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7 Differences Between Chiropractic Treatment And Physical Therapy


Differences Between Chiropractic Treatment And Physical Therapy
Chiropractic vs Physical Therapy

Both chiropractic treatment and physiotherapy disciplines are very important for physical rehabilitation and solve ailments in different parts of the body, but they are specialized in treating different pathologies.

Injuries, discomfort and musculoskeletal pathologies, that is, all those that affect the bones, muscles and ligaments of the body, are among the ailments with the highest incidence in the population and, in fact, are the first cause of sick leave.

There is countless pathology, as well as rehabilitation processes after surgery or an accident, which require the intervention of professionals of the human locomotors system. Some of them to mention here are tendinitis, osteoarthritis, low back pain, dislocations, fractures, muscle breaks, contractures, sciatica, herniated discs, and plantar fasciitis.

Preserving the health of our bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons is essential to enjoy both physical and emotional health. In this context, physiotherapists and chiropractors are the ones who help us achieve it.

But these two professions, often mistakenly considered synonymous, are different, because the training is different and the health problems they treat, as well as the way of dealing with them is not the same either. Therefore, in today's article and with the aim of answering all the doubts that may be had, we will see the main differences between a physiotherapist and a chiropractor.


Before detailing their differences, it is important to define both professions. Broadly speaking, both are professionals who prevent and treat health problems related to the human musculoskeletal system, which always usually consist of injuries, post-surgery rehabilitation and treatment of traumatic ailments. Having made this clear, let's define each of them.


Physiotherapy is a discipline encompassed within the health sciences that consists of the application of both manual and physical therapies to diagnose, prevent and treat ailments of the muscles, ligaments, joints, tendons, and bones through a professional known as a physiotherapist.

In short, Physiotherapy is a multidisciplinary health science, in the sense that it is related to fields of medicine such as traumatology, neurology, dermatology, cardiology and even mental health, since the musculoskeletal system is closely related to related to all organs and tissues of the body.

In this sense, a physiotherapist is a personnel trained to apply manual and physical therapies to maintain the muscular and locomotor health of the body. On the one hand, manual therapies consist of massage sessions, kinesiotherapy (movements of the body without the patient making voluntary muscle contractions), treatment of muscle and bone injuries (knee problems, back, and neck pain, contractures, muscle breaks, hip injuries), the introduction of postures to take care of the joints, stretching, unblocking the airways, enhancing the pelvic floor.

Moreover, physical therapies consist of hydrotherapy techniques (exercises in water), electrotherapy and ultrasounds (application of electric currents and ultrasounds to cure neuromuscular problems), cryotherapy (use of cold), thermotherapy (use of heat).

In summary, a physiotherapist is the person trained to diagnose, prevent and treat any musculoskeletal injury, detecting the injury and applying both manual and physical therapies so that that part of the body recovers its normal physiological state.


Chiropractic is the discipline of its own (not a branch of Physiotherapy) encompassed within the health sciences whose specialty is to detect, analyze and correct problems that may exist in the spine, that is, fix vertebral subluxations.

These vertebral subluxations are alterations in the alignment of one or more of the vertebrae in the spine. Chiropractic bases its entire object of study on the fact that problems in the spine can lead to discomfort in any other part of the body, something that is fully confirmed. 

It is that the spinal column, made up of a total of 33 vertebrae, is the nucleus of the human bone system. Its function is to protect the spinal cord, which is part of the central nervous system and, in this column, branches into all the other peripheral nerves that connect the brain with literally all the other organs and tissues of the body.

Therefore, it is not surprising that vertebral subluxations have consequences on our physical and emotional health. Correcting these spinal problems can help correct posture, reduce pain, improve blood circulation, strengthen muscles, etc.

In summary, a chiropractor does not treat ailments of the musculoskeletal system but corrects deviations in the spine to improve the health of other systems in the body.


Having defined both professions, it is becoming clear how they differ, but now we will see it much better. These are the key aspects that determine that, despite their similarities, they are two very different disciplines.

1. Training Is Different

Physiotherapy and Chiropractic are not only about two different professions, but their training is also different. To practice as such, you have to take a certain degree. In the case of physiotherapists, they have studied the degree of physiotherapy, which is completed in four years. On the other hand, a chiropractor is a person who has graduated in chiropractic, his own degree with a duration of 5 years that is studied in few universities but that is highly respected internationally.

