Chiro/Physio WHICH should you choose?

Chiro or Physio: which is the best?

Chiro or Physio; who should you see for headaches, back pain, neck pain or sciatica. This blog will help you discover if a Townsville Chiropractor or Physiotherapist is best suited to you. It is designed solely to give you background information about the two professions to help you decide which type of care is best for you. This is based on the opinions of the author after 40 years of practice and is based on many thousands of conversations with patients and many discussions with both Physiotherapists and Chiropractors in the past. I hope its helpful to you.

Should I see a Chiro or a Physio?

Chiro or Physio which one can help meOne friend will tell you that chiros are best, while another will say that physios are the best. This advice, however well meaning, can be very confusing. When you are suffering from low back or neck pain, headaches or aching joints you want to find out which one will suit you best.

In this blog we will outline both the similarities and differences between the two professions when it comes to spinal problems. Once you have a broad understanding of these professions you can then decide which one is may be most appropriate for your treatment.

 What do they aim to achieve?

Chiropractic care’s primary aim is the removal and prevention of musculoskeletal-related problems. They focus on restoring normal functional movement to the spine and strengthening the surrounding structures.

Physiotherapy primarily aim is to improve the movement and function of your joints and muscles to get you back to normal mobility. They focus on exercises to improve flexibility, mobility and strength.

As you can see their goals are essentially the same.


What do they agree on?

They both agree that good spinal function depends on

  • Good movement in both the pelvis and spine,
  • Strong balanced muscles around the spine
  • Good neurological control of movement and balance

Are they trained differently?

Both Physiotherapy and chiropractic are university based full time degrees. Chiropractic is a five-year full time degree while Physiotherapy is a four-year full time degree. Chiropractors and Physiotherapists are both trained in the orthopaedic, neurological and functional assessment of the spine. 

Townsville Chiropractor demonstrating spinal anatomy

Chiropractic training focuses specifically on spinal structure, function and control. They learn a wide range of specific spinal techniques, ranging from those that involve manipulation to localisation and soft tissue techniques. They are also taught how to exercises to improve movement and increase strength.

Physiotherapists are trained in spinal assessment and treatment. They tend to focus on  stretching, exercises and soft tissue techniques to improve mobility and strength.

Physiotherapists do not receive the same degree of training in spinal manipulation as Chiropractors.  Physiotherapists training has a much wider scope of training than the chiropractic degree. While they are mostly known for their treatment of sporting injuries, such as joint sprains and muscle tears, physios also work extensively with people recovering from stroke, women’s health issues, post-surgical rehabilitation and diseases such as osteoporosis, cystic fibrosis or multiple sclerosis.


Do they assess spinal problems differently?

No. The best chiropractors and physiotherapists will do a very thorough assessment of your spinal function. It will consist of:

  • A thorough history
  • A detailed postural and functional examination
  • Any other tests such as x-rays if indicted

The best treatment is always based on an accurate diagnosis on ongoing assessment of your problems.


Are their treatments different?

This is one of the biggest differences between the two professions.

While both professions agree that treatment should not be focused only on the painful area their methods of actually treating spinal problems do vary.

Chiropractic treatment usually consists of gentle forces being manually applied to the vertebrae with the aim of restoring normal motion to the spine. These treatments are usually combined with specific stretching and strengthening exercises.

Physio treatment is usually based more around making changes in the soft tissues around the spine. It usually involves stretching exercises, massage and dry needling (acupuncture).

They both use essentially the same exercise programs, nutritional advice, and ergonomic and postural advice.


Who is the best to see?

Townsville CHiropractor performing a neck examination

Townsville Chiropractor examining a patient

Actually its all about you getting well, its not about who you see. Chiro or physio: it doesnt really matter as long as you get well. If after your treatment your spine works well and stays that way into the future then its safe to say that you saw the right person for you.

