As Physiotherapists we are often asked the difference between Physiotherapy and Chiropractic so we’ve summarised a few key points to help you understand. Some people have the belief that there is an ongoing rivalry between the two professions, but it is just not true.
Physiotherapy is thought to have a broader scope of practice than chiropractic treatment does. A well trained physiotherapist should have the ability to mobilise and manipulate the spine, perform muscle release techniques, use acupuncture or needling treatments, teach core stability exercises, help work on your posture and balance or build a sport specific training program for you.
Physiotherapy is geared towards;
- Restoring mobility
- Improving independence
- Restoring functionality
- Improving psychological well being
- Returning to sport following injury
- Regaining strength from injury or surgery
Physiotherapists treat back and neck pain, sciatica, arthritis, swelling in joints, repetitive strain injury, sports injuries and cartilage, ligament and tendon injuries. Treatment is aimed at being able to help you help yourself and manage the symptoms that are affecting your body. We treat children all the way through to adults and have expertise in respiratory conditions and neurological conditions that shouldn’t be missed.
Physiotherapy practice is widely recognised by the NHS and insurance companies as a conservative treatment modality used in an attempt to avoid injection therapy or surgical interventions. Following surgery consultants within the orthopedic profession will often refer patients for a course of physiotherapy treatment to ensure they reach their healing potential.
Chiropractic treatment uses techniques of manipulation to relieve pain, realign the spine, adjust posture, and restore joint function. The practice of chiropractic is focused on the spine and treatment involves the use of the practitioners hands to adjust the joints of the spine and limbs where signs of restricted movement are found. Gentle, specific manipulation techniques (often refered to as ‘clicking’) help to restore normal body movement. Treatment aims to make you move better and more freely.
Chiropractors treat acute and chronic low back and neck pain, sciatica, neck related and tension headaches, neck related dizziness or vertigo and extremity joint conditions.
While both practices utilise manipulations, chiropractors use a style that frequently makes use of shorter and more forceful movements. In contrast a physio will use these less often, and supplement their manipulations with therapeutic exercise and/or massage.
Similarities between chiropractic and physiotherapy
While the two fields are quite different, they do still share some common ground in terms of treatment and outcome. Both use manipulations and both look to restore joint function, improve posture, and relieve pain as clinical end points. This is where the similarities more or less end however, as the two disciplines are quite different in how they are applied and why.
The Difference Between a Physiotherapist and a Chiropractor
If you’re experiencing pain from an injury, repetitive movements, or other everyday activities, you may be wondering whether you should see a physiotherapist or a chiropractor (or both). What are the advantages and specialties of each one? These are very common questions we hear. It’s important to understand that many physiotherapists and chiropractors work alongside each other, often even in the same practice, because they both have the same goal to help people feel better!
On the surface, physiotherapists and chiropractors seem very similar but there are some notable differences between these occupations. While both are trained specialists to help you move and feel better, and both offer a wide range of benefits, there are specific reasons and scenarios in which you may want to choose a physiotherapist or chiropractor.
The main difference between a physiotherapist and a chiropractor has to do with the spine. A chiropractor focuses more on the diagnosis and treatment of afflictions to the spine, including mobility and functionality, as well as neurological tissues and the nervous system. Chiropractors often treat headaches, repetitive strain issues, neck pain, leg pain and back pain using manual techniques to manipulate the spine and return it to a normal state. Often many problems with the spine affect other areas of the body and a chiropractic adjustment can help to alleviate additional conditions such as fibromyalgia.
A physiotherapist, on the other hand, focuses more on body movement patterns and functionality of specific body parts and joints such as the shoulders, hips, wrists and ankles. Physiotherapists aim to improve muscle weaknesses or imbalances which can be due to injuries, surgery, or repetitive strain. We also handle more post-surgical or post-stroke rehabilitations than chiropractors normally do. Overall, with physiotherapy there is a larger emphasis on using specific, targeted exercises for rehabilitating muscles and restoring movement.
Deciding on the Best Course of Treatment
It’s important to distinguish the similarities and differences between physiotherapists and chiropractors to help decide which treatment may be right for you.
Both specialists have these overlapping qualities:
- Use manual techniques with their hands or additional tools to relieve tension and pain
- Address many of the same problem areas including lower back pain, leg pain and other nerve, joint and muscle issues
- Promote stretching exercises to enhance and strengthen the benefits of each treatment.