Skip to content
4 min read

What’s Right For You–Chiropractor Or Physical Therapist?

Featured Image

What’s Right For You–Chiropractor Or Physical Therapist?

Americans of all ages face chronic pain, and are frequently at a loss of how to manage it. There are so many different kinds of pain, and so many treatment options, that it’s hard to know what is the best route for your own treatment therapies and healing. Chiropractic and physical therapy typically result in the best outcomes, but again, how do you know which is best for you?

The first step in making the right decision is to really understand the difference in chiropractors and physical therapists. There are a number of similarities in the two, but there are also several differences.  Keep in mind that regardless of the treatment you opt for, both chiropractors and physical therapists are highly educated professionals and have the same goals–to provide relief from pain and to improve your overall mobility.


Anyone can make an appointment to see a chiropractor. You do not need a referral from a doctor, although you may have an easier time with insurance if you have that referral for a specified injury or illness.

reliant chiropracticIn the main, chiropractors are clear that their treatments are not a replacement for traditional medical care. For the most part, they work in conjunction with other medical professionals–orthopedists, osteopaths, and physical therapists–as a complementary therapy for the main course of treatment.

The primary indicator that a chiropractor is the best choice is if your pain is concentrated along your spine. This would include any nerve or muscle pain along the spinal column. Chiropractors focus on the musculoskeletal system–the framework of muscles, bones, joints, cartilage, and tendons that take care of your internal organs and allow you to move.

Stresses to the musculoskeletal system–from illness, injury, or physical deformity–cause spinal subluxations. Subluxation is a word that you’ll hear a lot if you go the chiropractic route. What it means medically is “a partial abnormal separation of the articular surfaces of a joint”.  In other words, the joint doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. Symptoms of subluxation are pain, tingling, numbness, or burning in the affected area.

There are several treatment options for spinal subluxation. Your chiropractor will assess the damage to your spinal area using X-rays or another imaging form, and come up with a plan based on those imaging results. They will make precisely targeted adjustments to your body with the goal of adjusting and realigning your spine and joints. Manual muscle manipulation is the primary technique to bring about pain relief, and sometimes the treatments will resemble a deep-tissue massage to targeted muscles and tendons.

A course of treatment with a chiropractor can range from one or two sessions in a week, to several treatments a week for many months. One of the downsides to chiropractic therapy is that it is rarely a permanent solution.

Physical Therapy

First, physical therapy and physiotherapy are the same thing. Before you begin a course of PT, you will need to see a doctor, generally an orthopedic surgeon, to determine the source of your pain and write a referral for PT. The referral will define the problem and how many times per week you should go for treatment–it’s basically a prescription for physical activity rather than a pill in a bottle.

Physical Therapy Is Broad In Scope

Physical therapy provides pain relief but also restores function and in some cases, can prevent disability. If you’ve ever had joint surgery, or even a bad sprain, you’re familiar with all the benefits of physical therapy. But it’s equally effective for more chronic or congenital pain or stiffness. The goal of PT is to help you reach and maintain the highest level of movement and function you need for everyday activities.

Your first PT appointment is usually an evaluation. The therapist assesses your pain levels, and range of motion, and designs a unique plan to get you back on your feet. The plan will incorporate exercises for flexibility, balance, and some instruction on posture and carriage–a lot of pain can be alleviated by simply standing up straight and moving properly. You may also have hot or cold treatments, or both, and an overall plan to get you well and keep you in good health.

Unlike chiropractic therapy, when you may feel a difference after one or two treatments, PT results take longer to feel. The upside of that is the long-term benefit of PT can be life long,

Physical therapy is the treatment of choice for lots of movement issues. While chiropractic therapy is focused on the spine, PT treats the entire body. These are some of the illnesses or injuries that result in limited movement and would typically require PT.reliant physical therapy

  • Injuries that stem from an accident, surgery, or a health condition
  • Pain related to movement
  • Desire to maintain and improve ease of movement

Many patients also seek PT as a route to get stronger overall. These would be people who have been diagnosed with these illnesses, although this list is certainly limited. Anyone who’s been diagnosed with any form of arthritis is a candidate for physical therapy–osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, in particular. Parkinson’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke and COPD patients are also sent to a PT for a course of therapy to get stronger after diagnosis or hospitalization.

PT Is On the Move

Physical therapy is not limited to offices or outpatient clinics. Whereas chiropractic treatment is limited to the practitioner’s clinic, PT is a much more portable option. You may start your PT in the hospital after a surgery or illness, and continue it in a rehabilitation facility. You can also do lots of your prescribed stretches and exercises at home–those colorful stretchy bands let you maintain your schedule without having to go to the PT several times a week.

Sometimes you’re in pain without any defining event to cause it. If that’s you, now is the time to start a course of physical therapy or chiropractic. We can help you determine the best course of action for your individual needs, so don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation and evaluation.