What Is The Difference Between A Physical Therapist And A Chiropractor?

difference between physical therapy and chiropractor

Both chiropractors and physical therapists treat pain and discomfort, whether or not it is related to an injury.  Chiropractors and physical therapists aim to improve the range of motion and flexibility of their patients.  Chiropractors and physical therapists may also work together to evaluate the patients’ condition, diagnose the underlying cause, and devise a care plan accordingly.

Physical therapists and chiropractors share the goal of improving a patient’s quality of life, but they differ in some ways, mainly in philosophy of treatment.  In general, physical therapy – sometimes referred to as physiotherapy – treats conditions related to nerve, muscle, and joints, whereas chiropractic treatments help with these and also claim to treat other types of conditions (diabetes, colic, etc.).  Both may utilize similar techniques such as spinal manipulation in treatment of low back pain, but the reasoning behind the cause of pain can vastly differ.  Spinal manipulation treatment is not exclusive to chiropractic care, as many other professions such as medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, and doctors of physical therapy may also utilize this technique.

Difference Between Chiropractor and Physical Therapist

Physical therapists and chiropractors often work on the same parts of the body, but the main difference between them is the difference in the reasoning behind the methods they use to treat health conditions.

Physical therapists are experts in the treatment of conditions affecting the nervous, muscular, or skeletal systems.  They perform thorough examinations and medical screenings in order to determine if any of these systems are causing your pain and many are uniquely qualified to relieve your symptoms during the initial exam.  A variety of techniques may be employed to address symptoms and underlying issues.  These may include dry needling, spinal manipulation, functional movement training, cupping, etc.  Conditions treated may include headache, neck pain, back pain, joint pain, or sciatica.

Chiropractors, according to the American Chiropractic Association, are certified to treat conditions such as neck pain, back pain, headaches, and pain in shoulder and leg joints.  These conditions are treated with the goal of improving overall body coordination with a belief in “alignment of the spine” being the cause of many issues.  The methods may include massage therapy, rehabilitative exercises, and adjustments.

A major difference between a chiropractor and a physical therapist is their formal education.  To become licensed practitioners, both professionals must earn doctoral degrees, but they earn them in different ways.  The selection of scholars accepted to physical therapy schools is very strict, varying anywhere from 10-15% of applicants, while any who wish to attend chiropractic colleges are accepted.  This is not to say getting through either program is easy.  Both are required to pass national boards to be able to practice in the United States.

Who should I choose?

It is important to seek the correct professional treatment when managing lower back pain, joint pain, and other types of chronic pain, in order to heal and avoid further damage.  In state of Kansas, you are able to seen by a doctor of physical therapy without a physician referral.  A physical therapist may not be able to take care of all of your needs, but they do have the knowledge to properly screen and refer to the proper type of health professional if needed.  In the end, both professions have a lot to offer in regards treatment of common issues such back or neck pain.


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