What is The Difference Between Physical Therapy and Chiropractic?

by | Aug 30, 2017

I recently came across an article by a chiropractor who stated that he practices ‘chiropractic physiotherapy’ and ‘rehab’. Now, the rules about who can call themselves a physical therapist/physiotherapist vary state-to-state, but he does have a point: there is a good deal of overlap between both the conditions that physical therapists and chiropractors treat and the techniques they use to treat their patients.

For instance, both treat patients with back pain and other types of musculoskeletal pain. Both might employ manual therapy techniques to reduce pain, such as trigger points, Graston, or ART. So what is the difference, and why should you choose one over the other?

The article I mentioned earlier provided a list of the treatments that this chiropractor describes as ‘physiotherapy’. I could not help but notice one crucial treatment that was not included in his list – because it is my favorite treatment technique for addressing the root cause of my clients’ injuries and pain! So what is it?

Every treatment on the list was passive – meaning it is something the chiropractor does to you. These treatments don’t really require anything of you other than to show up for your appointment (and pay the bill!) While they can be effective at relieving pain, none of them are more than a temporary band-aid treatment; they are incapable of addressing the root cause of the issue. For some types of pain and injury, this might be all that is needed – the body is well on the way to healing itself, and all you need is a little pain relief in the meantime. Some of this relief may even be using the placebo effect. But many of my clients have been struggling for months or even years with lingering injuries that just won’t go away, or pain that is stemming from an underlying issue in their biomechanics. Until the root cause of the issue it identified and corrected, the pain will not go away, and you will continue needing those passive therapy techniques forever! A great example of identifying the root cause and treating using therapeutic exercise is seen in the video review below. I believe that my clients want and deserve full healing, not just temporary relief.

My goal with every client is to seek to identify and resolve the underlying factors, including the biomechanics, that led to their pain and/or injury. Because of this, my favorite treatment technique to use with my clients is therapeutic exercise. By working with my clients to help get better strength and control in their muscles, we can resolve the cause of the injury in the first place. PLUS – the best-kept secret about therapeutic exercise is that it can actually be an effective pain relief technique in and of itself!! How awesome is that? By teaching my clients appropriate exercises for their condition, I can help them manage their pain AND strengthen their body so that it can heal and overcome injury! Plus, this is pain management that doesn’t require drugs, needles, gadgets, or additional expense. They don’t even need to come into my office multiple times each week; just enough for me to check on their progress and adjust their exercises as they become stronger. Another added bonus is that in some cases it can be the start of more general exercise that they had not been doing before and can have a huge impact on their general health (See past blog for more discussion on this!)

I believe in this type of treatment because I have seen it work for so many of my clients. From the marathoner who hasn’t been able to run more than 10 miles in years due to knee pain, to the MMA fighter who was told he was facing shoulder surgery (he didn’t, by the way; PT has him back stronger than ever!), to the swimmer whose shoulder never quite recovered after rotator cuff surgery years ago – therapeutic exercise was the missing piece to helping them get back to doing what they love.

I use and recommend manual therapy and other passive treatments as tools to relieve pain and allow my client to begin to move, heal, and strengthen the affected area. But I never want my clients to become dependent on visits to my clinic, or even passive treatments done at home. I want you, and all my clients, to become healthy and strong so that those nagging injuries and pain are banished once and for all, setting you free to pursue your lifestyle and fitness goals!

So, which type of treatment would you prefer? 😉

If you are struggling with pain that is holding you back from the activities you enjoy, give me a call to schedule a FREE screening exam. I would love to discuss the issue with you and explore whether physical therapy might be the answer you are looking for.

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