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Is a Chiropractor or Orthopedist the Best Choice for You?

Last Updated: October 6th, 2023 at 02:46 pm
Read Time: 7 Minutes

Whether you've suffered an auto accident or have been prone to sports injuries, attempting to discover the source of your pain is a task in itself. When it comes time to locate a specialist who can help alleviate the issue, you might find yourself wading through countless possible medical offices in your area. With an array of medical news and information at your fingertips, it can be overwhelming trying to pinpoint a specialist for a full-body adjustment.

The orthopedic vs chiropractic debate might come down to your personal preferences. However, it's essential you understand the differences in approach between an orthopedist and a chiropractor before making a decision. After all, your musculoskeletal system is essential to your quality of life - shouldn't you entrust its care to someone who will prioritize non-invasive practices that promote long-term healing? Yes, there are certain situations where there is an objectively correct choice, but there are many others where you will benefit from speaking directly to a chiropractor or orthopedist for consultations in order to form your own opinion.

When it comes to deciding whether to visit a chiropractor or orthopedist for your pain, there are several factors to consider. Both types of specialists are highly educated and trained in treating issues with muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. However, their approaches to treatment differ greatly.

A significant question you may ask yourself is, should I visit a chiropractor or an orthopedist? To make that decision, consider the following orthopedist vs chiropractor factors.

Shared Qualities of Chiropractors and Orthopedists

Chiropractors and orthopedists, also known as orthopedic surgeons, are both highly educated professionals who specialize in musculoskeletal system issues.

Differences in Approach Between Chiropractors and Orthopedists

The most significant difference between orthopedists and chiropractors is their approach to treatment. Orthopedic surgeons typically rely on medications and surgical interventions to treat their patients' conditions. On the other hand, chiropractors take a more natural approach, using manipulation of the spine and joints to realign the musculoskeletal system.

Chiropractors believe that many issues with the musculoskeletal system result from misalignments in the spine. They believe that these alignments can cause pain and other health problems when they occur in the neck, back, and pelvic regions. Chiropractors use a variety of techniques to restore proper alignment and improve the patient's health.

Orthopedists typically do not believe that misalignments in the spine are the sole cause of musculoskeletal issues. They typically rely on medications and surgery to treat their patients' conditions.

When it comes to deciding whether to visit a chiropractor or orthopedist for your pain, there are several factors to consider. Both types of specialists are highly educated and trained in treating issues with muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons. However, their approaches to treatment differ greatly.

In layman's terms, both chiropractors and orthopedists are trained to alleviate the pain in muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones with greatly different approaches, and you may find that one or the other suit your preferences better. One would typically visit either a chiropractor or orthopedist if they were experiencing:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Pinched nerves
  • Joint problems
  • Scoliosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Injuries from car accidents and whiplash
  • Issues with spinal discs

Both may recommend treatment such as physical therapy to aid in the healing of such ailments. However, the typical approach to these issues differs vastly among chiropractors and orthopedists.

Differences in Educational Requirements

In order to practice, orthopedic surgeons must complete a four-year undergraduate degree, followed by four years of medical school. They must then complete a five-year residency in orthopedic surgery.

Chiropractors must also complete a rigorous educational journey. After completing a three or four-year undergraduate degree, they must attend a four-year chiropractic college. In order to attain their Doctor of Chiropractic degree, they must complete an internship and pass national board exams.

Upon completion of their education and training, both orthopedists and chiropractors are required to obtain a state license in order to practice.

The most significant difference between orthopedists and chiropractors is that orthopedic surgeons are medical doctors, while chiropractors are not. As a result of this distinction, orthopedists are able to prescribe medication and perform surgery, while chiropractors cannot. This is one of the most significant differences between a back doctor and a chiropractor.

The Orthopedic Approach

Though orthopedists treat similar areas of the body as chiropractors, their approach could not be more different. Visiting an orthopedic surgeon often means the patient could be prescribed potentially addictive painkillers, given injections into inflamed areas, or as their name suggests, offered surgery to correct the underlying issue.

Whereas chiropractors and orthopedists will both recommend physical therapy to a patient experiencing pain, an orthopedist will move forward with surgery if the pain does not lessen. Though this might seem like a quick fix to an ailment that could've been sidelining you for years, orthopedic surgery has a plethora of lasting side effects.

To strengthen or repair bones and strained ligaments and muscles, orthopedic surgeons often utilize non-biologic implants. Non-biologic implants are composed of materials that are not intended to change or shift over time, such as mixed metals or plastic.

Following surgery, it can take the body four to twelve weeks to repair and recover - time you may not have if you've already been sidelined due to chronic pain. Likewise, the non-biologic implant put in place to aid in the strengthening of the musculoskeletal system may eventually lead to limited mobility in the area in which the implant was placed.

The Chiropractic Approach

Conversely, a chiropractor will never prescribe drugs or perform surgery on a patient. Chiropractors emphasize the importance of spinal health. When the spine is misaligned, it will negatively affect the nervous system: Hence, leading to an array of health problems, such as joint problems, back and neck pain, and scoliosis previously discussed.

However, instead of opting for an invasive procedure that could potentially set back your healing even further, a chiropractor recommends alternative medicinal practices such as adjustments and acupuncture to treat ailments at their source.

Likewise, attention to the spine can also alleviate further health issues not addressed by orthopedic surgeons, such as chronic migraines, allergies, asthma, and general tightness and stiffness experienced in the body.

Orthopedic vs. Chiropractor Services: The Bottom Line

When experiencing pain, you want to ensure the specialist you're visiting follows a plan of action that is not only effective but that you feel comfortable with. For broken bones and torn muscles, visit an orthopedist to repair the immediate damage surgically. If you feel as though you would benefit from a non-invasive and more natural treatment, contact a chiropractor to find which methods would have optimal results for you.

Though orthopedists and chiropractors both offer physical therapy as a treatment, their philosophies on how to alleviate pain differ greatly. Orthopedists often prescribe surgery as the first resort, while chiropractors focus on spinal health and adjustments to improve the overall function of the body. When making the decision between which specialist to see for your chronic pain, it is important to weigh all the pros and cons of both approaches. In some cases, orthopedic surgery may be the best option, while in others, chiropractic care could provide more long-term relief.

Get the Specific Answers That You Need: Contact ChiroCare of Florida Now

At ChiroCare of Florida, we want to ensure that you are making the best decisions for your health. If you're still unsure about which specialist to visit for your chronic pain, our team is more than happy to provide you with more information and advice. Contact us today and let us help you get started on the path to relief. During an initial consultation, we will be able to discuss the specific issues you are experiencing and provide you with advice based on your unique circumstances.

ChiroCare of Florida is proud to staff chiropractors Aetna and other insurance companies will cover! We are waiting to get you off the sidelines and back into action again. We understand that your specific needs will not be addressed in the considerations mentioned above, which is why we offer a free consultation in order to discuss your condition, needs, treatment goals, medical and care history, and more.

If pain has sidelined you, call 877-216-6206 to book your free consultation today.


About the Author:
Dr. Steven Schwartz
Raised in Coral Springs, Florida, Dr. Steven Schwartz is a major advocate for the South Florida community. CEO of ChiroCare of Florida, Dr. Schwartz has grown the group from one facility to 11. Whether he’s treating patients or volunteering for community service, Dr. Schwartz’s long-term goal is to ensure that each and every patient can experience the ChiroCare of Florida difference.
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