When it comes to manual therapy, many may have heard of physical therapy and chiropractic care. While both involve managing pain and stiffness in the body, the two practices are in reality, quite different.
It is important to understand these differences so that you can choose the correct one when addressing your musculoskeletal health concerns. Keep reading to learn more about physical therapy and chiropractic care, and their key differences.
What is physical therapy?
Physical therapy – also known as physiotherapy – is a form of health care which aims to improve your body’s flexibility and ability to move, remove musculoskeletal pains, and boost your overall quality of life.
It is practised by a physiotherapist, who may use the following techniques to address your health concerns:
- Pain, flexibility, movement and posture evaluation
- Exercise and stretch recommendations to help strengthen your body
- Hands-on manipulation to help your body increase mobility
- Heat or ice therapy to help reduce musculoskeletal pains
- Wellness plan to improve your general health and wellbeing.
What is chiropractic care?
Chiropractic care is another form of manual therapy which uses a hands-on approach to ease pain and inflammation in the body, by manipulating certain parts of it (usually the spine). It is practised by a licensed and qualified chiropractor, and may address a wide range of health conditions experienced by individuals of all ages. Chiropractic care focuses on the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.
When receiving chiropractic care, you may experience the following:
- An evaluation of your musculoskeletal systems using a physical exam
- Spinal adjustments which aim to manipulate areas of the spine to reduce pain and inflammation
- Be recommended home exercises or lifestyle changes to address pain and inflammation.
How are physical therapy and chiropractic care similar?
Before we delve into their differences, let’s first learn about their similarities. Physical therapy and chiropractic care share the following characteristics:
- Both help to manage pain and discomfort in the body by using non-invasive and non-surgical techniques
- Both may apply hands-on therapy
- Both may treat the same musculoskeletal health conditions
- Both may recommend wellness plans for patients beyond their initial manual therapy treatment
- Both may use a patient’s medical history and lifestyle habits to diagnose their health conditions
- Both are performed by licensed health practitioners who are professionally trained and educated
What are the key differences between physical therapy and chiropractic care?
Although physical therapy and chiropractic care have several similarities as mentioned above, they do also have some key differences. Physical therapy is more focused on how the body moves and its holistic function, while chiropractic care focuses on addressing problems involving the musculoskeletal system or nervous system.
A physiotherapist will work with you to practice exercises and stretches (both in person and from home) that they recommend for your body, while a chiropractor will mainly provide you with adjustments.
Before seeing a physiotherapist or a chiropractor, it is important that you weigh up your options, understand your health conditions and seek professional advice. Speaking with your local general practitioner may help.