Chiropractic vs. Physical Therapist: What’s Right for Me?
Do I need a Chiropractor or Physical Therapist?
When managing and treating chronic pain or injury, it’s important to seek professional treatment to help you heal your condition and prevent further damage. But with so many different treatment options and approaches, it can be difficult to know which type of professional to see.
If you’re suffering from chronic back, shoulder or neck pain, you may choose to pursue therapy to help correct spine, nerve and muscle issues. Two types of therapy can help you address chronic pain: chiropractic care and physiotherapy.
These treatment approaches have important similarities and differences to be aware of before choosing a therapy route. Here we’ll review the purposes of each treatment approach and the unique benefits each offers to help you choose between chiropractic care or physiotherapy for your chronic pain.
What Is Chiropractic Care?
Chiropractic care is a form of complementary therapy that treats the musculoskeletal system—your bones, cartilage, joints, muscles and tendons. The musculoskeletal system is what allows you to have mobility and protects your internal organs.
When an injury, illness or deformity affects any part of this essential system, a chiropractor can manipulate your body with their hands to provide pain relief and improve mobility. Chiropractors make targeted adjustments and realignments to your spine and joints, and many perform deep tissue work as well to target muscles and tendons.
For the most part, chiropractic care doesn’t claim to be a replacement for conventional medical treatment. Rather, it’s a form of therapy that works in cooperation with other medical professionals to improve the patient’s overall health.
What Is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy, also called physical therapy, is a broad term to describe any kind of therapy that encourages the body to rehabilitate strength and mobility. By contrast, chiropractic care is more specific, while physiotherapy can have more applications. Many physiotherapists can perform some of the work that chiropractors do, such as spinal manipulation and muscle release techniques.
But what does physiotherapy do exactly and how is it administered? When an injury or illness has impacted a patient’s mobility, balance or strength, a physical therapist works to restore their health gradually over time through different treatment techniques. Physical therapists may use techniques like joint manipulation, muscle stretching and various exercises, depending on the unique patient.
Physiotherapists can work in conjunction with other medical professionals to diagnose conditions and to put together a comprehensive treatment plan for a patient’s physical rehabilitation.
Chiropractic or Physiotherapy Treatment Approaches
Both chiropractic and physiotherapy are considered complementary treatments in that they are non-invasive and don’t require pharmaceutical or surgical intervention—they work alongside these treatments.
Though similar, the two therapies differ in:
- Treatment methods and techniques
- Diseases and conditions treated
- Types of patients treated
Chiropractic Treatment Approach
In chiropractic care, professionals view the body as having an inherent interconnectedness as well as an ability to heal itself. Therefore, chiropractors use a non-invasive but hands-on approach to heal their patients.
Chiropractors assess each patient’s body individually and find spinal and muscular misalignments that may be causing pressure within the central nervous system, leading to chronic pain.
If you’ve got a back or neck injury, you may be wondering what does a chiropractor treat and whether it can help your condition. Chiropractors can treat several musculoskeletal, such as:
- Sciatica pain
- Neck, back and low back pain
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Sports injuries
- Whiplash and other car accident injuries
- Chronic headaches
Chiropractors can also use their knowledge to further specialize in areas like pediatrics, orthopedics, sports medicine and even nutrition.
Physiotherapy Treatment Approach
In physiotherapy, professionals diagnose physical abnormalities in patients and help them restore strength, improve balance and gain greater mobility and range of motion. Physiotherapists can also identify health risks in their patients and work with them to improve overall fitness and wellbeing.
Physiotherapists put together a personalized plan for each patient based on their underlying condition. Physiotherapists will focus on the long-term rehabilitation of their patient to restore health and prevent future injuries.
Patients can see a physiotherapist for several reasons, including:
- Increasing mobility in aging adults
- Sports injuries
- Surgery recovery
- Disease recovery such as from multiple sclerosis or stroke
Like chiropractors, physiotherapists may choose to also narrow their practice by specializing in sports medicine, occupational therapy, geriatrics and more.
Benefits of Chiropractic vs. Physiotherapy
Chiropractic care and physiotherapy both offer benefits for people looking to heal and prevent back pain or injury. Many of their benefits overlap, which can make it difficult to choose between the two.
By looking at each therapy’s unique approach to treatment and the advantages each one offers, you can better decide whether chiropractic or physiotherapy is right for you.
Benefits of Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care is specialized, with practitioners providing relief for a variety of conditions. Chiropractors can offer the following benefits for people suffering from a range of musculoskeletal problems:
Personalized Treatment: In chiropractic care, the philosophy is that every body is different and therefore, requires tailored treatments. Chiropractors assess each patient and determine how best to adjust their bodies to provide relief. Patients may even find that they will receive unique treatments from one visit to the next.
Non-Invasive and Safe: If you’ve never undergone chiropractic care before, you may be wondering is chiropractic safe? Because chiropractic care is non-invasive, it means there’s a lower risk of complications compared to invasive treatments like spinal surgeries. Additionally, multiple studies have found that chiropractic care rarely creates any long-term side effects and that the potential benefits for healing low back and neck pain outweigh any risks.
Immediate Restorative Health: Many patients who see chiropractors report feeling immediate or near-immediate relief from their chronic pain. Undergoing spinal adjustments can help to alleviate pressure from nerves and muscles, which reduces the pain. Chiropractic adjustments can also have an immediate impact on mobility, coordination and function.
Benefits of Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy focuses on long-term support and restoration of your overall health and mobility. By seeing a physiotherapist for your back or neck injury, you can obtain the following health benefits:
Rehabilitation and Recovery: For patients who have suffered an injury or illness, physiotherapy can be a great, personalized way to rehabilitate your body and recover faster. Physiotherapists will work with you over time to ensure you’ve recovered properly.
Injury Prevention: Because physiotherapy focuses on strengthening and rehabilitating the body, the result is that the patient becomes stronger, increasing the ability to prevent future injury. Physiotherapists will identify issues and patterns in their patients and develop a care plan to avoid long-term problems.
Reduced Need for Surgery and Medication: Many physicians today will refer their patients to physiotherapists before administering conventional medical treatment. Getting the opinion of a physiotherapist can help the entire healthcare team make better-informed decisions about the patient’s needs, possibly reducing the need for more invasive treatments or pharmaceuticals.
Choosing Between Chiropractic or Physiotherapy
If you’ve suffered a recent injury or you’re looking to relieve chronic pain, it’s important to consider all your therapy options to help you increase your quality of life. Chiropractic care and physiotherapy are only two of several complementary therapies available to help you restore your health and prevent future injuries.
Additionally, you may find that incorporating both therapies into your personal wellness plan can benefit you. Or you may feel that one therapy is a better choice for you over the other. The decision is personal and much of it comes down to your current level of health and the underlying condition.
Achieving a Neutral Posture
Regardless of which treatment direction you choose, it’s essential to get in the habit of maintaining good posture. Neutral posture is a state of relaxed spinal alignment that eliminates or reduces pressure on your spine. Maintaining a neutral posture can help prevent spinal problems and muscle and joint pain, minimizing the need for ongoing therapy.
A neutral posture, combined with building physical strength and regular stretching is a necessary formula for preventing chronic pain. Support products from Relax The Back can help you achieve a neutral spine throughout the day, whether at home, work or on the go. Browse our selection of ergonomic support products today and help relieve back and neck pain.