You might have thought, or someone had questioned that “what is the difference between a Physical therapist and chiropractor?” This is a popular question that pops up all the time, and the answer is a bit tricky to explain.

In most people’s minds, physiotherapists and chiropractors are the same. They see no difference whatsoever. To some extent, these professions are very similar, using hands-on treatment approaches for their patients and clients alike.

However, it is to be noted that both of these professions hold different reputations in the field of medicine. Physical Therapy is said to be evidence-based practice with research and data-backed for decades. On the other hand Chiropractic profession has no known and updated evidence and holds very little data from the past research.

Although both of these professions treat injuries related to bones, joints and musculoskeletal system, the chiropractic method promises to provide fast and quick recovery by doing hands-on manipulation of joints or, in other words, “cracking up your bones”.

Physical therapy, contrary to it, uses a health and wellness approach engaging mind, body and soul. They like to increase the number and frequency of exercise incrementally, considering the level of impairment the patient has documented with. The physical therapist works in conjunction with a physician to decide what is best for the patient.


When it comes to manipulations, it leads to a misconception that both of these professions use the same techniques and are very alike. However, they fail to realize that it’s not about the method. It’s about the intensity and how you do it or, more specifically, when is the right time to perform a particular technique.


Physical therapists and Chiropractors share many same qualities; however, each domain has its benefits for different diseases. The main goal of both professions is to achieve the same thing: helping people improve their body functions and recover quickly to get back to life.

Here are some critical similarities noted in Physical therapy and Chiropractor;

  • A Physical therapist and Chiropractor are trained at the doctoral level and need to be board certified to become licensed professionals.

  • Both of these professions use hands-on manual therapy to treat patients. Joint manipulation and mobilization are significant similarities.

  • Both practices the use of electrical stimulation devices.

  • They treat many similar conditions with somewhat the same manipulation techniques.

  • Both professions promise to treat an injury with non-pharmacological and non-surgical approaches using conservative treatment approaches.

Which treatment is best?

A physical therapist is a licensed professional of doctorate level who has extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, and relation with systemic diseases.

Physical therapists do not treat the condition superficially; rather, they find the root cause and treat it along with a physician if the case requires it. Suppose a person visits a physical therapist for severe backache, and upon detailed evaluation, it turns out that they had a compression fracture in their vertebral body.

So a physical therapist will refer them to an orthopedic physician and closely discuss the root cause of the condition before performing therapeutic exercises and techniques.

Physical therapists work as a team with their patients and other healthcare professionals to help make a decision that supports and does not disrupt patients’ daily routine rather than modify it for the betterment. A patient-centered approach is appreciated in physical therapy.

By engaging them in exercises and making them able to perform their ADLs as independently as they can.

On the other hand, Chiropractor is a bit different as their evaluation approach requires information about patients’ nutritional factors, sleep duration, exercise routine, diet, body type, and factors that include health and wellness.

They prefer to order X-rays and test the nutritional health of bones and muscles before performing manipulation techniques. As these techniques are “Low amplitude, High velocity” manipulation, if a person is low on calcium, mainly their vertebrae might get fractured, or if they have a bleeding disorder, a massive hematoma may develop.

For these suspected reasons, lab tests are an essential aspect of evaluation in chiropractic practice.

Summing up

Physical therapists and Chiropractors are very much alike and very dissimilar in their ways. Although most techniques are the same, the main difference lies in How do they perform it? And when to achieve it?

In the recent decade, many chiropractors have started to incorporate simple exercises in their programs. This is misleading to many patients as they are compelled to think that both of these professions are the same logically, only the name is different.

Generally, people love to hear cracking sounds coming from their joints. It is a sort of placebo effect. It makes them believe that louder the cracking sound more quickly they are fixed!

There is a considerable lack of awareness about these professions in the normal population. Both of these professions hold equal importance but in different aspects. Chiros better treat some anomalies, and others better treated by physiotherapy.

Whether you plan to visit a physical therapist or Chiro, do your study and consult professionals about it. Explain your condition and make the best decision possible by gaining suggestions from both of these professionals.

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