Chiropractor vs. Physio – What’s Best For You?

Are you currently suffering from an injury that has caused a broken bone or severe headaches? How about chronic illnesses such as arthritis, hypertension, or Parkinson’s?

If so, you may have been recommended physiotherapy or chiropractic care to treat your pain. These two treatments have a reputation for drastically improving the lives of people with minor and severe body pain.

However, you’ll need to know exactly what makes physiotherapy different from working with a chiropractor. While they may sound similar, there are key differences that will drastically change your experience.

Read on to learn more about chiropractor vs. physio and learn which one is right for you.

What is Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy is designed to accomplish two things:

  • Treat current injuries or problems that you may have by improving physical movement and function by treating injuries and illnesses.
    Prevent any future injuries by making your body stronger. Physiotherapists want to make sure that you are more robust due to therapy and that your body can endure more injuries and illnesses that may come with aging.
  • Physiotherapy has been practiced since the 1800s; however, it did not begin to become popular until the early 20th century. Physiotherapy was primarily used as a method of combating polio disease. Doctors would move different body parts in specific ways to help them recover and build back strength and health, especially in joints and limbs.

This method and the steps involved are still commonly used to help rebuild muscle and improve the musculoskeletal system through movement, exercise, and massages, rather than medication and surgery. Today, it is most well-known as “physical therapy.”

When Should You See a Physiotherapist?

Below are many common ailments that physiotherapists treat. You should seek the help of a physiotherapist if you have any of the following:

  • Fractures or breaks in your feet, ankles, shoulders, or hips
  • Aches and pain throughout your body
  • Knee injuries
  • Lymphedema
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Limited range of motion
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Osteoporosis
  • Vertigo
  • Headaches
  • Respiratory issues

Physiotherapist Techniques

Physiotherapists will employ various techniques and methods to help their patients. Your treatment will vary based on what your problem or injury is. Some treatments include:

  • Manual therapy: Your therapist will massage and manipulate different joints and muscles.
  • Exercise: Your therapist will guide you through activities focused on specific parts of your body
  • Hot and cold: Your therapist will use ice and heat to affect your muscles
  • Ultrasound: This is to target connective tissue
  • Traction: This is to help decompress and relax your spine
  • Electrical Stimulation: This contracts muscles to restore their movement and function
  • Laser Treatment: This uses light wavelengths to ease your muscle inflammation and pain

What is a Chiropractor?

A chiropractor has a similar job to a physiotherapist. However, they specifically focus on the neuromusculoskeletal system to relieve neck and back pain. While chiropractors sometimes focus on other body parts, their main focus is the neck and back.

Chiropractic treatment has been conducted since the late 1800s and is currently one of the most popular forms of treatment for neck and back pain. This method allows the body to heal itself instead of going on drugs. Because of this, chiropractors will often assign specific diets and exercises to patients.

When Should You See a Chiropractor?

Below are some of the following issues that chiropractors commonly treat. You may wish to call a chiropractor if you experience any of the following:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Some forms of arthritis

Chiropractic Techniques

Your chiropractor is trained in over 150 different methods of manipulating your bones and adjusting them. Chiropractors also use a variety of instruments to help them adjust their back and neck. Some standard adjustments are:

  • The Diversified Technique: The chiropractor will use hands-on thrusts to change particular parts of the spine
  • The Gonstead adjustment: The chiropractor manipulates the lower back and pelvis to restore disk alignment
  • The Activator Method: The chiropractor uses a small, handheld, spring-activated device to hit specific points along the spine to adjust the nervous system
  • Spinal Decompression: You will be seated in a special chair that will slowly stretch out your spine, allowing a healthy flow of oxygen, water, and other fluids around the disks and spine

The Difference Between a Physiotherapist and a Chiropractor

Though physiotherapists and chiropractors are very similar, they have many noticeable differences. Many of the differences of a chiropractor vs. physio rest in how and what they treat.

For example, physiotherapists treat pain throughout your body but focus specifically on joints and muscles. They also do not rely on adjustments. Most of their methods are based on specific exercises and massages. Physiotherapists also look to make the body stronger by growing and strengthening muscles.
On the other hand, chiropractors will put their primary focus on the patient’s back, neck, and head. However, many believe that if those parts of the body are working correctly, then many other parts will as well. Their treatment also uses adjustments and manipulates specific points along the spine to heal the patient.

Which Practice Should You Visit?

When debating seeing a chiropractor vs. physiotherapist, one thing is for certain: both practitioners will be effective in managing your pain. It’s a matter of choosing the specialist that’s best suited for your problem areas.
If you are experiencing joint and muscle pains, then a physiotherapist is the better choice for you. However, if you are experiencing severe headaches or back and neck pain, then seeing a chiropractor vs. a physiotherapist is the best choice.

Ben Humphris - Founder of Results Based Physiotherapy,Bachelor of Physiotherapy (BPT), Educator & Mentor

Ben Humphris - Founder of Results Based Physiotherapy,Bachelor of Physiotherapy (BPT), Educator & Mentor

Ben is the founder and Head Physiotherapist at Results Based Physiotherapy. He uses a wide range of manual therapy techniques to facilitate the healing process, and reduce pain with his clients because he understands that training and doing rehabilitation while in pain is not the solution to recovering well.

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The information contained in this article is general in nature and you should consult a health professional before  proceeding with any treatments mentioned in the above article.

Supporting literature and scientific studies can be found on the References page.

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Supporting literature and scientific studies can be found on the References page.