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What is the Difference between a Chiropractor and Physiotherapist?

If you are currently suffering with some sort of muscular or skeletal pain, it can be tricky to know the particular type of treatment you need. Specifically, you need to take the time to understand the differences between chiropractic and physiotherapy – and which is the best option for your individual needs.

In order to help you clear this up a bit, let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between chiropractors and physiotherapists.

What's a Physiotherapist?

Physiotherapists are health professionals who work in partnership with their patients to help them get better and stay well. Physiotherapists also work closely with general physicians and other health practitioners to plan and manage treatment.

While they can work with patients who require a number of different needs, most often their patients have muscular or skeletal pain.

A typical session with a physiotherapist may involve:

  • Assessing and diagnosing the patient’s condition and needs.
  • Working with the patient to set and attain goals.
  • Developing a treatment or prevention plan.
  • Prescribing exercise and physical aides if required.

Differences between a Physiotherapist and a Chiropractor

There is a lot of overlap between these two occupations. Both chiropractors and physiotherapists treat joint and musculo-skeletal problems to improve movement and strength, decrease pain, and help return you to full function.

However, the biggest difference between the two disciplines is that a chiropractor uses manipulation, while a physiotherapist will use what is known as mobilization techniques. The two can be compared in the following way:

Manipulation technique: Chiropractors use their hands to adjust the joints of your spine and limbs where signs of restricted movement are found. Gentle, specific manipulation techniques help to restore normal body movement. Treatment aims to make you move better and more freely.

Mobilization technique: A physiotherapist will treat using a range of massage techniques and electrical therapies.

Which Should You Choose?

If you are looking for a holistic approach to assess, restore, and maintain the health of your spine and the nervous system, Chiropractors are the experts. Not only do they receive a minimum of six years of full-time, specialized education on the health of the spine and nervous system, they will give you a complete picture of what is going on with your spine to help restore function so proper healing can take place.

Chiropractors believe all systems in the body are connected, and they aim to create proper movement and function within all tissues (not just individual tissues or systems). This method not only helps with current back pain, but prevents long-term damage and other health problems from arising.

On the other hand, physiotherapists are also able to help with back pain as they specialize in musculoskeletal injuries. They place more emphasis on working with individual tissues which have been injured, rather than the entire body as an interconnected system. They do not have the same amount of required education and training as chiropractors, but they still have effective pain management strategies.

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, your first priority should be to get professionally examined, so that your practitioner can work with you and advise on a treatment best for your condition. Both disciplines will also give exercises and advice to help manage injuries and medical conditions.

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