Chiropractor vs Physical Therapist: What’s The Difference?

Chiropractor vs Physical Therapist: What’s The Difference?

Back and neck pain are increasingly common in America. Two of the most recommended treatments for this type of pain are chiropractic and physical therapy, and each offer unique advantages. Explore the benefits and differences between a chiropractor vs a physical therapist so you can decide which treatment is right for you.

Have you been experiencing back and neck pain? Make an appointment at Peak Chiropractic in Celebration, FL to discover how we can help!

Two Effective Forms of Therapy

Woman getting chiropractic care on back

Before exploring the differences between chiropractic care and physical therapy, let’s look at what they have in common.

Both are legitimate forms of treatment that are proven by research to heal a wide variety of symptoms. Some conditions may be treated by both practices, but depending on the injury and the person, one form of therapy may be more effective than the other.

Different Treatment Philosophies

Now, let’s take a look at the differences between a chiropractor and a physical therapist so you can discover the right treatment for your condition:

  • Chiropractic care focuses on the nervous and musculoskeletal systems, which include nerves, muscles, tendons, and joints. This type of treatment is most closely associated with spine alignment, but it also treats everything from headaches and neck injuries to carpal tunnel, knee pain and more. Massage, chiropractic adjustments, and the use of advanced equipment are all part of chiropractic therapy.
  • Physical therapy is a more general practice. It’s used to restore mobility and treat just about any type of injury or physical condition. Physical therapy often focuses on restoring crucial functions such as the ability to walk or hold objects. Many hospitals have a physical therapist on hand since it’s imperative for the recovery process.

Different Goals

Twin female doctors with raised stethoscopes

Although healing the patient can be seen as a common goal, the primary motivations of chiropractic and physical therapy are different:

  • For chiropractors, treating the patient’s pain and other symptoms is often the primary goal. There is a secondary emphasis on helping them regain mobility.
  • In physical therapy, the restoration of mobility is the primary focus. Patients are encouraged to push themselves in order to relearn certain actions.

Different Methods of Treatment

  • Chiropractic care relies on subtle adjustments to the spine and other treatments such as massage and laser therapy that reduce inflammation throughout the nervous system. Chiropractors are knowledgeable on how and where the nerves connect to the spine, which can help solve patient’s problems altogether.
  • Physical therapists are essentially a coach for the patient. They help patients relearn physical skills that have been lost due to pain and injury. Physical therapy can be challenging for the patient, as they’re encouraged to make movements to relearn skills that are crucial to daily life.

Conditions Treated with Chiropractic Therapy

Chiropractor working on back

The number of conditions that chiropractic therapy is known to treat is remarkable. These injuries include:

Examples of Chiropractic Treatment

Chiropractic alignments are the quintessential form of chiropractic therapy. At Peak Chiropractic, we use an innovative Ultralign system that allows you to remain fully clothed as you view the changes to your spine on a monitor.

Massage therapy is another effective chiropractic treatment that has been shown to reduce inflammation. At Peak Chiropractic, we offer a Hydromassage, which is an advanced form of treatment that uses water to relax patients and reduce their pain.

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Examples of Physical Therapy Treatment

Hand weights and a sneaker

Physical therapy treatments may include:

  • A series of exercises the patient must perform each day
  • Heat and cold therapy to reduce pain and enable movement
  • Ultrasounds and massage techniques used to reduce muscle pain and spasms

Physical therapy is generally recommended whenever an injury occurs that restricts movement. For example, a patient who injured his hand and can no longer grasp objects may undergo physical therapy to practice and master that ability again.

As another example, a patient who endured a car accident and lost the ability to walk might see a physical therapist. In this case, the therapist would help them to move beyond their comfort zone in order to teach them to walk again. Physical therapy may be painful and arduous in some cases, but it’s often extremely effective at increasing mobility after an injury.

Peak Chiropractic Can Help

Physical therapy and chiropractic therapy both provide relief for a wide range of conditions. At Peak Chiropractic in Celebration, FL, we are pleased to offer both chiropractic treatment and physiotherapy to best serve the needs of our patients. Contact us today to request an appointment!

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Peak Chiropractic team smiling



Dr. Stephen Brenan has been a licensed chiropractor for more than 20 years. At his practice in Celebration, Florida, he combines a hands-on, patient-centric approach with cutting-edge technology. He uses this blog to share reliable information about health conditions, pain management, de-stressing, nutrition, fitness, chiropractic practice, and more about health and wellness.

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