When experiencing or managing chronic pain and injuries, it’s essential to seek the right professional treatment to heal your condition and prevent further damage. But with so many approaches and treatment options, it can be challenging to know which professional to see. If you’re suffering from chronic shoulder, neck, or back pain, it’s best to pursue therapy to correct your spine, muscle, and nerve issues. The two best treatments that can help you address these conditions are chiropractic care and physical therapy.
These therapies have distinct similarities and differences, so before choosing a therapy route, it’s essential to know the unique offerings that each one provides.
What is Chiropractic Care?
Chiropractic care comes in the form of neck, shoulder, and low back pain chiropractic treatment that addresses aching, strains, sprains, damage, disorder, or misalignment of the spine’s vertebrae. When a patient experiences an injury, illness or deformity that affects the neck, shoulder, back, or the musculoskeletal system, including the bones, cartilage, and joints, a chiropractor can manipulate a patient’s body with their hands, providing pain relief and improving mobility.
Chiropractors make targeted adjustments or realignments to a patient’s spine or joints and perform deep tissue work to relieve pain on tendons and muscles. Chiropractic care is a form of therapy that works in conjunction with other medical procedures, improving a patient’s overall health.
What is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapy, also known as physiotherapy, is a broad term that describes any treatment associated with the rehabilitation of a person’s strength and mobility. While chiropractic care is more specific, physical therapy covers more applications. When an accident, illness, or injury has impacted a patient’s balance, mobility, or strength, a physical therapist can restore their health over time using different treatment methods.
A physical therapist can use the same techniques that chiropractors use, including muscle stretching, joint manipulation, and various exercises. These professionals also cooperate with other medical professionals in diagnosing conditions to put together a comprehensive rehabilitation treatment plan.
Physical therapy is a more general than chiropractic care that revolves around the nervous and musculoskeletal system, focusing on spine-related issues that cause back, neck, and shoulder pain. In contrast, physical therapy covers any injury or physical condition and focuses on restoring a patient’s crucial bodily functions, including walking or holding objects.
Chiropractic Care vs. Physical Therapy
Both chiropractic and physical therapy are considered complementary or alternative treatments. They are non-invasive and don’t require patients to undergo surgical or pharmaceutical intervention. Although both have similar principles, the two therapies differ in treatment methods or techniques, types of patients treated, and diseases treated.
The following are the differences between chiropractors and physical therapists.
Chiropractors view a person’s body possesses an inherent interconnectedness and an ability to heal itself. That’s why these professionals use a more hands-on but non-invasive approach to treat their patients. A chiropractor assesses each patient’s body individually and determines if they have spinal or muscular misalignments that can cause pressure within their nervous system that leads to chronic pain, usually on the lower back, shoulder, and neck.
If you’ve got a neck or back injury, a back pain chiropractor can treat several conditions that include:
- Sciatica (nerves that branch from the lower back, hips, buttocks, and legs) pain.
- Neck, back, or low back pain.
- Sports injuries.
- Whiplash injuries.
- Tension headaches.
- Repetitive motion injuries.
Besides providing low back pain chiropractic treatment, chiropractors can also use their expertise to specialize in orthopedics, sports medicine, pediatrics, and nutrition.
Physical therapists diagnose general physical abnormalities in patients and help restore their strength, improve balance, and gain better mobility and a more extensive range of motion. They can also identify health risks in their patients and help improve their patient’s overall fitness. Physical therapists typically focus on providing long-term rehabilitation for their patients to restore their health and prevent future injuries.
Individuals with the following conditions can consult with a physical therapist for fast recovery:
- Sports injuries.
- Recovery from surgery.
- Recovery from diseases like stroke.
Although a physical therapist covers a broader field than a back pain chiropractor, they can also narrow their practice by specializing in occupational therapy, geriatrics, or sports medicine.
Chiropractors provide subtle adjustments to the spine and other techniques like laser therapy or massages to reduce inflammation and alleviate uncomfortable symptoms. On the other hand, physical therapists coach or encourage patients, helping them relearn physical skills that they may have lost due to an accident or an injury.
Chiropractors provide more specialized care, offering services like low back pain chiropractic treatment and other chiropractic treatments to relieve a variety of conditions. These professionals perform chiropractic techniques such as spinal adjustments or laser therapy to alleviate pressure from muscles and nerves, quickly reducing the pain. It can also have an immediate impact on a patient’s coordination, mobility, and overall function.
Physical therapists focus on general long-term support and the complete restoration of a person’s overall mobility or health. This treatment approach allows patients to recover by themselves with physical therapists speeding up the process, although this therapy can take longer to treat patients.
Although healing patients is a common goal between the two therapies, each one has different primary motivations. Chiropractors aim to treat the patient’s pain and other uncomfortable symptoms. In contrast, physical therapists strive to restore a patient’s mobility completely.
Choosing Between Chiropractic Care or Physical Therapy
So, what’s the best way to decide which type of therapy is right for you? The decision will depend on the kind of condition you have or your specific preferences and needs. Sometimes, depending on your condition’s severity, adding both to your wellness plan can significantly benefit you, helping relieve pain and improve the overall quality of life. But if you want to relieve pain immediately, it’s best to go with a back pain chiropractor as they can provide temporary or permanent relief faster than physical therapists.
However, it’s best to consult with your general practitioner when you’re trying to decide which therapy will work the best for you. Your assigned physician can advise you and help explain how each treatment can improve your symptoms.