Chiropractors and physical therapists share similar work methods but differ in several ways. Read on to learn the differences between these two healthcare providers before making your final choice.

Similarities Between Chiropractors & Physical Therapists

The overall treatment goals of these two forms of healthcare practices are indeed similar in that both attempt to help clients move better and experience less pain and discomforts following an accident with injuries or after undergoing surgery.

Other similarities include:

  • Both Career Paths Require Training at the Doctoral Level
  • Both Use Non-Invasive & Natural Healing Techniques Designed to Treat the Underlying Root Cause of Pain and/or Restricted Mobility
  • Both Providers Can Prescribe Specific Exercises Intended to Strengthen Injured Musculoskeletal Elements & Improve Overall Range-of Motion
  • These Providers May Also Use Physical Treatment Measures Like Hot & Cold Packs, Electrical or Ultrasound Therapies & Other Treatment Measures as Needed
  • Both Provides Are Required to Pass a Board and/or Licensure Exam & Training to Practice Legally
  • The Two Practitioners May Also Incorporate Natural Based Preventative Measures in Treatment Plans
  • These Two Healthcare Providers Typically Avoid Addictive Medications

Differences Between Chiropractors & Physical Therapists

Chiropractors are trained in specific non-surgical spinal adjustment techniques along with adjustments and manipulations of other body parts. Some will also use deep tissue massage and other treatment measures to target and treat stressed and injured muscles and other structures of the musculoskeletal system similar to what a PT can do.

These specialists also focus on the neck, back, and joint-related pain and stiffness by using treatments and procedures designed to reduce inflammation and irritation of the smaller nerve, tendon, and ligament issues that are often the root cause of the client’s discomfort.

Physical therapists also attempt to treat a person’s underlying causes of their pain, other discomforts, and restriction of mobility causes. Their goal is to improve muscle strength and increase mobility using certain customized exercises along with other treatment modes and therapies.

While a chiropractor tends to work in a specific office type setting due to the larger equipment needed in their practice, physical therapists can be found in many other settings including hospitals, nursing home facilities, rehabilitation centers, fitness businesses, sports-related environments, private practice, and combined outpatient group settings.

Other differences include:

  • PTs May Work in Various Settings Even in Home Environments
  • Chiropractors Tend to Operate Out of an Office Setting
  • PTs tend to Focus on Exercise Stretches & Treatments for Muscles & the Musculoskeletal System
  • Chiropractors Can Treat the Whole Body & Diagnose Related Health Issues
  • Chiropractors May Also Provide Counsel Regarding Diets, Lifestyle Changes, Better Nutrition and Other Area Treatment Modalities
  • Both PTs & Chiropractors May Specialize in Specific Patient Groups – Peds, Seniors, Disabled, etc.

There are many treatments and preventative measures that both chiropractors and PTs may implement into their therapy sessions. It is best to find a provider that has the background and experience to treat your specific musculoskeletal injuries and other issues for the best end results.

What to Expect at a Chiropractor Session


There are several reasons why people tend to see a chiropractor for treatment. These reasons include after injury treatment that involves the muscles, soft tissue involvement, and joint-related problems often stemming from a recent accident with injuries or due to a serious surgery or other intensive treatment or hospitalization.

Usually, the chiropractor will see patients who complain of neck, back, and joint issues. The chiropractor uses special spinal and other body area manipulations and adjustments designed to put the main musculoskeletal elements back into a normal and healthy balance.

Chiropractors may also address other causative reasons for the current symptoms of pain or restricted movement. These include dietary and nutritional support and education, preventative stretching exercises between appointments, possible deep muscle tissue massage, and other measures able to decrease inflammation and irritation at the source.

A Chiropractic First Appointment Session

Wear loose clothing that is comfortable and easy to remove at the impacted body area. Be on time for your first appointment and bring along detailed medical-related information at this time.

Medical and lifestyle information to have ready at first appointment include:

  • Symptoms – Note Time, Where Pain or Discomfort Is Located & Measures That Seem to Help or Increase Symptoms
  • Detailed Medication List – Include OTC Supplements & Other Products
  • Health History – Include Family History Too

Review of Overall Treatment Measures Chiropractors May Use

Your chiropractor will assess and come up with a personalized treatment plan. This will usually involve spinal or other body location adjustments. Other treatment measures include stretches, exercises to improve overall body and muscle strength and to improve on flexibility and joint range-of-motion.

The chiropractor may also recommend several lifestyle changes that include healthy nutrition plans, natural pain relief measures, safe exercise programs, avoidance of smoking, alcohol and rest if injury was due to a sport or other activity.

Expect to have recurrent chiropractor visits to meet your symptom relief plan and as needed afterward as a preventative measure when initial treatment goals are met.

What to Expect at a PT Session

Unlike a chiropractor, physical therapists may work in other settings besides their main office practice location. A PT will also want a detailed health history and review of current symptoms much like a chiropractor requires.

Bring along the following:

  • Complete List of Medications Including Supplements & OTC Drugs or Additives
  • Personal & Family Health History
  • Treatments Tried at Home & Which Work or Which Ones Increase Pain or Other Negative Symptoms
  • Be Honest About Exercise, Smoking, Drinking & Lifestyle Details

A PT Overall First Assessment

A PT will perform a thorough physical and oral assessment. A detailed plan of treatment with achievable goals will be developed and discussed. Wear comfortable and loose clothing to your appointments. Bring along any mobility aids – walkers, canes, braces, etc.

A physical therapist will also check:

  • Overall Body & Specific Muscle/Joint Strength & Motion
  • May Do Certain Stretches & Moves for Diagnosis Purpose
  • Will Also Check Range-of-Motion esp. in Impacted Body Areas
  • Balance Will Be Tested & Assessed
  • Expect to Check Gait & Flexibility with/without Assistance
  • Tell PT About Any Skin Integrity Issues – Scrapes, Sores, Rashes, etc.
  • Will Usually Require Sessions a Few Times a Week at First
  • Appointments After First One Typically About 1 Hour or So.

Review of Treatment Measures PTs Use

PTs may utilize:

  • Specific Deep Tissue Massage Techniques
  • Passive Exercises & Stretches
  • Education Regarding Any Special Mobility Aide or Item – Braces, Walker, Cane or WC etc.
  • Treatment Often Started in Hospital or Rehab In-Patient Center for Some

When Should Someone Seek Services from a Physical Therapist

A person who has experienced an injury that causes pain or impacts movement will want to get a thorough medical examination. Individuals who are hospitalized for surgery or recovery from a serious health problem may need physical therapy before they can go home.

Those who are involved with intense sports and other high body-stress activities may want to consider preventative treatment with a PT experienced in sport’s related therapies.

When Someone Should Seek Services from a Chiropractor

If you were injured in a car or other accidental event, a chiropractor could be an excellent part of your recovery plan. This is especially true for those who have injured their neck, back or have limited movement in a joint. Chiropractic services can be preventative in nature as well.

This type of treatment is also recommended for vulnerable individuals like those with aging health issues or loss of mobility. The chiropractic treatments may be done concurrently with other healthcare treatments.

Learn more about these two important healthcare options by contacting Denver Chiropractic, LLC at Phone: (303) 455-2225 or online via this link.