Who you choose comes down to what type of approach you want to remove your symptoms and getting spine working well. If you want to start with restoring spinal functioning via spinal manipulation then then a chiropractor may be the best place for you to start. If you want to concentrate more on the soft tissue approach a physiotherapist would be the best place to start. Perhaps the best advice I can give is to talk to a physio and a chiro about your problems and how they would approach your treatment before making a decision as who to see.

Whichever profession you choose you should receive

  1. A thorough review of your spine problems.
  2. A detailed neurological, orthopaedic and function assessment
  3. X-rays or other tests, as required, to get an accurate diagnosis.
  4. Your treatment options fully explained to you.
  5. Exercises to assist your recovery, preferably demonstrated on video for your convenience.
  6. A treatment plan finishing with a comparative exam to assess your progress.


What you need to be careful of?

Unfortunately there are good and bad chiropractors and physios, just like every other profession. While different practitioners use different approaches, good practitioners generally will get good results if they do what they do well. The challenge is finding the right one for you.

If you see a physio or chiro who says anything like: “Don’t go to anyone but me, only I can help you” or “you have a bulging disc don’t see anyone but me” they are probably more interested in building their practice than what will be best for you. One of the traits of great chiropractors and physiotherapists is that are honest with you as to whether they can help you and what your other options of treatment are.


If you found this blog useful please let us know in the comments below. We love hearing from you and appreciate any constructive criticisms or advice you can give us about this topic.



Copyright Ansell Chiropractic ©2017


  1. Rosie Piercy

    I think this is a good round up of the differences and similarities between the professions. I always say to people looking for a therapist that a good one whether a chiro or a physio will be happy to have a chat with you over the phone or in person before you book an appointment.

    • Ansell Chiropractic

      Thank you for your comment Rosie. It is all about finding the right person for you.

  2. Paul Finn

    I appreciate the thought that has gone into writing this fine article, its not the difference between the two that is important – what is important is that the practitioner is there primarily for you, they are well trained and have empathy.

    • Ansell Chiropractic

      Thank you for your comment Paul. A very nice summary of what you should look for in any health professional.

  3. Kimberlee

    I completely agree with everything that has been said. A good doctor is the most important aspect in any specialty. You did a great job at describing both chiropractors and physiotherapists. Always learning something new, here.

    • Ansell Chiropractic

      Thanks for your comment Kimberlee. It’s great to hear we’re providing useful information.

  4. Fiona

    Thanks for writing a non-biased comparison article.

  5. Scott Charlton

    Nicely written and well said Dr Ansell. After all the key issue is not what professional you see but that the patients best interest is paramount.

  6. Matt Jacob

    Really interesting topic to cover and certainly one that gets brought up in conversation. Very professionally written!

  7. Mike Landry

    A great non biased review of the two professional groups. Find someone who is professional and who is willing to answer any questions.

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  19. Dr. Bo

    We recently wrote a similar blog about the differences between chiropractic and physical therapy. It is my opinion there is more like than different between people continue to make it a competition. We can all coexist and help patients.

  20. Jean

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    • daryl

      Thanks we hope the info is helpful for you to use

  21. Karo

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    • daryl

      Your welcome thanks for the comment

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    • daryl

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

  23. MARC

    I read this post your post so nice and very informative post thanks for sharing this post

    • daryl

      Your welcome hope it was useful for you and your practice

  24. Amelia Jack

    Thanks for the info with us, it was very informative

    • Vicky Parker

      Thanks for your support Amelia

  25. Scott Lieschke

    I have seen both for different problems. My Chiropractor helped me continue playing football for 30 years. I saw my physio when I had muscle strains and tendinitis.

    • Vicky Parker

      Glad you have had those results

  26. Rachel

    Great explanation for the community!

    • Vicky Parker

      Thanks for your feedback

  27. Rodger

    Nice informative post. I think it’s important to have a therapist who has your interests as their top priority in your recovery and rehabilitation journey

    • Vicky Parker

      Thank you rehabilitation is always a priority

    • Vicky Parker

      Thanks Rodger for reading our post


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