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What’s the Difference: Physiotherapist vs Chiropractor

If you are experiencing back, muscle or joint pain, you might be considering alternative treatment for the area. The good news is, there are lots of different therapists and techniques to explore and even though initially you may assume a lot of these techniques are similar, they actually have key differences it’s important to be aware of.

Two treatments you may be considering are Physiotherapy and Chiropractic. These two treatments are extremely beneficial for back, muscle and joint pain – and great results can be seen over time with an effective therapist.  But what are the differences between a Physiotherapist vs Chiropractor?

The three main differences between Chiropractors and Physical Therapists are the techniques used, treatment philosophy

Difference 1: The techniques of the treatment

One of the main differences you’ll find between Chiropractors and Physiotherapy is the range of movement and the techniques used for addressing issues and pain. Generally, Chiropractors will use their hands to manipulate and adjust the alignment of your spine. A chiropractor’s key principle is that the right alignment of the spine is the key to relieving stress, tension or pain the patient may be feeling – so their attention will focus on this area, and they will tend to use their manipulation techniques in this area. For some adjustments, the focus areas will be small, so you may not need to move very much during the appointment at all.

During a physiotherapy appointment, you may experience a wider range of manipulation techniques. For example, a physiotherapist may use massage techniques, electrical therapies and even exercises and stretches to help ease pain, restore movement.

Difference 2: Treatment focus

Both treatments can help ease pain, soreness or stiffness in the bones, joints and muscles. They can also help improve the mobility of certain areas of the body. However, the wider focus of both treatments does differ slightly. A Chiropractor will mainly focus on your musculoskeletal system and nervous system, and any effect, issues or problems caused by these things. Whilst Chiropractors treat lots of areas and problems, their main care helps to relieve issues such as back pain, neck pain, headaches, and other pain in joints, arms, and legs. These are usually areas of localised pain, which can be assisted and helped using the methodologies of chiropractic techniques.

Physical therapists, however, tend to focus more on evaluating, diagnosing and providing treatment to restore the body’s strength, range of motion and balance. A physical therapist may be dealing with patients who are in recovery, patients who need to build strength slowly and steadily, or patients who are seeing problems due to ageing, injury, disease or environmental factors. Physiotherapists do treat back and neck pain as chiropractors do, but they’re also likely to see a range of other issues too, such as arthritis, sports injuries, swelling, repetitive strain injury, and cartilage, ligament and tendon damage.

Physical therapists are also involved in promoting health, wellness, and fitness through risk factor identification and preventative care. Although they use different techniques, both Chiropractors and physical therapists use their expertise to help rehabilitate and relieve pain in their patients.

What’s the Difference: Osteopath vs Chiropractor

If you’re looking into getting care and help with any back, muscle or joint pain, you may be wondering what kind of practitioner it is best to visit. Both the Osteopath and Chiropractor both believe that back and spine health is important to overall well being and the integrity of the body, but there are some fundamental differences you’ll want to keep in mind when choosing who to invest your time with.

We’ll go over these differences here, so you can understand how the two disciplines vary, and so you can make an educated decision.

First let’s look at how each discipline is defined.

What is a Chiropractor?

A Chiropractor focuses mainly on the spine and musculoskeletal system. A chiropractor believes the structure of the spine, and how your spine functions, has a large effect on the rest of your body –  including your musculoskeletal and neurological system.

Chiropractors treat their patients (who are usually experiencing pain issues, joint problems or muscle pain) by manipulating the spine and making spinal and alignment adjustments. This is done using their hands and body weight, not by using surgery.

What is an Osteopath?

An Osteopathwill help you detect, treat and prevent health issues by using a variety of techniques, including moving, stretching and massaging the patient’s body. Osteopathy is based on the belief that the health and wellbeing of a body is very dependent on their bones, joints, muscles and ligaments – and they will aim to make this work together in harmony.

Osteopaths can help with increasing the mobility of joints (especially in cases where this is limited or painful), relieving muscle tension and helping increase blood flow to problem areas.

What are the main similarities between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor?

A large amount of techniques do overlap between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor, and the two disciplines are often closely linked. Whilst it’s key to know the differences and which is applicable for different pain, or different problems – it’s also important to know that these two practices are very similar in their end goal and their general approach.

With both, the primary goal is to relieve pain in the body. Whether that be joint pain, muscle pain or general aching. They also both have secondary goals too – and have been known to help with addressing issues such as blood circulation, headaches, digestion, and even fertility. The areas of the body each practitioner investigates, and the positive side-effects felt afterwards tend to vary from patient to patient.

What are the main differences between an Osteopath and a Chiropractor?

When you’re investing time and money in receiving treatment or therapy from an Osteopath or Chiropractor, you want to be sure you’ve chosen the right pathway to health. We’ve listed out the main difference below so you can ensure you’ve chosen the right kind of therapist.

Difference 1

In terms of their focus areas, Chiropractors will spend a lot of time and a lot focus looking at the alignment of your spine. This is where they specialise and the core principle of chiropractic therapy is that healing can often be found through proper alignment. Focussing on this area will mean they pay a lot of attention to your back and posture, and will work with you to prevent any issues such as pinched nerves, trapped nerves, or anything else that could be compromising your general health. For Osteopaths, they may take a wider view of your body, and focus their attention on other areas, if that’s what they deem necessary. They will often look at the structure of your body as a whole, rather than focussed in on your spine.

Difference 2

Generally, Osteopaths will see patients for a wider spectrum of pain issues or disorders. As we mentioned earlier, both practices have plenty of secondary health goals, but Osteopaths tend to come into contact with these more. Fertility treatments are quite common with Osteopaths, but less so for Chiropractors for example. Most Chiropractors will find they’re focussed mainly on back, muscle and joint pain.

Difference 3

The tools both techniques use differ slightly too. When you attend a Chiropractor appointment, don’t be surprised if you’re asked to take an x-ray or an MRI scan. Some Chiropractors will even have x-ray machine in their office. X-rays are less common with Osteopaths, as Osteopathy will rely more on the therapists own physical examination.

Difference 4

Chiropractors will use the majority of the time to focus on the adjustments needed in your spine and alignment. However, you’ll find that during an Osteopath appointment, they may use a wider variety of techniques to manipulate and examine your body. For example, they may focus more on muscle and soft tissue work.