Chiro/Physio WHICH should you choose?
This blog IS NOT WRITTEN TO TELL YOU IF ONE PROFESSION IS BETTER THAN THE OTHER OR TO COMPARE ONE TO AGAINST THE OTHER. It is designed solely to give you background information about the two professions to help you decide which type of care may suit you best. It is based solely on the opinions of the author after 35 years of practice and is based on many thousands of conversations with patients and many long philosophical discussions with both Physiotherapists and Chiropractors in the past. I hope its helpful to you.
should i see a chiropractor or a physiotherapist?
One friend will tell you that chiropractors are best, while another will say that physiotherapists 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 and want to find out which one may suit you best.
In this blog we will outline 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 you.
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 reduce it and 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.
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?
Actually its all about you getting well, its not about who you see. 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
- A thorough review of your spine problems.
- A detailed neurological, orthopaedic and function assessment
- X-rays or other tests, as required, to get an accurate diagnosis.
- Your treatment options fully explained to you.
- Exercises to assist your recovery, preferably demonstrated on video for your convenience.
- 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.
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