2. They Focus On Different Structures

As we have commented when we analyzed them individually, physiotherapy focuses on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of injuries in the musculoskeletal system, which includes all those pathologies that can be suffered in muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, and joints. Therefore, a physiotherapist detects very specific musculoskeletal pathologies and applies therapies to the damaged area so that it recovers its physiology. 

Chiropractic, on the other hand, does not focus on musculoskeletal injuries. Chiropractor specializes only in problems of the spine, that is, in subluxations of the vertebrae that, in effect, can give rise to discomfort in any other part of the body, but not only at the level of the locomotor system, but also neurological, respiratory, cardiovascular, etc.

In summary, Physiotherapy focuses its study on the musculoskeletal system, while Chiropractic does so on the proper functioning of the nervous system, where the bone component of the spine is of enormous importance.

3. The Chiropractor Does Not Treat Symptoms

Another major difference is that the physical therapist treats symptoms and the physical therapist does not. That is, the physiotherapist detects problems in any part of the musculoskeletal system and, depending on the symptoms he sees, he will apply some therapies or others. That is, if you have had knee surgery and you have to regain mobility, it will focus on the knee. And if your neck hurts, he will do therapies to relax the muscles.

In contrast, a chiropractor "does not care" about symptoms, in the sense that, although they may help you to know what problem your patient has, he will go directly to look for a misalignment in the spine to correct it.

In short, a physical the therapist treats after seeing the symptoms, while a chiropractor treats after analyzing the spinal alignments that, in effect, lead to those symptoms. In other words, when our neck hurts, the physical therapist treats the neck; But when you go to the chiropractor because your neck hurts, he will not treat the neck (or yes, it depends), but perhaps he will have to adjust one of the vertebrae in the lumbar area, for example.

4. The Physical Therapist Does Not Address Neurological Problems

As we have already seen, physiotherapy has its center of study in the human musculoskeletal system, as it treats injuries to muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, etc. Therefore, it is very useful for treating and preventing musculoskeletal ailments, but its impact on a neurological level, beyond emotional well-being, is low.

On the other hand, a chiropractor, who focuses on the central nervous system, does obviously have an impact on a neurological level. By correcting the vertebrae, the chiropractor seeks to improve the health of the nervous system, as this has implications for the entire physiology.

In summary, a physiotherapist addresses problems of the musculoskeletal system, while a chiropractor addresses neurological problems that can lead to problems of the musculoskeletal system but whose solution is to adjust the spine, not to treat ailments directly in the muscular and skeletal system.

5. Physiotherapy Is More Personalized To the Patient

As we can see, a physiotherapist focuses more on the patient, in the sense that, to treat the injury, he must have a more complete view of both his physiology and the causes that have led him to suffer from this problem. This is the only way to make manual and physical therapies work.

A chiropractor, on the other hand, does not personalize himself so much in the patient, since it is of little use to know where he comes from or what has led him to suffer that problem. The only thing that matters is that the vertebrae are aligned, and in this there is no valid subjectivity.

In summary, although this does not mean at all that they are colder professionals, chiropractic is not as personalized a discipline as physiotherapy, since it is enough to correct the deviations of the spine, while in this physiotherapy, it is necessary to have an overview of the entire body of the patient. Chiropractic equals spine. Physiotherapy equals to all physiology.

6. Chiropractic Heals; Physiotherapy Prevents

Everything we have seen leads us to the conclusion that chiropractic is only dedicated to curing, because with its famous "crunches", it corrects deviations in the spine, thus solving, in a more or less long way, the patient's problem. 

Physical therapy, on the other hand, by directly addressing the damaged muscle, ligament, tendon, bone or joint, can, in addition to healing the injury, prevent it from happening again.

7. Physiotherapy Goes Hand In Hand with Other Medical Specialties

Let us remember that Chiropractic, although it is less well known, is tremendously respected by all health professionals. In any case, it is true that doctors from different specialties (traumatology, neurology, pediatrics, cardiology, geriatrics) are more likely to refer their patients to physiotherapists. Chiropractors, on the other hand, tend to go more on their own, in chiropractic centers or especially in private consultations.


A very informative post. Thanks for sharing!

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