Chiropractic and Physical Therapy: What’s the Difference?

5255420355_740976435b_nAs a Franklin chiropractor over the years I have had many questions about the difference between chiropractic and physical therapy. Many people consider the two interchangeable or merely a preference to which you prefer for your recovery. While both physical therapy and chiropractic care aim to heal and restore the body back to proper function, they go about it in two entirely different ways. Let’s begin distinguishing the two by first looking at their true definitions.

Physical Therapy

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines physical therapy as:

: the treatment of disease, injury, or disability by physical and mechanical means (as massage, regulated exercise, water, light, heat, and electricity)


The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines chiropractic as:

: a system of therapy which holds that disease results from a lack of normal nerve function and which employs manipulation and specific adjustment of body structures (as the spinal column)

The Difference Between Chiropractic and Physical Therapy

From these definitions we can see that physical therapy works more with the muscles and stretching, while chiropractic care is more structural work on the spine. Many people I have come across have the mindset that after an injury you can pick to either seek help from a physical therapist or a chiropractor and you will receive the same outcome. This however is false. While both chiropractic and physical therapy are crucial in recovering from a major injury you will not receive the same recovery outcome from choosing one over the other to heal.

How Chiropractic and Physical Therapy Work Together

Chiropractic adjustments will help to over time correct the structural alignment to your spine. However if your muscles are not strong enough the bones can easily shift back out of place. Physical therapy helps strengthen your muscles so that they can work to hold the bones in proper alignment. Both physical therapy and chiropractic are wonderful healing tools that when used together can do wonders towards restoring the body.

If you are worried about traveling back and forth between offices for treatment there are options! Many chiropractors, such as myself, use physical therapy techniques in their treatment plans. It is also very common for massage therapists to work in chiropractic offices giving patients the convenience of a one stop shop to recovery.

It is important to state though that while chiropractors may use physical therapy techniques, physical therapists should never perform chiropractic adjustments on their patients unless they have obtained their Doctor of Chiropractic or D.C. degree. Never let anyone who isn’t fully trained and licensed adjust your spine as they could do severe damage.

Now that you know the differences between physical therapy and chiropractic care I hope that you also see the value in both methods for recovery. While there are very distinct differences between the two both are essential to recovering from a major injury.

If you are interested in finding out more about the benefits of chiropractic and physical therapy please contact our office at (615)503-9900. We will be happy to answer any of your questions!

Photo By: David Erickson

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