Physiotherapy vs. Chiropractic: Which do I need?
How do you know whether you should seek chiropractic or physiotherapy treatment for your condition?
There are distinct differences to both practices, but what you may not realize is how well they complement each other, which is why Wilson Health Services offers both within our clinic. Chiropractors and physiotherapists take time to understand the physical ailments and complexities of each patient to find out what is causing mobility issues, and how that limits their regularly-scheduled life.
There can be quite a bit of overlap between the two professions. Both chiropractors and physiotherapists aim to treat joints and musculoskeletal problems to decrease pain, correct movement, increase strength and help return you to full function. However, like many other disciplines, there is a wide spectrum of treatment styles in both chiropractic and physiotherapy. It is important to not put the entire profession in a box after seeing one professional. The core difference between the two is that a chiropractor uses joint manipulation, where a physiotherapist will more commonly use mobilization techniques.
What is Chiropractic?
While understood by many to specialize on head, neck, and back pain, chiropractic medicine is a musculoskeletal field that concentrates on the nervous system and how it relates to pain management and the body’s ability to heal itself. Spinal misalignment can interfere with your nervous system, interrupting regular signals from your whole body to the brain, and causing you pain or suffering in areas of your body that you may not realize are connected to the spine such as headaches, incontinence, or muscle cramps in your legs.
There can be quite a bit of overlap between the two professions. Both chiropractors and physiotherapists aim to treat joints and musculoskeletal problems to decrease pain, correct movement, increase strength and help return you to full function. However, like many other disciplines, there is a wide spectrum of treatment styles in both chiropractic and physiotherapy. It is important to not put the entire profession in a box after seeing one professional. The core difference between the two is that a chiropractor uses joint manipulation, where a physiotherapist will more commonly use mobilization techniquesThe practice is based on natural healing – the body as a healer. The chiropractor uses their hands or other instruments to non-invasively manipulate the problem areas of the spine back into working order so that the body can heal the problem areas that it was unable to care for itself due to the stop signs it received through your spine.
What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy specializes on strength and movement of the body and uses non-invasive treatments to determine and heal mobility and lifestyle impairments. While most widely known for rehabilitation, physiotherapy can help to restore strength and movement for any number of reasons including chronic pain, damage sustained from old injuries, repetitive motion causing discomfort, and retaining mobility while living with chronic disease such as diabetes. Treatments include manual therapy and exercise, massage, ultrasound, shockwave, and acupuncture. Your physiotherapist will give you a strategy to keep you mobile and keep your condition from worsening.
Physiotherapists assess range of motion, pain, strength, and stamina when customizing the plan to regain or retain mobility in a patient as according to their individual goals – the goal is for a fulfilling life, not a range of motion that is “good enough”.
In chiropractic care, professionals view the body as having an inherent interconnectedness as well as an ability to heal itself. Therefore, chiropractors use a non-invasive but hands-on approach to heal their patients.
Chiropractors assess each patient’s body individually and find spinal and muscular misalignments that may be causing pressure within the central nervous system, leading to chronic pain.
If you’ve got a back or neck injury, you may be wondering what does a chiropractor treat and whether it can help your condition. Chiropractors can treat several musculoskeletal, such as:
- Sciatica pain
- Neck, back and low back pain
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Sports injuries
- Whiplash and other car accident injuries
- Chronic headaches
Chiropractors can also use their knowledge to further specialize in areas like pediatrics, orthopedics, sports medicine and even nutrition.
In physiotherapy, professionals diagnose physical abnormalities in patients and help them restore strength, improve balance and gain greater mobility and range of motion. Physiotherapists can also identify health risks in their patients and work with them to improve overall fitness and wellbeing.
Physiotherapists put together a personalized plan for each patient based on their underlying condition. Physiotherapists will focus on the long-term rehabilitation of their patient to restore health and prevent future injuries.
Patients can see a physiotherapist for several reasons, including:
- Increasing mobility in aging adults
- Sports injuries
- Surgery recovery
- Restore normal joint range of movement
Like chiropractors, physiotherapists may choose to also narrow their practice by specializing in sports medicine, occupational therapy, geriatrics and more.
Similarities of chiropractic and physiotherapy
While the two fields are quite different, they do still share some common ground. Both employ manipulation techniques in order to restore joint mobility and function, improve posture and relieve pain as clinical end points.
Differences of chiropractic and physiotherapy
While both practitioners use manipulations as their primary treatment technique, chiropractors tend to use shorter movements that are more forceful. Physiotherapists use these techniques less often. Their manipulations are smoother, less forceful and usually supplemented with the appropriate therapeutic exercise or massage.
Should I choose a Chiropractor or a Physiotherapist for treating back pain?
This is the most common question of all. Everything considered, the choice depends on individual preferences. There is no right or wrong answer, but that does not mean there are not some helpful facts to take into consideration when making the final decision.
Firstly, if the pain is caused by spinal or nervous system-related problems, chiropractors might be a better choice. Keep in mind that a chiro has received at least a five-year education on the spine and nervous system health. They also specialize in pain management and may design specific exercises to aid the recovery.
If the pain is caused by a musculoskeletal injury, Physiotherapists might be a better choice. After all, they are masters of pain management therapies.
Where is the pain coming from?
This is the most important question. Unless you’ve suffered a common sprain, the pain may be coming from a variety of sources.
Skeletal pain is dull and often manifests itself during sudden movements. These symptoms suggest a joint or a bone condition. Skeletal pain can also be sharp, in which case it is commonly caused by a fracture (sometimes even a bruise).
Muscular pain is sharp and surrounds the affected area. It is often caused by strains and tears.
Nerve pain is a burning sensation and usually covers only a small part of the body. It is often accompanied by muscle weakness.
So, who do you choose? The best choice of action is to consult both a Chiropractor and a Physiotherapist and base the final decision on their suggested approach.