Chiropractor vs Physical Therapist – Which Should You Choose for Your Needs?

When it comes to managing pain and improving mobility, there are several healthcare professionals who can assist you. Two popular options are chiropractors and physical therapists. While both of these professions focus on improving musculoskeletal health, there are some key differences between them. In this article, we will explore the roles of chiropractors and physical therapists and help you determine which one may be the best choice for your needs.

What is a Chiropractor?

A chiropractor is a healthcare professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system, particularly the spine. They believe that misalignments of the spinal vertebrae can cause various health issues by interfering with the nervous system. Chiropractors use hands-on techniques, such as spinal adjustments, to realign the spine and restore proper function.

What is a Physical Therapist?

On the other hand, physical therapists are healthcare professionals who focus on restoring, maintaining, and promoting overall musculoskeletal function and mobility. They work with individuals who have suffered injuries, undergone surgeries, or need rehabilitation after a long period of inactivity. Physical therapists use a range of techniques, including exercises, stretches, and manual therapy, to improve strength, flexibility, and mobility in their patients.

Differences in Approach

One of the key differences between chiropractors and physical therapists is their approach to treatment. Chiropractors primarily use hands-on spinal adjustments to alleviate pain and restore alignment. They believe that spinal misalignments can cause a range of health issues, and by correcting them, the body can heal itself. Physical therapists, on the other hand, often use a combination of exercises, stretches, and manual therapy to help patients regain strength, flexibility, and mobility.

Another difference lies in the length of treatment. Chiropractic sessions are typically shorter in duration and aim to provide immediate relief. Many patients find that a few sessions with a chiropractor can significantly reduce their pain. Physical therapy, on the other hand, usually involves a longer treatment plan. It focuses on long-term rehabilitation and may require regular sessions over an extended period to achieve the desired results.

When to Choose a Chiropractor

If you are experiencing acute pain or a recent injury, a chiropractor may be a suitable choice for you. They can help alleviate pain and realign your spine to improve overall function. Chiropractors often use techniques like spinal adjustments, soft tissue manipulation, and electrical stimulation to provide immediate relief. However, if your pain is chronic or you require ongoing rehabilitation, a physical therapist may be better equipped to address your needs.

When to Choose a Physical Therapist

If you have a chronic condition, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, or are recovering from surgery or a long-term injury, a physical therapist may be the better choice. Physical therapy aims to treat the underlying cause of pain or mobility issues and improve overall function in the long term. Physical therapists work closely with patients to develop personalized treatment plans that may involve exercises, stretches, and other techniques to restore mobility and manage pain.


Ultimately, the decision between a chiropractor and a physical therapist depends on your specific needs and the nature of your condition. Chiropractors are a suitable choice for acute pain relief and immediate realignment, while physical therapists focus on long-term rehabilitation and improving overall musculoskeletal function. It may be beneficial to consult with both professionals or seek a referral from your primary healthcare provider to determine which treatment option is best for you.

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