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Physical Therapy vs. Chiropractic: Which One is Right for You?

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, you may be considering seeking out the help of a medical professional to alleviate your discomfort. Two potential options for pain relief include physical therapy and chiropractic care. While both of these practices can help to improve your overall health and reduce your discomfort, you may be wondering which one is right for you. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between physical therapy and chiropractic care and help you make an informed decision about which care may be best for you.

Physical Therapy:

physical therapist stretching a hip

Physical therapy is a type of care that focuses on improving your physical function and mobility. This type of care is often used to help patients recover from injuries, surgeries, or illnesses that have left them with limited mobility. Physical therapists use a variety of treatments to help improve your condition, including exercises, manual therapy, and modalities like heat or cold therapy. Physical therapy is helpful for many types of conditions, including chronic pain, arthritis, balance and gait issues, and more.

Physical therapists function in many different areas of practice. You may see a physical therapist in a hospital after a joint replacement or in your home shortly after. There are pediatric, neurologic, orthopedic, and cardiovascular specialty PTs.

If you are reading this, chances are your experiences has been in an outpatient orthopedic clinic. In outpatient ortho, your physical therapist will focus on helping you regain range of motion, improve muscle strength and symmetry, improve functional movement patterns, and work helping you return to your level prior to your injury and beyond.

Range of motion

Physical therapists use a variety of tasks and techniques to help you regain range of motion. These include hands-on stretching, joint mobilizations, and exercise that takes place in the clinic or is prescribed for home.

Muscle Strength & Symmetry

Your physical therapist will also assess muscle strength and symmetry to make sure that muscles are balanced bilaterally (both sides). This helps your body move more efficiently and prevent further injury.

Functional Movement Patterns

Your physical therapist will also look at how you move in everyday activities. Poor posture, alignment, or movement patterns can lead to pain or overuse injuries. The physical therapist will help you retrain your body to move more efficiently and prevent further injury or disability.

Return to previous level of function & beyond

Your physical therapist will help you return to your previous level of function and even work towards improving beyond that. Whether it is running, climbing stairs, or playing with your kids, the physical therapist will create a plan of care that fits your goals for recovery.

Education and Injury Prevention

Lastly, your physical therapist will also educate you on how to prevent injury in future. Though injury can't be completely prevented, you can do things to help reduce the likelihood of suffering not only the same injury you came into clinic with but injuries of other areas as well.


physical therapist doing spinal mobilization

Chiropractic care is a type of care that focuses on the musculoskeletal system, particularly the spine. Chiropractors use manual manipulation techniques to adjust the spine and improve alignment, which can be helpful for reducing pain and improving overall function. This type of care is often helpful for conditions like back pain, neck pain, headaches, and more. Chiropractic care is often viewed as a complementary therapy rather than a primary type of care.

How to Choose Between Physical Therapy and Chiropractor?

While both care depends on the type of injury you have and your individual circumstances. Some people may benefit from a combination of both. Generally, physical therapy is recommended for those needing rehabilitation after surgery or acute injuries. Physical therapy can help you with a wide variety of conditions and injuries.

Chiropractic would be a great additional therapy for when the spine is involved. Oftentimes chiropractors can do a manipulation that can help reduce pain and improve function rather quickly.

Potential Risks of Each Type of Care:

physical therapy and chiropractic care are generally safe, there are potential risks associated with each type of care. Physical therapy can sometimes lead to increased pain or discomfort if exercises are performed incorrectly or too aggressively. Chiropractic care can sometimes result in muscle soreness or stiffness following an adjustment. Additionally, there can be more serious risks associated with chiropractic care, including stroke, although these risks are rare.

In conclusion, physical therapy and chiropractic care are both valuable options for relieving pain and discomfort. Choosing between the two requires an understanding of your specific needs and conditions, as well as consultation with a medical professional. Both types of care have potential risks, but these are generally outweighed by the potential benefits of improved health and function. By making an informed decision about which type of care is best for you, you can improve your quality of life and reduce your discomfort.

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