Is Chiropractic Care The Same As Physical Therapy? 


Is Chiropractic Care The Same As Physical Therapy?

If you’re interested in learning whether physical therapy and chiropractor care are the same, this article will help you better understand these two practices of medicine. Physical therapy and chiropractic therapy are both fields of medicine focused on treating injuries that prohibit, strain, or hinder physical movement. They also require doctoral or professional degrees and licenses to practice.

Despite these similarities, they have different methods in treating musculoskeletal disorders, injuries and other various conditions.  Read on to better understand how these two practices differ and which one may be right for you!

physical therapy vs chiropractic care

What’s A Chiropractor?

Chiropractic care centers on the belief that if the bones in the spine aren’t aligned well, the nerves in the spinal cord won’t effectively send signals to areas of your body, and your health can suffer as a result of this. It is an alternative form of medicine based on therapeutic movements with limited medication. They focus on neuromuscular disorders, emphasizing treatment by manual adjustment and/or spine manipulation. To become this primary contact physician, chiropractors require at least a four-year degree and a license to practice legally.

What Chiropractors Do

Chiropractors seek to mediate pain, improve functionality, and educate their patients on improving their own health through ergonomics and exercise. Most chiropractors treat health conditions that disturb nerves, muscles and bones. People visit them for help with painful back and joint problems caused by life events. Some of the common conditions treated with chiropractic therapy are lower back and neck pain, sciatica, repetitive strains, headaches, sports injuries, trauma injuries, and arthritis pain.

PRO TIP: Explore our comprehensive range of services at Active Sport & Spine Therapy of NJ, including specialized treatments like cupping therapy. Contact us today to learn how our services can contribute to your overall well-being.

NJ physical therapy clinic

Chiropractors Perform Various Tests

During an examination, chiropractors test your spinal range of motion tests and physical strength. They will also conduct a neurological screening (neural tension and deep tendon reflexes tests) and order diagnostic imaging to create a treatment plan. 

They Use Their Hands As Well As Instruments

During treatment, chiropractors mainly use their hands or special tools to align the bones in your spine to promote overall health. This is known as manipulation. They may also use heat or ice, electrical stimulation, flexibility/posture/strength exercises, and use spinal or peripheral joint manipulations. Most treatments typically take 30 minutes. 

Adjustments Are Made Through Controlled Force To Joints

Since the nerves in the spine branch out to all areas of the body, chiropractors make adjustments through controlled force to joints in and/or around the spine to adjust your body and take off pressure on those nerves. This improves body mobility and provides a quick recovery in some cases. They also use a broad array of methods to diagnose bone and nerve issues such as diagnostic imaging as well as a hands-on examination. 

What’s Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is a corrective but mainly preventative medical treatment used to restore functional movements like standing, walking, and moving body parts due to an injury, illness, or accident. For instance, after a knee surgery, you will need physical therapy to retrain your knee back to full functionality, strength, and capability. 

Physical therapy aims to ease and help people function and gradually return back to their previous mobility capabilities. Some common reasons to seek physical therapy are to relieve pain, recover from sports injuries, prevent sports injuries, get a splint or brace, manage chronic illness like arthritis or diabetes, and learn to use assistive devices like a walker, cane, or crutches. Overall, it is all to improve movement.

PRO TIP: You can learn more on the topic in our blog post: can I see a chiropractor and physical therapist at the same time. We hope you enjoy it!

Physical Therapists Are Movement Experts

Physical therapists require a doctoral or professional degree and license to practice. They are movement experts who specialize in diagnosing based on movement and proper muscle and joint function. They might perform hands-on treatment, such as muscle and electrical stimulation therapy, but mainly give exercises to help a patient move and function better. In addition, physical therapists recognize the mental strain of having an injury and guide them through the anxieties they face through recovery. 

Getting An Examination

During an examination, they will ask questions about your injury and how it’s affecting your mobility. If you got surgery for your injury, they will ask about the procedure and the pre/post-operative course given by your surgeon. After gaining a comprehensive history of your injury, they will test your strength, range of motion, functional mobility, gait, flexibility, and balance. Then they will establish a treatment plan and goals. 

During Treatment

During treatment, physical therapists include exercises, stretches, rehab and gadgets to help stay moving or balanced (such as a cane, walker, crutches, or a brace). They will also massage and/or use heat and cold therapy, warm water therapy, and ultrasound to alleviate muscle spasms or pain. The length of treatment varies on individual progress, but sessions are typically 60-90 minutes.

chiropractor Little Falls NJ

Chiropractic and Physical Therapy – How They Differ

Both are highly trained healthcare professionals who require doctoral licenses to practice. Practitioners of chiropractic and physical therapy utilize drug-free, non-invasive treatments to treat musculoskeletal disorders and injuries. They also provide patient education and offer preventative wellness assistance to their clients to improve their mobility, strength, and range of motion. 

However, chiropractic therapy is holistic and spine focused, while physical therapy is a medical treatment and focuses on the whole body. The differences also lie in their specialization and care routines.

Additional Differences Between The Two Practices Include:

  • Chiropractors primarily focus on the alignment of joints and bones while physical therapists focus on movement and evaluating how the entire body’s functions.
  • Chiropractors may routinely order x-rays to examine anatomy that guide treatment, while physical therapists use clinical examination to decide on treatment and don’t rely on diagnostic imaging as frequently.
  • Physical therapists prescribe home exercises to perform daily to maintain rehab goals and regain functionality.
  • Chiropractors typically work in an outpatient clinical setting while physical therapists can work in hospitals, clinches, schools, and nursing homes. 
  •  Physical therapists tend to be general practitioners who treat the spine in addition to other extremities, while chiropractors tend to limit treatment to the lower back, neck, hips.
  • Though chiropractors have preventative practices through exercises, they don’t prescribe exercises to regain lost functionality but to alleviate pain.

Chiropractors & Physical Therapists Often Work Together

During serious injuries and cases, different chiropractors and physical therapists can work together with other health care professionals to guide your treatments and speed up the recovery process. For instance, if your spine is misaligned, you can have painful issues throughout your body. In addition to that, if you have poor muscle tone, damaged ligaments or make improper body movements, then the experience will be even painful. In this case, working with both practitioners (or with one who specializes in both) can create a combined care plan to align the spine and strengthen muscle and joint support to stop the pain. 

CONCLUSION: Is Chiropractic Care the same as Physical Therapy? 

With their similarities, it’s understandable that one would think chiropractic and physical therapy are the same. Both can treat issues like back pain and leg pain and other extremity discomfort. However, their differences are distinct enough for the two not to share all treatment methods. Chiropractors are primary contact physicians who specialize in manipulation and adjustments of the spine and joints to alleviate pain and pressure. Physical therapists are general practitioners that focus on how the whole body functions and moves to regain functionality and mobility after an injury or illness.

Chiropractors & Physical Therapists Are Very Different!

So, are chiropractors the same as physical therapists? No. The difference between chiropractors and physical therapists is in their modes of operation, examinations, and treatment processes. A chiropractor can fix the ache in your lower back, and a physical therapist can give you the tools to strengthen and prevent future back issues.

Active Sport & Spine Therapy Offers Both Chiropractic Care & Physical Therapy Services

Active Sport & Spine Therapy is a clinic located in Little Falls, New Jersey. Their address is 275 Paterson Ave Suite 202, Little Falls, NJ 07424, so if you are in Passaic County, please stop for a consultation. They offer both chiropractic care and physical therapy and are a leading local provider.

We hope you now better understand the difference between chiropractors and physical therapists and wish you all the best!

Active Sport & Spine Therapy