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Chiropractors vs. Physical Therapists – Differences and How to Choose

Trying to decide whether to see a physical therapist or a chiropractor for your pain can be tricky. Lots of people dealing with pain go through this same situation. Both of these types of pain doctors aim to help you feel better and move more easily after your appointments. But both these doctors go about it in different ways. The big question is physical therapist vs chiropractor: which one is better for dealing with your pain? Don’t stress about figuring it out on your own. Just keep reading, and you’ll get the answers you need.

Let’s break it down with an example of what each does. A physical therapist will lead you through a set of slow exercises meant to help your muscles and joints heal. Meanwhile, a chiropractor focuses on quickly relieving your back and neck pains. They achieve this by manipulating and relaxing your joints through chiropractic care. This example gives you a good idea of how they work differently. It’s key to grasp the distinctions between physical therapy and chiropractic care. Because it’ll help you pick the best option to make your pain go away.

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Today, we’re diving into who a physical therapist vs chiropractor is, and we’ll explore what makes them similar and different. This should help you decide which one fits you right. So, come along as we learn more about these professions dedicated to easing pain.

Physical Therapy vs. Chiropractic Care

Physical therapy and chiropractic care aim to help you live without pain. Both offer help after injury or surgery. However, picking the right one is important for getting the best results.

For example, if you have a sudden neck or back problem, going to a chiropractor might be your best choice. They’re good at finding what’s causing your pain fast. Then, they adjust your joints using chiropractic care to make the pain stop. This works well when your joints and nerves are out of place.

A physical therapist (PT) might also look at and treat sudden spinal problems, but they might do it differently. They might give you exercises that slowly make your range of motion and strength better, which helps with your pain. If you face an injury or surgery and you’re having trouble moving well. Then, working with a physical therapist is a smart move. Your therapist can help you get better at doing your everyday activities and the things you like to do.

Taking a combination of advice from both chiropractors and physical therapists is the best choice. It gives you advice and plans to keep your pain away and stop future issues as well. Studies have found that working with a chiropractor, physical therapist, or both for different spine problems leads to similar results. Now, it’s time to dive deeper into our understanding of chiropractor vs physical therapist.


Physical therapists and chiropractors have many things in common:

  • They both have advanced training, often at a doctoral level. Although some physical therapists may start practicing with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
  • Both might suggest exercises to make you stronger or help you move better.
  • They both use physical tools, like electrical stimulation or heat, to make you feel better.
  • They both use methods that don’t involve surgery to help you move and feel better.
  • Both have to pass an exam from a board or licensing body to be able to work in their field.


Even though physical therapy and chiropractic care might seem similar, they actually have some important differences:

  • Chiropractors often make adjustments to fix spinal subluxations, which are partial dislocations of joints.
  • Chiropractors try to fix spinal misalignment because they believe it puts pressure on nerves.
  • Physical therapists often teach ways to prevent injury.
  • Chiropractors usually focus on treating the lower back and neck. However, physical therapists usually treat the whole body, including the spine and limbs.
  • Chiropractors often ask for X-rays to check bones for treatment guidance. On the other hand, physical therapists base their treatment decisions on their clinical exams and might not always need X-rays.
  • Physical therapists often create exercise plans for patients to do at home every day to reach their recovery goals.
  • Chiropractors might advise on nutrition and sell dietary supplements at their clinics.
  • Physical therapists work in various places like hospitals, schools, clinics, and nursing homes. However, chiropractors usually only work in outpatient clinics.

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What Physical Therapy Involves

When you go to see a physical therapist (PT), your care usually begins with a first evaluation. Your therapist will talk to you about your injury and how it’s impacting how you move.

If you’ve had surgery, they’ll want to know all about it and how you’ve been doing before and after. Your PT will also ask about your medical history and how well you were able to move before.

Once they know all about you, your physical therapist will probably give you an exam. They’ll check for things that might be causing your pain or making it hard for you to do things.

Evaluations by Your Physical Therapist

A handful of evaluations include:

  • How far you can move your body parts.
  • How well you can move around and walk.
  • Muscle strength.
  • How flexible you are.
  • How steady you are on your feet.
  • The condition of your skin and scars.

After your physical therapist learns about how you’re doing and what’s making it hard for you to move. Then, they’ll make a treatment plan and discuss what you want to achieve. Most physical therapy sessions last 30 to 60 minutes. How often you go and for how long depends on what’s going on with you and what your goals.

Your PT might do things like gently move your joints, massage areas with scars, or help stretch you out. They might also use different techniques to help with pain or swelling.

You might also practice moving around and keeping your balance, especially if walking is tough for you. You’ll do exercises at the clinic, and your therapist will give you an exercise regimen to do at home, too. They’ll update your home exercises regularly as you get better during therapy.

If you’re in the hospital, a physical therapist might come to your room to help you improve your mobility. They’ll help you do exercises such as walking or climbing stairs.

