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What is the Difference Between a Chiropractor and a Physical Therapist?

Physical TherapyIf you have back problems and are seeking a spine care specialist, you may have heard about both chiropractic care and physical therapy as options. It can be hard to know the difference between the two types of care, which are complementary and often work side by side.

As a chiropractor in the Chesapeake region of Virginia for more than 2 decades, I have worked with many physical therapists. In this article, I will describe some of the similarities and differences between chiropractors and physical therapists and what they can do to treat your back pain.

How are Chiropractors and Physical Therapists Different?

Although chiropractors and physical therapists can both help increase your mobility, decrease your back pain, and help you get back to full function, they differ in terms of their clinical focus as well as education and training.

Chiropractors are doctors trained to diagnose and treat neuromusculoskeletal problems in the spine and joints. They can order tests and analyze spinal and joint health, posture, and neurologic issues. They are also trained to counsel you on whole health matters including nutrition and stress. Chiropractors provide a way to improve your back health while minimizing the need for medication or surgeries. Besides hands-on spinal manipulation and mobilization, chiropractors can use tools like electrical muscle stimulation to treat their patients.

Physical therapists, or physiotherapists, are trained to focus on muscles, soft tissues, and joint function. They adjust movement and provide an exercise regimen the patient can do on their own to heal. These at-home exercise routines are a cornerstone of physical therapy treatments and are meant to accompany, and later often replace, the face-to-face appointments. Physical therapists can use tools like electrical muscle stimulation as treatment options.

Chiropractors Physical Therapists
Legally defined as physicians
Allowed to diagnose
Allowed to practice independently
Doctoral degree required to practice
Trained in biomechanics
Trained in joint function
Able to assess musculoskeletal problems
Can recommend at-home exercises
Can use tools like electrical muscle stimulation
Holistic approach to health
Generally schedule multiple recurring sessions until treatment is completed
Primarily focus on nerves, vertebra, and spinal cord
Primarily focus on muscle and soft tissues

Do I Need to Choose Between a Chiropractor and a Physical Therapist?

If your condition can benefit from both a chiropractor and a physical therapist, you should feel free to work with both. A good chiropractor and physical therapist will be able towork together as colleagues to manage your spinal condition. By working together, your chiropractor and physical therapist can ensure you get the best care. This includes:

  • Sharing medical records: When your chiropractor and physical therapist are aware of each other, they can keep each other up to date on your back health and if any changes occur. This can help them make an accurate assessment of your medical condition, and make sure your treatment plans reflect your needs.
  • Sharing imaging and test results: Tests results from MRIs, CT scans and X-Rays are often part of your medical records. These tests can help your chiropractor and physical therapist clearly understand your spinal health and determine the best plan of care, while avoiding repetitive unnecessary tests.

Integrating Your Chiropractor and Physical Therapist at Precision Spinal Care

At Precision Spinal Care, I am happy to work alongside your physical therapist to give you the best care possible for your back pain. I encourage you to inform all of your care team that you are seeking chiropractic care to keep all of your healthcare providers on the same page.

As a certified NUCCA chiropractor and spine management physician, I work closely with you to optimize your health. I base all my treatment plans on the most recent clinical evidence and studies about chiropractic care. To accomplish your care goals, during your first visit, I will do a thorough examination. Afterward, I will go over my evaluation with you in detail. I will discuss my treatment strategy with you. I will take the time to answer all your questions and make sure you are comfortable with the facts about chiropractic care.

Together, we will set reasonable expectations and milestones. We will also put together a treatment plan that meets your care needs. I will reevaluate you to make sure you are meeting your goals.

My experience and expertise in spinal biomechanics allow me to competently and safely address your back issues. I am a trauma and hospital-qualified spine management physician. I have credentials in MRI spine interpretation, spinal biomechanical engineering, and orthopedic testing through the Academy of Chiropractic. I am also a fellow in Spinal Biomechanics and Trauma which is recognized through the SUNY Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine.

If I find that chiropractic care is not the best solution to suit your needs, I will recommend the type of specialist who is most appropriate for you.

We understand that you need to explore all your options when you look for expert treatment. At Precision Spinal Care, we are happy to help you determine the best way to address your specific needs and discuss all your options.

Call our office at (757) 382-5555 to speak to the doctor or set up a consultation. You can also set up an appointment through our webpage.

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