avoid further injury.