About 65 million Americans live with back pain. In addition, there are nearly 132 million doctor visitations yearly by patients seeking to address joint and bone health issues. Bone, muscle, and back pain can be quite distressing, and a doctor may have advised you to see a chiropractor or a physiotherapist. 

The similarities between the two types of treatment can make it quite challenging to determine which best suits you. There are, however, a few small but significant differences that can help you decide between a chiropractor vs. physical therapy.

Chiropractic vs. Physical Therapy: What Are the Similarities?

Fundamentally, both treatment courses share the same objective — get the patient to feel better. The two disciplines help in the treatment and management of stiffness and pain in your body. 

Both non-invasive practitioners hope to decrease pain and increase mobility by treating musculoskeletal problems that will return you to normal function.

The main similarities between chiropractors and physiotherapists include:

  • They are performed by professionals that undergo years of educational training to become licensed health caregivers
  • They assess your presenting symptoms by taking your medical history, carrying out a physical exam, and performing specialized tests
  • They may prescribe exercise regimens to improve range of motion and strength
  • They use non-surgical and non-invasive methods like hands-on or manual therapy to help you feel better and enhance movement
  • They may use physical modalities like heat therapy, cold therapy, ultrasound therapy, and/or electrical stimulations in treating you
  • They may treat or co-treat similar conditions


Chiropractic vs. Physical Therapy: What Are the Main Differences?

Despite the many similarities chiropractors and physical therapists share, a few differences set the two apart. Physiotherapists focus on assessing the full range of body motion and functions. Meanwhile, chiropractors focus on neck pain, back pain, migraines, and joint pain in the arms or legs. Thus, physiotherapists target muscles and soft tissues to achieve pain-free movement, while chiropractors target nerves, spinal cord, and vertebrae to achieve pain relief.

Physiotherapists perform stretches, massages, exercises, and use other physical aids in treating you. These body manipulation forms of treatment help to improve your mobility. Chiropractors carry out body adjustments like joint and spinal manipulation to relieve pain and improve your quality of life.

You can opt to seek out chiropractic care over physical therapy when you have spinal or joint issues. Physical therapy is an excellent and convenient option over chiropractic care if you’re having difficulties specifically with soft tissues.

What Health Issues Do Chiropractors and Physical Therapists Treat?

You can expect treatment for a range of conditions by both a chiropractor or physical therapist. 

Health Issues Treated by Chiropractors

Chiropractic care is based on the principle that the body can heal itself through non-invasive interventions by realigning the body’s natural joint and spine positions. Chiropractors are an excellent alternative to the usual health caregivers when you have neuromuscular disorders. Your chiropractor will help restore your normal bodily function by returning the body to its proper placement in order to relieve pain caused by the misaligned joints and compressed nerves. 

Chiropractors specialize in treating an array of health issues for people of all ages. Chiropractic care can best help to treat:

During your consultation, the chiropractor may clinically evaluate you by first asking specific questions. The questions include the specific site of pain, onset (gradual or rapid), character or nature of the pain, and sites to which the pain radiates towards. You may also have to disclose any factors that worsen the pain and any relieving medication you’ve been taking. Information on the debilitating extent or severity of the pain in your daily life will help plan a course of treatment.

After a detailed case presentation, your chiropractor will conduct a directed physical examination. Tests likely to be done include:

  • Spinal range of motion
  • Orthopaedic Testing
  • Neurological screening tests like superficial and deep tendon reflexes
  • Muscle power and strength
  • Assessing possible spinal subluxations

After a thorough physical examination, your chiropractor will provide a treatment option. Standard remedies available include electrical stimulation, heat or ice therapy, and exercises. The recommended regimens help to improve posture, flexibility, and strength. Multiple recurrent sessions are needed to achieve optimal results.

Peripheral or spinal joint manipulation is another standard care option if you have joint restrictions.  This helps to enhance joint movement and decrease pain. Your chiropractor may also recommend dietary and lifestyle changes to satisfy a holistic treatment approach.

Health Issues Treated by Physical Therapists

Physiotherapists are movement experts that focus on treating disorders and injuries also through non-surgical ways. You can choose to work with physical therapists to regain normal and painless muscle movement after trauma or natural deterioration.


Physical therapists specialize in treating an array of health concerns in different people. Physical therapy can best help in: 

  • Joint swelling 
  • Recurrent movement injuries 
  • Sports injuries
  • Post-surgery rehabilitation


Just like chiropractors, physical therapists start consultations through an initial clinical evaluation. Your physiotherapist will aim to determine the extent of the injury and the limitations to your range of motion. If you’ve been through a recent surgery, you will provide information on the procedure done as well as the pre-and post-operative course.

The physical examination done afterward will help pinpoint the cause of functional limitation or pain. Your physiotherapist may test for a range of motion, flexibility, strength, gait, and functional mobility. Once the necessary information has been gathered, your physiotherapist can come up with therapy objectives and a rehabilitation plan.

Physical therapy courses may take place one to three times a week, with each session lasting about 30-60 minutes. A physical therapist can perform physiotherapy at hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehab centers, homes, schools, workplaces, and athletic facilities. 

Your physiotherapist may use manual methods like passive stretches, scar tissue massage, and joint mobilization during the appointments.

Chiropractic vs. Physical Therapy: What’s Best for You?

So, how do you determine the appropriate type of therapy? While the choice is up to you, there are some variables to consider. The decision will largely depend on your specific needs and the type of health condition you are dealing with.

You can choose to see a chiropractor if you have a spinal problem like neck pain, low back pain, and sciatica that is diminishing your quality of life. Your chiropractor can offer appropriate spinal manipulation to relieve pain and help you feel better.

If you have a problem with a peripheral joint following surgery or a sports injury, then a physical therapist is likely the right option. Your physiotherapist will develop a treatment plan involving exercises aimed at gradually improving strength and range of motion.

If you’ve been experiencing chronic pain that limits your movement, then you may find relief with the help of a physiotherapist and a chiropractor.

Chiropractic vs. Physical Therapy: The Reinhardt Solution

Instead of having to choose between chiropractic care and physical therapy, why not utilize both? At Reinhardt Chiropractic and Wellness, we offer both physical therapy and chiropractic care here in Denver, CO.

Led by Dr. Reinhardt, our team of health care experts guarantees proper and thorough clinical evaluation. Together, we can decide on the best treatment option for your condition. Contact us now and get the help you need to live a quality, pain-free life.