Chiropractic vs Physical Therapy: What is the Difference?

Having a clinic with both professions practicing together, we often get this question. It is understandable. From the outside looking in, these are sold as two completely different “services”.

August 16, 2022

Dr. Donald Mull, DC

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However we want to dispel this misconception once and for all. We sat down and talked about it. You may be surprised by the conclusion. If you have some time, watch this. This gives the perspectives of three different clinicians, one being a Doctor of Physical Therapy and two being Doctors of Chiropractic. 

Here are the main talking points (I will even put a timestamp them, because I am nice like that):

  • PT’s have many specialties that span from sport’s injury, geriatrics to emergency acute care within the hospital system. (0:35)
  • The scope of practice for Physical Therapy and Chiropractic is VERY similar. (1:00)
  • How to find a good doctor whether it is a PT or Chiro. (1:50)
  • Traditional roles of a Chiropractic Clinician (3:10)
  • Good clinicians apply principles and learn from many different fields - PT/Chiro is a profession it is NOT a modality or intervention (3:50)
  • Practitioners are not pigeonholed by their professions, we are rehab professionals (5:45)
  • There is a lot to learn between professions (chiropractic, Physical Therapy, Strength Coaches, Medical Doctors, etc) (6:10)
  • Some benefits of manual therapy (6:44)
  • How the public views the difference Chiropractic and Physical Therapy vs how we do (7:48)
  • Things to look for if you are in pain and looking for a doctor (9:45)
  • Our philosophy on prioritizing the person in front of us (13:44)
  • Expectations for longer standing pain (14:45)
  • Tangent on Chiro’s and x-rays (16:05)
  • Recap (16:55)

For those who are too cool to watch the video at all… here are some of the main takeaways we would like you to take home:

  • Chiro and PTs should practice very similarly if they are to be practicing up to current standards of care. 
  • Ask a place how long the clinician will be with you one on one before going or coming back.
  • The relationship with your clinician should be a collaborative one, you deserve to be heard and met where you are at. 
  • Sometimes things do not go as planned and symptoms can increase in response to exercise or other modalities. This doesn't mean stop going, this means figure out a way to pivot and move in a direction you both agree will be in your best interest. 
  • If a chiropractor insists on doing an x-ray to see alignment and there is no risk for bone injuries like fracture... run away (fast and never look back). 
  • If your PT clinic spends 10 minutes with you then puts you on a table for ice packs and electrical stim, you aren't doing rehab... you are at a med spa. 
  • At the end of the day the professions are quite similar and should always work WITH you so you and the clinician can create.