Physical therapy vs. chiropractic care: Their differences and how they can work together

It can seem like physical therapy and chiropractic care are similar because they both use stretches and hands-on therapy, with alignment therapy in chiropractic care and modalities in physical therapy. Even though they have that in common, the two types of care are different because of the purpose of their treatments.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy refers to the treatment of disease, injury or deformity by physical methods rather than by drugs or surgery. However, most physical therapy treatments are designed to relieve pain, to help you move better and to strengthen weaker areas. But also, it can help to identify weaker areas and determine the ability level of the patient. 

Ability levels are how well you’re able to move a certain area of your body. You may be strong in certain places but not flexible in those areas. A physical therapist evaluates your ability levels and how you move. They then work to improve your ability to move.

You don’t need to have a sports-related injury or condition to see a physical therapist. Although it is helpful for an athlete or active person to see a physical therapist, physical therapy can be beneficial to anyone. 

Especially for people with labor-intensive jobs like construction or for people like nurses with very active jobs, physical therapy can be beneficial in keeping them healthy as they move. This is because many of these types of jobs require repetitive physical movements or certain activities. Repetitive movements and intensive activities can put wear and tear on the body faster than it would for someone with a less active job or lifestyle.

For example, a construction worker may be lifting heavy items all day and teachers may be leaning over at desks repeatedly. This can build tension in certain areas of the body. A physical therapist can help you understand how to take better precautions or what movements to do to prevent injuries and possible harmful conditions.

What is chiropractic care?

Chiropractic care consists of adjustments or spinal manipulation. Adjustments are when chiropractors use their hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled, sudden force to a spinal joint to realign and improve spinal motion. The main focus of chiropractic care vs. physical therapy is that it aims to improve physical function through healthy spinal movement and an aligned spine. Healthy spinal movement is where you can move your spine without pain or limitations. 

This does not mean that chiropractic care is less effective for total body movement in comparison to physical therapy. The spine gives your body structure and support. Without having good spine health, you could compromise the rest of the body’s ability to move and function.

Main differences: Physical therapy vs. chiropractic care 

Physical therapy looks at movement throughout the body and identifies weaknesses and strengths. Treatments in physical therapy are intended to help make movement less difficult and to build strength back into certain areas. Physical therapists use physical examinations and description of symptoms to identify pain and weaknesses and then create treatment plans specific to the needs of the patient. These plans may include: 

Chiropractor care is different from physical therapy because it focuses on the spine and how it affects movement in the body. Chiropractors also use physical exams and description of symptoms to identify the area of the spine that is contributing to pain and weakness. They primarily treat spinal issues by adjusting or manipulating the spine. but treatment is through adjustments and recommended practices. 

Do I have to do one or the other?

No, you can do both! While physical therapy and chiropractic care are different, they both can help you maintain a healthy, moving body. They work well together because a chiropractor can help you with spinal health issues like poor posture, scoliosis or a misaligned spine. And with a physical therapist, you can work to improve movement in the rest of your body.

Doubling up can be very beneficial because only receiving chiropractic care or physical therapy can mean possibly lacking insight in a certain area. For example, you may only receive chiropractic care when you may need to go to physical therapy for tendinitis. Or you may go to physical therapy but could benefit from having your spine adjusted by a chiropractor, too.

How can Lattimore PT help me?

Talking to a trained specialist in physical therapy at Lattimore PT can be helpful to understand what is available to you and how different kinds of medical practices may benefit you. A physical therapist can help you identify which treatments at Lattimore PT may be the most effective for your journey and maybe how chiropractic care can help you too. Making a consultation can be simple and informative about what specific treatments are right for you and your needs.

Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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