Chiropractor vs. Physical Therapist: What's the Difference?

4 min read

If you're unsure what the difference between a chiropractor and a physical therapist is, don't worry, you're not alone! While they both help people move and feel better after an injury, the treatment methods are different. There can also be situations where both types of healthcare professionals can benefit your health. A lot of times the combination of both approaches can help ensure that you get the healing you need. 

Let’s look at how chiropractors and physical therapists are similar and how they’re different.

How Chiropractors and Physical Therapists are Similar 

Here are several things chiropractors and physical therapists have in common: 

  • Both professions treat some of the same conditions such as back pain, knee pain, neck pain and help patients recover from car accidents or sports injuries.
  • They both use manual techniques to treat patients, and they may both use exercise and patient education to prevent further injury. 
  • They are both highly trained in their areas of expertise. A chiropractor holds a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) and a physical therapist typically has a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree. Both must pass a state licensure exam and have a license to practice in their state.
  • Both are likely to give you special stretches or exercises to do at home to complement your treatments in the office.
  • You're likely to need more than one appointment to help relieve pain.
  • Your health insurance is likely to cover both types of appointments. You will need to ask your insurance carrier about specific coverage for either type of care. There can be limits in place per injury or per year that you should be aware of in advance. 

Differences Between the Two Professions

Chiropractors and physical therapists work with patients to improve their quality of life, but the two professions have some key differences. 

Their areas of focus on the body are a bit different.

  • Chiropractors focus mostly on the alignment of your spine and other bones as well as your joints. They can also help with muscular, tendon, and ligament pain that can be caused by overuse, a car or sports accident, or other conditions. 
  • Physical therapists focus on helping patients restore movement so that your whole body functions better. 

Both professions use various techniques to help patients depending on the problem including manual manipulation, although only a chiropractor performs spinal adjustments

You typically need a physician referral to see a physical therapist while a chiropractor can review your health concerns and perform the treatments in their office, often in the same visit.

Chiropractors are available for preventive measures to help your body stay in alignment. In most cases, physical therapy is only available if there is a specific diagnosis or injury.

How to Decide if You Need a Chiropractor or a Physical Therapist

If you are seeing an orthopedic physician for an injury or pain, they are likely to refer you to a physical therapist for follow up assistance. If you haven’t yet seen someone such as an orthopedist for your pain, a chiropractor may be able to provide you with relief quickly and without a referral.

In some cases you could use both. If your doctor recommends physical therapy, you can start there and then move to a regular chiropractic visit after the physical therapy sessions are complete. This is a good way to keep your body in alignment and feeling good. This helps with preventing future pain and even potentially reducing the likelihood of further injury.

What to Expect From a Chiropractor

A chiropractor is a health care professional specializing in diagnosing and treating neuromuscular disorders, emphasizing treatment through manual adjustment and/or manipulation of the spine. A typical chiropractic session may include an initial consultation followed by a physical examination, diagnosis, and treatment.

Chiropractic assessments generally include a spinal range of motion, neural tension tests, strength, and spinal misalignment. Treatments may include:

While chiropractors offer a variety of treatments, spinal and joint manipulation are the most common treatments as they correct any misalignment in the spine. 

Chiropractic Care at Village Chiropractic

At Village Chiropractic, we provide research-proven chiropractic care treatments that get results. Our experienced chiropractors and therapists will work with you to create a custom treatment plan that fits your needs. If we feel that your care would benefit from the addition of physical therapy, we will let you know. 

Request an appointment online at our office in The Woodlands, TX for a consultation. We’ll discuss your medical history, the pain you’re experiencing and possible solutions to get you back to feeling your best.

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