If you suffer from back and neck pain, you’re definitely not alone. Both are among the most common reasons for receiving medical care.
According to a study, 60% to 80% of adults at some point during their lives experience back pain that’s so bad it interferes with their daily activities. At any time, up to 20% of adults have back pain and between 10% and 20% have neck pain.
It’s no wonder that chiropractic and physiotherapy care are both in such high demand. They address different forms of back and neck pain — chronic or otherwise — using a range of therapies.
The question we face: which is better for the care that you need, a chiropractor or physiotherapist? Let’s take a closer look at both medical approaches.
Chiropractic vs. Physiotherapy Care
When answering the question, “Should I visit the chiropractor or physiotherapist”, the best first step is looking at what each profession primarily focuses on.
Chiropractors generally treat both the musculoskeletal system (your bones, joints, muscles, nerves, among others) and the nervous system (your spinal column and brain).
People typically pursue chiropractic care following an injury if they are in pain and believe targeting nerve pressure on the spine or back, among other areas, can help. Chiropractors use a range of treatments, including spinal adjustments, decompression, and cold laser therapy.
They may also integrate such techniques as energy healing into an overall wellness and recovery plan. People don’t online visit a chiropractor to heal an injury. Some want to increase their body awareness, connect their mind and body more, or combat underlying anxiety.
A physiotherapist, also known as a physical therapist, offers a broader range of approaches to also treat pain, but they also primarily target ways to increase your mobility and strength. You’re more likely to have work down on your soft tissue (tendons, muscles, and ligaments) than your bones with a physiotherapist, but some of their techniques overlap.
Physiotherapy frequently integrates different exercises strengthening specific parts of the body, as well as massage therapy and electric stimulation of muscles.
Chiropractor and Physiotherapist Similarities and Differences
There are several similarities to consider when deciding, chiropractor or physiotherapist: which is better? Here’s where they overlap as well as where they differ.
- Both are complementary medical care following injury or surgery, as well as additional help for chronic pain when referred by a primary care physician.
- Both services are practiced by medical professionals with the required education and training to become licensed.
- Both focus on pain management using nonsurgical approaches.
- Both often treat the same conditions and integrate wellness plans into overall medical care.
- Chiropractic care targets alignment and general pain relief of the spine, while physiotherapy focuses on pain-free movement and increasing strength.
- Chiropractic care typically uses adjustments of the spine as a therapeutic approach, while physiotherapy more commonly uses approaches targeting mobilization. Chiropractors like Twin Waves Wellness Center use a gentle force technique.
- Physiotherapists are interested in helping your whole body move better when the injury is still recent. Chiropractors zero in on treatments targeting back, joint, and neck pain.
Chiropractor or Physiotherapist: Which is Better For Pain?
It depends on where you’re feeling pain and the extent of the pain. Chiropractors will frequently become part of a medical plan to treat chronic back and neck pain, under advisement from a primary care physician.
While those who see a physiotherapist may be experiencing pain as well, it’s more often to help you get to a place where you can move around as you did before an injury. For example, if you suffer a sports injury, you may see a chiropractor if the injury is expected to have a long-term impact on your joints in the back or neck.
If you have a sports injury that’s more specific, say a broken arm, physiotherapy will integrate exercises to get your arm moving better over time.
For people experiencing pain caused by spinal problems, expect a chiropractor to use gentle adjustments to help reduce the tension in that area and relieve you of pain.
A physiotherapist relies more on such approaches as acupuncture, massage, and stretching exercises that target the soft tissues around the spine.
Chiropractor or Physiotherapist: Which is Better for Overall Wellness?
You may think a chiropractor solely manipulates your spine. While that is a big part of the work, chiropractic care is increasingly integrated with holistic approaches to your overall health. Chiropractors believe that through spinal adjustment or nervous system work such body healing can also lead to overall emotional and mental wellness.
Physiotherapy differs in that it usually targets a specific injury and works to prevent such injuries in the future.
Wellness techniques such as massaging and electric stimulation are used, but the first and sometimes the only goal of physiotherapy is making you mobile again and strengthening the soft tissue.
Ultimately Deciding Between a Chiropractor or Physiotherapist
The first thing to remember: you make the final decision about which medical care to pursue and what may benefit you the most.
However, it pays to speak with your doctor to weigh the options of care and whether seeing a chiropractor or physiotherapist will be better for you and your overall health and wellness.
Both a chiropractor and a physiotherapist can treat some of the same conditions, including back pain, sciatica, and joint issues, and there is some overlap in therapeutic techniques.
When it comes down to it, you know your medical history and your body best.
Still, before pursuing either form of medical care, consider consulting with both chiropractors and physiotherapists — as well as your primary care doctor — before you decide on which of the two forms of care are best for you.