Almost one-third of Australians will suffer from physical conditions, such as osteoarthritis, lower back pain, joint stiffness and neck pain. Fortunately, your local physiotherapists and chiropractors will work to help service and fix these problems. However, an age-old debate amongst patients revolves around the topic of "physiotherapist vs chiropractor" and "who should I see?" So you can make up your own mind, our article will compare these two health professions.
What is physiotherapy?
Physiotherapists work in a variety of settings to help reduce physical pain and restore movement. They will use non-medicinal and natural ways to accelerate the body's recovery. Common areas where physiotherapists work include:
Physiotherapists will use a combination of techniques to fix or improve your condition, such as hands-on techniques (e.g. massage, dry needling, spinal manipulation, etc.), electrotherapy, exercise, and lifestyle advice.
Once your problem has resolved or you have achieved your goal, your physiotherapist will cease treatment and discharge you. Depending on your specific injury or condition, between 5-7 treatments may be required for acute issues.
What conditions do physiotherapists treat?
Physiotherapy is practised on the basis of scientific research and high-quality evidence. Under these circumstances, there are many types of physiotherapy which help treat a variety of conditions. Examples of conditions which physiotherapists can treat and manage include:
Post-operative recovery (e.g. joint replacements, ACL reconstructions, fractures, post-partum, etc.)
Sports injuries (e.g. sprains, strains, dislocations, etc.)
Lower back and neck pain
Joint stiffness and pain (e.g. osteoarthritis, etc.)
Cardiopulmonary (e.g. COPD, bronchiectasis, etc.)
Vertigo and vestibular issues
Neurological conditions (e.g. stroke, Parkinson's disease, etc.)
What is chiropractic care?
Similar to physiotherapy, chiropractors encourage a natural way of rehabilitating the body. Conflicting against modern Western Medicine, chiropractors predominantly utilise spinal manipulation to realign the body for almost every physical problem. However, some chiropractor's will also co-treat with hands-on and exercise-based techniques.
Until recently, chiropractors have believed that spinal manipulation improved the body's immune system to protect from disease and infection.
Unlike physiotherapists, chiropractors work in less varied areas (compared to physiotherapists) including GP centres, private clinics and sports clubs. Although granted the title as honorary doctors, chiropractors are not taught and do not work in hospitals.
Additionally, chiropractors will often encourage a maintenance plan whereby patients will be required to schedule for ongoing appointments. On average, you will be required to attend 12 sessions to notice a significant improvement.
What conditions do chiropractors treat?
The scope of practice is also quite different when comparing a physiotherapist vs chiropractor. Given that physiotherapists work in a large variety of settings, they also tend to treat more different types of conditions. Consequently, most chiropractors will effectively treat:
Comparing Physiotherapists vs Chiropractors
Although there are numerous overlapping similarities between physiotherapists vs chiropractors, their practising philosophy and approach are incredibly different. Whilst physiotherapists encourage self-management and physical activity; chiropractors opt for more maintenance through spinal manipulations. Below is a comprehensive table comparing these two professions.
|Education||Accredited through either a Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate tertiary program||Accredited through either a Masters or Doctorate tertiary program|
|Conditions treated||A large variety of physical conditions and injuries||Predominantly spinal conditions including low back and neck pain|
|Sessions required||5-8 for acute or fresh injuries||>12 sessions are often required|
|GP Referral Required?||Not required, however, physiotherapists are the number 1 most referred allied health service by GPs||Not required, GPs will situationally refer chiropractors|
At the end of the day, it's up to you to make the decision on who you’d rather see for your condition. However, selecting a high-quality local physiotherapist or chiropractor is pivotal for a positive outcome.