Chiropractor or Physical Therapy: What’s the Difference?

Sarah, would you go to a Chiropractor?

A question that I’ve gotten more than once.
My initial answer is usually rather vague. That is because I have never been to a chiropractor.  However, for every one person who hasn’t been to a chiropractor I’ve met someone who swears by theirs.

Both chiropractors and PTs in the outpatient setting work toward the same end. We are trying to relieve pain/ dysfunction in order for you, the patient, to live your life to the fullest potential. However the approach is different. As a rough break down, a PT’s approach is to restore function through movement. A chiropractor’s approach is to improve pain/function through manual spinal adjustment. Another big difference is the scope and the setting of where PTs and chiropractors practice, which is a result of the nature of their approach. Chiropractors primarily work in an outpatient setting. A PT can practice in outpatient, hospital, school setting, home care, military, or nursing home and may see a wider variety of pt diagnosis. Through my biased opinion, I would like to think chiropractors and PTs are totally different, however there is a definite overlap. PTs will do manual adjustments and chiropractors will prescribe exercises, and both look to improve/modify posture, ergonomics and daily (bad) habits to relieve discomfort.

Below is a quick break down of the differences between a PT and Chiropractor.

 ChiropractorPhysical Therapy
Vision StatementHigh Standards, Freedom of Choice, Optimal HealthTransforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.
General Expertise Focused on the diagnosis and treatment of neuromuscular disorders, with an emphasis on treatment through manual adjustment and/or manipulation of the spine.Expertise in human movement and restoration of all movement related dysfunctions
EducationRequire to pass a Medical Licensing Board No Residency/Internship required, but have the option to complete if accepted and desire toRequire to pass  medical Licensing Boardminimum of 30 weeks of full time internship. Residencies exist in all specialties
Practice SettingGenerally private practice. Some are employed by health systems and hospitals. Generalist practice, neurology related, orthopedic related, and general alignment restoration dealing with the skeletal system.Acute care, Inpatient/Outpatient Neurologic Rehab, General Outpatient, Orthopedic, Geriatrics, Pediatrics, Military, Sports Medicine, Women’s & Men’s Health, Wound Care, Work Rehab, Electrophysiology, etc.
SpecializationOrthopedics, Pediatrics, General Rehab, Internal Disorders, Radiology, Neurology, Nutrition, Occupational Health, Sports Med, Forensic Sciences.Orthopedics, Sports Medicine, Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Women’s Health, Neurology(SCI, TBI, MS, ALS, CP, Parkinson’s, etc), Cardiovascular & Pulmonary (COPD, CHF, etc), Clinical Electrophysiology.

Would I go to a Chiropractor?

The answer is Yes. However I still have a bias. As a PT  I have a broad scope of knowledge of how conditions can be managed. However I don’t know everything. In some/many scenarios a spinal adjustment is what is needed to relieve the issue and a chiropractor would be the first person I would go to. However, the goal should not be to go to a chiropractor or a PT indefinitely. The goal would be to receive the treatment and education/techniques to maintain your improved status. It then falls on you in order to change/improve upon the bad habits that caused your issue.

Which at the end of  the day is very empowering.

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