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Chiropractic vs Physiotherapy: What Is the Difference?

Chiropractors and physiotherapists have some differences and similarities which help you choose one.

Are you wondering whether to see a chiropractor or a physiotherapist for your pain?

Both practitioners specialize in musculoskeletal health but use different approaches to treatment. In a multidisciplinary setting like Fulcrum Therapy, chiropractors and physiotherapists collaborate to provide comprehensive care, ensuring the best possible outcomes for your recovery.

This article will help you understand the differences between chiropractic care and physiotherapy, and guide you in deciding which practitioner might be best suited for your specific needs.

What Is Chiropractic Care?

Chiropractic care focuses on diagnosing and treating neuromuscular disorders, particularly those related to the spine and nervous system. It is a hands-on therapy that involves mechanical joint adjustments and gentle mobilizations to restore proper joint biomechanics, reduce tension, and improve movement.

Read more: Chiropractic Adjustment, Benefits, Risks and the Way it’s Done

What Does a Chiropractor Do?

Chiropractors are full body musculoskeletal doctors. They have over 8 years training and are licensed with their regulatory board. Chiropractors are trained musculoskeletal doctors who diagnose and treat conditions such as:
  • Acute and chronic neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Vertigo
  • Hip pain
  • Sciatica

They also address extremity conditions like elbow, knee, ankle, and wrist issues. Treatment includes a combination of soft tissue therapy, spinal adjustments, exercise prescription, and home care advice.

What Is Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is the science and practice of body mechanics and movement, aimed at treating injuries, movement limitations, disability, stiffness, and pain. It combines manual therapy and exercise therapy to aid in healing and prevent future injuries by improving flexibility and strength.

Read more: Physiotherapy and How it Can Help Improve Your Health

What Does a Physiotherapist Do?

Physiotherapists assess injuries and recommend treatments, often working with:

  • Motor vehicle accident patients
  • Work-related injury patients
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation patients

They provide manual therapy, exercise programs, and education to help patients recover and prevent future injuries, focusing on improving movement and function.

How to Decide Between a Chiropractor and a Physiotherapist

Deciding between a chiropractor and a physiotherapist often starts with identifying your specific needs. If you’re experiencing:

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Spinal alignment issues

a chiropractor might be your first point of contact. Chiropractors specialize in spinal health and use hands-on adjustments to improve biomechanics and reduce pain.

On the other hand, if your concern revolves around:

  • Muscle strains
  • Joint injuries
  • Rehabilitation post-surgery

a physiotherapist could be more appropriate. Physiotherapists focus on restoring movement and function through exercises, manual therapy, and education.

Treatment Techniques

The choice can also depend on the treatment techniques that you prefer or that are recommended for your condition. Chiropractic care typically involves:

  • Spinal adjustments
  • Joint manipulations

These can be highly effective for certain types of pain and alignment issues, providing immediate relief and improving overall spinal function.

Physiotherapy, however, often includes a broader range of techniques such as:

  • Exercise prescription
  • Manual therapy
  • Modalities like ultrasound or electrical stimulation

Physiotherapy is especially beneficial for rehabilitation, improving strength, flexibility, and overall physical function.

Personal Preferences and Comfort

Your personal preferences and comfort with the treatment style are also crucial. Some patients prefer:

Hands-on adjustments of chiropractic care

while others might feel more comfortable with:

Exercise-based approach of physiotherapy

It’s important to consider what treatment style resonates with you and discuss any concerns with your practitioner.

Collaborative Care Approach

At Fulcrum Therapy, our chiropractors and physiotherapists work together to provide a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your needs. This collaborative approach ensures you receive the best of both worlds, combining spinal adjustments with rehabilitative exercises for optimal results.

Acute and chronic neck pain XX
Back pain XX
Headaches and vertigoX
Hip pain and sciaticaXX
Extremity conditions (elbow, knee, ankle, wrist)XX
Spinal health and alignmentX
Body mechanics and movement X
Movement limitations and stiffness X
Post-surgical rehabilitation X
Motor vehicle accident injuries X
Work-related injuries X
Manual therapy and exercise XX
Injury prevention and rehabilitationXX

Is Chiropractor a Doctor? How About a Physiotherapist?

Chiropractors are doctors of the musculoskeletal system. They have extensive and in depth training of anatomy, physiology, orthopedics as well as nutrition and rehabilitation.

Chiropractors are extremely knowledgeable in treatment of spinal related conditions and disorders and have training to appropriately diagnose and treat or refer out when appropriate.

Furthermore, neural related conditions such as sciatica, arm or leg weakness and tingling are among what chiropractors treat frequently as well.

On the other hand, physiotherapy is a 2 year masters degree and all physiotherapists have a masters degree from an accredited university in physical therapy.

Physiotherapists traditionally incorporate rehab and exercise into their treatments as we believe the right amount of movement, when combined with strength, is what allows people to heal from their injuries the fastest.

Similarities of Chiropractic and Physiotherapy

Below you can find the characteristics similar in physiotherapy and chiropractic treatments.

  • Both chiropractors and physiotherapists have training in treating injuries related to muscles and joints in the body.
  • Both can provide manual therapy through various soft tissue release techniques.
  • Both have access to use of modalities such as shockwave and ultrasound.
  • Both are knowledgeable in preventative solution and home care for injury recovery.
  • Both can provide treatment and work directly with ICBC related injuries and worksafe related injuries.

Differences Between Physiotherapy and Chiropractic

Whiplash and sprain/strain injuries Work related injuries such as sprains/strains
Body stiffness and tension Chronic fatigue and pain
Feeling “off” or out of alignment Sports related injuries and muscle soreness
Headaches and vertigo Acute sprained ankle or wrists
Sciatica and nerve pain Pelvic floor complaints or diastasis recti
Posture and ergonomic advice Progressive rehabilitation and exercises

Should You Choose a Chiropractor or a Physiotherapist?

There is a significant overlap in the services offered by chiropractors and physiotherapists, which is why at our clinic, our practitioners collaborate closely to ensure our patients receive comprehensive and effective care.

If you are experiencing pain and are uncertain about which practitioner to consult:

Trust in our integrated approach. Schedule an appointment with one of our female chiropractors or physiotherapists for a thorough assessment of your condition.

Our team is skilled in identifying the root causes of your discomfort and may recommend a multidisciplinary treatment plan involving both chiropractic and physiotherapy if it would benefit your recovery.

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