Indications for Visiting a Physical Therapist

If you’re hurting so much that it’s hard to walk, sit, or do your usual activities. Then, you might find it helpful to see a physical therapist. If you can’t leave home because of your injury, a therapist might come to your house to help you there.

Likewise, if you’re suffering from post-surgery conditions and have trouble moving. Then, getting help from a physical therapist could be a good plan. Your therapist can help you in getting back to moving like before and doing all the things you did.

You may also read: How Does Soft Tissue Manipulation Therapy Work?

What Chiropractic Care Entails

Many people go to see a chiropractor when they’re having trouble with their back or neck, although not everyone does. If you’re dealing with back pain, neck pain, or sciatica, you might consider seeing a chiropractor.

During your appointment, the chiropractor will ask you questions about your pain, what caused it, and what symptoms you’re experiencing. They’ll also want to know about your medical history.

Chiropractic Check-Up

The chiropractor will examine your condition, which might include:

  • Checking how well you can move your spine.
  • Doing tests to see how your nerves are working, like stretching them gently and checking your reflexes.
  • Testing your physical strength.
  • Looking for any signs of joint misalignment in your spine.

Once the chiropractor understands your condition, they’ll start treatment. They often use different methods, such as:

  • Applying heat or cold packs.
  • Using electrical devices to help with pain.
  • Adjusting your spine or other joints to fix any misalignments they find.
  • Giving you exercises to make you more flexible, improve your posture, or make you stronger.

The most common thing a chiropractor does is manipulate your joints. Here, they adjust your joints to fix any misalignments. You might hear a cracking sound when they do this. Studies have shown that this can reduce pain and help your joints move better.

Chiropractic appointments usually last about 30 minutes. Just like with physical therapy, how often you need to go depends on what’s going on with you. It also depends on how you’re responding to the treatment.

When to Visit a Chiropractor

If you’re dealing with a sudden spinal issue that’s making it hard for you to move. Then, it might be time to see a chiropractor. They can check out what’s going on and give you chiropractic care to help you move and feel better. Some chiropractors can even help with sudden joint injuries, like hurting your shoulder or hip.

Paying for Treatment

When choosing between physical therapy vs chiropractor treatments, it’s important to consider how you’ll pay for your treatment. Both might take your insurance, but many chiropractors only accept cash for their services. As they mostly don’t work with insurance companies.

How to Decide Between the Two

So, how do you figure out if you should go to a physical therapist or a chiropractor? While nobody else can make that choice for you when choosing between physical therapy vs chiropractor. There are some things to think about that might help you make up your mind.

Usually, if you’re dealing with a sudden back problem like neck pain or sciatica. Then, seeing a chiropractor might be the right move to help you start moving again. Just remember, the chiropractor you pick might not take health insurance, so you might need to pay for everything upfront.

But if you’re having trouble moving because of pain in your joints, a sports injury, or because you’ve had surgery. Then, a physical therapist is probably the better choice. Your therapist will give you exercises and treatments to help ease your pain and get you moving better. They’ll likely take your health insurance, but you might need to pay a part of the cost for each session.


Both chiropractors and physical therapists use gentle methods to help with pain. Chiropractors mainly work on adjusting joints to help with back and neck pain. Physical therapists often give exercises to make you stronger, usually to help you recover from certain surgeries.

Since there’s a lot to think about when choosing between a physical therapist and a chiropractor. So, it might be helpful to talk to your physician first. If you’re planning on using your health insurance. Then, check if your insurance covers the therapist or chiropractor you want to see.


What is the difference between a physical therapist and a personal trainer?

Physical therapists help people move better after an injury or surgery. They work to improve strength and movement. Personal trainers help people get stronger and fitter. They focus on exercises and workouts to improve overall fitness.

What does a chiropractor help with?

Chiropractors help with problems like back pain, neck pain, and joint issues. They use techniques like adjustments to help relieve pain and improve how your body moves.

What are the effects of physical therapy and chiropractic care?

Both physical therapy and chiropractic care aim to reduce pain and improve movement. Physical therapy uses exercises and treatments like heat or ice. Chiropractic care often involves adjustments to the spine or joints.

How do chiropractors help with lower back pain?

Many of us question that do chiropractors help with curing pain? Chiropractors can help with lower back pain by adjusting the spine or joints. This can relieve pressure on nerves and muscles, reducing pain and improving movement in the lower back.

Key Takeaways

Knowing the difference between chiropractor vs physical therapy is important. It helps you in making a sound decision to begin your healing journey. If you’re looking for the best physical therapist and chiropractor near me, then look no further. Jersey Joint, Spine, & Regen provided an all-in-one physical therapy solution. From deep tissue massages to chiropractic help, they have it all. So, if you’re suffering from different joint and spine conditions, then Jersey JSR is the way to go!

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