Chiropractor vs Physical Therapist: Which One Is Right For You?
Pain is pain, right? Does it matter who treats it?
Let’s compare a chiropractor vs physical therapist to help you decide which is best for you.
That car accident did a number on your body. Sore back, whiplash, herniated discs…you’re in a lot of pain. So what can you do about it?
When it comes to healing from a car accident or sports injury, you have a few options. You can see a traditional doctor for a prescription (and risk any number of unpleasant side effects), a chiropractor, or a physical therapist.
Is there really a difference? When it comes down to chiropractor vs physical therapist, which one is the best choice to help you recover from your injuries?
Same Goal, Different Methods
A few decades ago, physical therapy and chiropractic were part of the same branch of medicine and worked in conjunction with each other. Nowadays, they are two separate fields.
Despite their differences, physical therapists and chiropractors both have the same goals in mind: to alleviate pain and improve range of motion. Both of them deal with injuries to the joints and nervous system as well as soft tissue and may use similar secondary techniques, such as E-stim, ultrasound, and massage therapy to enhance healing.
This, however, is where the similarities end.
Chiropractor vs Physical Therapist
Chiropractors primarily use hands-on manipulation to bring the spine and other joints back into alignment.
Although they do deal with soft tissue injuries and often have a massage therapist on staff, their primary focus is usually on proper alignment of the joints, which will alleviate pressure on the nerves and cause the muscle to spasm.
Physical therapists, on the other hand, primarily focus on muscles and movement. Patients are instructed in a series of exercises designed to build strength and flexibility. If joint misalignments are addressed at all, physical therapy relies on strengthening muscles to help pull the joints back into place.
Another major difference between the two are the degree programs.
Chiropractors spend roughly eight years earning a doctorate of chiropractic degree, during which they study a wide variety of subjects similar to any other medical doctor. After this, they may use “D.C.” after their name and refer to themselves as doctor.
With physical therapists, things are a little less clear.
Some professionals hold a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree, while others do not. Beginning in 2016, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) requires all entry-level physical therapy programs to switch to a DPT program.
This means that any physical therapist that has graduated after January of 2016 can (and should) be referred to as a doctor of physical therapy. However, physical therapists that graduated before that date are not considered doctors.
If you undergo physical therapy, it is safe to assume that a DPT is at least overseeing your care (even if they are doing so from an office). Doctors of chiropractic, on the other hand, provide much more “hands-on” medical treatment.
Which One Is Right For You?
If both chiropractors and physical therapists treat neck pain, joint pain, and other similar injuries, how do you know which one is best for you? If you haven’t gone to a medical practitioner yet, you probably don’t even know the true cause of your injury.
Here are a few questions to help you decide.
1. Were you in a recent car accident?
The force involved in a car accident (even a relatively minor one) is enough to knock your bones out of alignment. Ironically, in many cases, your seat belt is to blame.
While it plays a major role in saving your life (and you should definitely be wearing it every time!), a seat belt (especially if you’re wearing it improperly) can cause your body to move in unnatural ways during a crash, moving your hips, vertebrae, and other bones out of their proper places.
A chiropractor can use spinal manipulations and other techniques to move the joints back into alignment and allow your body to properly heal.
2. Is your pain due to a chronic condition?
In most cases, physical therapy is an extended process meant to see results over a long period of time.
If you spend most of your day hunched over a keyboard, it is very likely that any pain you are experiencing is simply due to poor posture. A chiropractor can use manipulation and/or flexion distraction to provide relief from the ill effects of gravity and bad ergonomics.
3. Do you want quick pain relief?
As we mentioned before, physical therapists often focus on using the muscles to pull the joints back into alignment. If your pain is a symptom of a misaligned vertebrae, it will take time for those muscles to become strong enough to pull your bones back into place.
Chiropractic treatment, on the other hand, generally takes less time to see results.
Aren’t Chiropractors Too Time-Consuming?
If you’ve been to a chiropractor before, you may have stopped going because your doctor told you, “Now, just come back and see me three times a week for the next six months!”
Who has that kind of time (or money)?
Unfortunately, it’s chiropractors like these that give the rest of us a bad name. Like any other doctor, your chiropractor should be focused solely on your health and what is best for you, not their income.
Regardless of your injuries, you should expect to visit both the chiropractor and physical therapist multiple times before you are fully healed.
Every single patient is different. Do not associate pain from a friend with similar pain that you are experiencing.
Every treatment plan is dictated by a complete orthopedic and neurological examination. After that, treatment is recommended and performed. Usually the doctor will have you come back in a day or two to discuss a more in-depth chiropractic treatment plan based on your initial results.
Regardless of whether you visit a chiropractor or physical therapist, it’s important that your medical practitioner be able to identify and communicate the true nature of your ailment.
If your doctor is not taking the time to correctly diagnose the problem (through x-rays, for example) and explain how it is affecting your body, find someone who can.
At Oviedo Chiropractic, each new patient gets an x-ray to identify the underlying skeletal issues that might be causing their symptoms. Following this initial consultation, Dr. Justin Cough will develop a treatment plan specific to your injuries.
And if time and money constraints are what stand between you and a visit to an Oviedo chiropractor, give Oviedo Chiropractic a try! Your health is our utmost priority, and Dr. Cough will never recommend costly, unnecessary treatments.
Schedule an appointment today and see how amazing it is to live pain free!