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Physiotherapist vs Chiropractor:
Which One is Best For You?

Are you experiencing muscular or skeletal pain? Are you getting to the point that you require support from a trained professional? That’s great - there is only one little hiccup: do you go to a physiotherapist or a chiropractor?

Although there are a lot of similarities and overlaps between the two professions, there are also many important differences, which will have a great impact on who you choose.

Before we dive into that, let’s take a look at the similarities between a physiotherapist or a chiropractor.

How are Physiotherapists and Chiropractors Similar?

Both professions have similar goals for the patients: they want to reduce painful symptoms, target the core issue causing the painful problems, and encourage activity and movement.

Here is how they do it:

  • Physiotherapists and chiropractors are licenced healthcare professionals that have to go years of training and education to earn their degree.
  • They both treat joints and musculoskeletal problems with a focus on increasing movement, strength while decreasing pain.
  • Both use manual therapy or hands-on treatment to treat the condition. This can include massages, stretches and movement. They’re advocates for noninvasive and nonsurgical techniques.
  • They focus on managing pain and symptoms by encouraging exercise and movement after treatment ends. In most cases, both will offer you programs to continue at home.
  • Both professionals will ask you about your medical history and encourage you to undertake a complete examination. In some cases, both professionals can order certain tests, such as x-rays or ultrasounds, to provide deeper analysis. The idea is to help them build a foundation to target your symptoms and the core reason behind them.

How are Physiotherapists and Chiropractors Different?

As you can see above, there is a lot of overlap between the two professions. But there are some significant differences between the two as well. Let’s take a look at them below:

Primary Goals

Although both have similar goals - reducing painful symptoms and increasing movements - how they approach them is slightly different.

Chiropractors offer pain relief and realignment through the spine and how injuries might connect to the spine. The main goal of physiotherapy is to ensure you have pain-free movement.

Areas of Treatment

Although chiropractors can focus on the spine, they can help treat other areas of concern, such as hips, joint pain in the arms or legs, and headaches. But compared to physiotherapists, their range of treatment is very limited.

Physios, though, take a “whole body” approach, meaning they look at how the body moves and functions as a whole. They consider how your back might be impacting your neck, your back affects your hips and so forth. They also treat various conditions, such as sciatica, arthritis, joints, sports injuries and cartilage, ligament and tendon damage.

Treatment Approach

Regarding how physios treat patients, they tend to focus on mobilization techniques, such as movement, exercise, massages, electrical therapies to heal and restore the affected areas. They offer a wider scope of treatments, as you will see below.

On the other hand, chiropractors focus on the alignment of the spine through the use of gentle, specific manipulation techniques that restore body functionality. The treatment is focused on helping the body heal itself.

Additional Treatments

While both professionals will encourage an at-home program to reduce symptoms and improve movement, physios offer a greater range of specialized treatments after their initial treatment.

This includes massage therapy (such as therapeutic, hot stone, relaxation, or sports), vestibular physiotherapy (a focus on the vestibular system), pelvic floor physiotherapy (a focus on pelvic injuries or conditions), and dry needling and acupuncture (to find instant pain relief and rebalance the body).

Which One is Best for You?

So, which one is best for you? Well, it ultimately depends on the type of injury and problem you’re facing. Let’s quickly break that down:

If you have a specific spine, back, neck or joint pain, then a chiropractor is your best bet as it's their primary focus, and they are recognized as experts in that body area.

As for physiotherapists, they’re great for soft tissue and musculoskeletal injuries, which can include sports injuries, accidents (such as MVAs), post-surgery recoveries, and workplace injuries. They’re also the prime choice for building, maintaining and increasing your movement, strength and endurance to combat the effects of a health condition.

In some situations, it might be ideal to see both of them.

The best starting point is to visit your local GP, as they can help you determine which professional you should call for treatment. They can help guide you on your journey towards full recovery. Good luck with your search!

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