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  • Dr. Hook

Chiropractor VS. Physical Therapist

Updated: May 30, 2021

What's The Difference Between A Chiropractor & Physical Therapist

When dealing with chronic pains and muscle aches, it is important to seek professional help to help you correct and treat your condition. But with so many options available, many people find it hard to decide which type of health care professional to see. Some of the most recommended treatments for neck pains, whiplash, migraines, sports injuries, or chronic back pains are chiropractic and physical therapy. To the average person, a physical therapist and a chiropractor may seem the same. While there is definitely some crossover between the two professions, they are quite different, and each of them offers unique advantages. So, really, what's the difference between a chiropractor and a physical therapist? Here's a closer look at the main differences to help you decide which is right for you.

Chiropractor versus Physical Therapist By definition, chiropractors or doctors of chiropractic (DCs) are health professionals who offer complementary therapy that emphasizes on hands-on manipulation of the spine to correct spinal misalignments (subluxations) so that the nerve system can align perfectly with the rest of the body. This helps alleviate pain and treat the musculoskeletal system, including your bones, muscles, cartilage, joints, and tendons. On the other hand, physical therapists (PT) are health care professionals who offer cost-effective rehabilitative treatment options that improve mobility and relieve pain through prescribed exercises, handson care, and patient education. Patients of all ages are placed through a recovery plan that helps them get back their ability to move and perform functional activities after an injury, surgery, or a disease. With that out of the way, what's the difference between a chiropractor and a physical therapist? Well, these two therapies differ in the following areas:

  • Treatment Approaches and techniques

  • Disorders and Diseases treated

  • Types of patients treated

Treatment Approach Chiropractors view the body as a holistic, interconnected system that can heal itself. In chiropractic, the body is believed to undergo immense pressure and stress that can lead to muscular and spinal misalignments. These subluxations can exert pressure on the nervous system, resulting in chronic pain. After assessments, DCs will use a non-invasive, hands-on approach to align the spine's vertebrae, allowing the nervous system, and the musculoskeletal body to be in sync. This way, the body will recover from various disorders such as:

  • Neck, back, and low back pain 

  • Sciatica pain

  • Sports injuries

  • Whiplash and other car accident injuries

  • Repetitive motion injuries

  • Chronic headaches

  • Arthritis

On the other hand, physical therapists diagnose physical abnormalities and movement dysfunctions in patients of all ages and devise personalized rehabilitation plans to help them get back their strength, balance, and mobility. Physical therapists help patients improve the quality of their life in the following ways:

  • Rehabilitation plans to increase mobility in aging adults

  • Aid in surgery recovery

  • Improve mobility after sports injuries

  • Help in disease recovery after a stroke or multiple sclerosis

  • Improve mobility on people with physical disabilities

  • Alleviate lower back pains

Education Chiropractors must complete a doctor of chiropractic bachelor's degree that runs for 4 to 5 years, then go to a chiropractic school for five years and attend a 1-year residency program. This makes up for about ten years in school. On the other hand, to become a physical therapist, one has to finish a 4-year undergraduate program and earn a bachelor's degree. After completion, one has to apply to a physical therapy program that runs for three years and complete a 30 weeks internship program. The total time in school is seven years. Medical Licensing and Certification Chiropractors have to pass the National Board Exam (NDCE) to become a licensed professional. On the other hand, physical therapists should sit for the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) for licensing and certification. Clinical expertise Physical therapists are experts in the restoration of all human movement-related processes, while chiropractors are experts in spinal adjustment and manipulation to treat pain in their patients. Should I See a Chiropractor or Physical Therapist? If you're having problems related to your musculoskeletal system, the above information will help you decide whether to see a chiropractor or a physical therapist. While these health care professionals use slightly different approaches, they serve the same goal: getting you back to your feet and improving the quality of your life. It, therefore, really depends on the type of treatment you're looking for. Be sure to talk with a primary care physician in order to get a diagnosis. Learn more here Learn how Chiropractic Care Can Improve Your Quality Of Life

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