Do Chiropractors Do Physical Therapy? Separating Fact from Fiction

Do Chiropractors Do Physical Therapy

Chiropractic care and physical therapy often intersect in their goals and methods, leading to a common misconception that they are interchangeable. However, while both disciplines aim to enhance patient mobility and well-being, they differ significantly in their approach and scope of practice. In this blog post we aim to dispel the myth do chiropractors do physical therapy, providing a clearer understanding of their unique roles in patient care.

Chiropractors and physical therapists both play crucial roles in promoting musculoskeletal health and improving patients’ quality of life. However, they have distinct training, methods, and objectives that set them apart from one another.

Understanding Chiropractic Care and Physical Therapy

Before diving into the question at hand, let’s first understand what chiropractic care and physical therapy entail.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is a healthcare discipline that focuses on diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions like shoulder impingement, primarily through manual adjustments or manipulations of the spine. The goal is to alleviate pain by restoring proper alignment and function to the body’s musculoskeletal system.

Chiropractors undergo extensive training to understand the intricate relationship between the spine, nervous system, and overall health. They use their hands or specialized tools to apply controlled force to specific areas of the body, aiming to correct misalignments called subluxations. By doing so, they believe they can relieve pain, improve mobility, and enhance overall well-being.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy (PT), on the other hand, aims to improve mobility, function, and quality of life for individuals experiencing movement difficulties due to injury or illness. Physical therapists are highly trained healthcare professionals who evaluate patients’ conditions and develop personalized treatment plans.

Physical therapists utilize various techniques such as exercise programs, manual therapies like massage or joint mobilization, heat or cold therapies, electrical stimulation, ultrasound treatments, and more. Their goals include reducing pain, increasing strength and flexibility, improving balance and coordination skills, and helping patients regain independence in their daily activities.

Can Chiropractors Do Physical Therapy?

Can Chiropractors Do Physical Therapy?

Now that we have a basic understanding of chiropractic care and physical therapy, let’s address the burning question: can chiropractors perform physical therapy?

Scope of Practice

Chiropractors are trained in various therapeutic techniques, including posture correction, spinal manipulations, soft tissue therapies, and rehabilitative exercises. While their focus is primarily on the spine and nervous system, some chiropractors do incorporate elements of physical therapy into their practice.

However, it’s essential to note that the scope of practice for chiropractors may vary depending on state regulations and individual licenses. In some states, chiropractors are authorized to provide certain aspects of physical therapy within their practice. This may include prescribing exercises or performing specific rehabilitation techniques.

Collaborative Approach

In many cases, chiropractors and physical therapists work together to provide comprehensive care for patients. They recognize that each profession brings unique skills and perspectives to the table. By collaborating and combining their expertise, patients can benefit from a more holistic treatment approach.

Chiropractors may refer patients to physical therapists when specialized interventions beyond their scope are required. Similarly, physical therapists might refer patients to chiropractors when spinal adjustments or manipulations could enhance overall outcomes.

Differences Between Chiropractic Care and Physical Therapy

While both chiropractic care and physical therapy share the common goal of improving health and well-being through non-invasive methods, there are some important distinctions between the two:

  1. Approach: Chiropractic care primarily focuses on spinal adjustments to restore alignment and nerve function throughout the body. Physical therapy takes a broader approach that involves exercise-based interventions targeting specific areas of weakness or dysfunction.
  2. Scope: Chiropractors typically concentrate on musculoskeletal issues related to the spine but may also address lateral pelvic tilt. Physical therapists have a wider scope of practice that encompasses multiple body systems beyond just the musculoskeletal system.
  3. Treatment Duration: Chiropractic care often involves frequent visits over a shorter period, to achieve quick relief and resolution. Physical therapy may involve a longer treatment plan that gradually progresses as patients regain strength and function.
  4. Provider Qualifications: Chiropractors are doctors who complete a four-year doctor of chiropractic degree program after undergraduate studies. Physical therapists, on the other hand, obtain a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree or a Master’s in Physical Therapy (MPT) after their undergraduate education.
  5. Insurance Coverage: Insurance coverage for chiropractic care and physical therapy can vary depending on individual policies and providers. It’s important to check with your insurance company to understand what services are covered and any limitations that may apply.

Similarities Between Chiropractic Care and Physical Therapy

Chiropractic care and physical therapy, while distinct practices share several similarities rooted in their core objectives to alleviate pain, improve functionality, and enhance the quality of life. Below are some of the key similarities:

  1. Patient-Centered Care: Both disciplines place a strong emphasis on personalized treatment plans tailored to the specific needs and goals of the patient.
  2. Holistic Approach: Both chiropractic care and physical therapy adopt a holistic approach to treatment, considering the entire body rather than focusing solely on the area of pain or discomfort.
  3. Non-Invasive Techniques: Both fields rely on non-invasive techniques, avoiding surgery and medication as much as possible.
  4. Education and Prevention: Chiropractors and physical therapists educate patients about their conditions and guide preventative measures to avoid recurrence.
  5. Therapeutic Exercise: Both professions incorporate therapeutic exercises into their treatment plans to strengthen the body and improve mobility.

While chiropractic care and physical therapy share similarities, it is important to note that they are distinct practices with different areas of expertise. Chiropractors primarily focus on the spine and nervous system, while physical therapists treat a wide range of conditions from musculoskeletal injuries to neurological disorders. Regardless, both chiropractic care and physical therapy offer non-invasive, patient-centered treatments that prioritize long-term pain relief and improved functionality.

When to Seek Chiropractic Care?When to Seek Chiropractic Care or physical therapy

The decision to seek chiropractic care often depends on the nature of your condition or symptoms. Chiropractors may be a suitable choice if you’re experiencing:

Back or Neck Pain

Chiropractors excel in diagnosing and treating back and neck pain, including discomfort caused by poor posture, muscle strains, pelvic floor dysfunction, or herniated discs. Through spinal adjustments and other specialized techniques, chiropractors after car accident injuries aim to alleviate pain and restore proper spinal alignment.


If you suffer from tension headaches or migraines that are suspected to stem from musculoskeletal issues in the neck or upper spine, chiropractic care may offer relief. Chiropractors can assess your condition and provide targeted treatments that address the underlying causes of these headaches.

When to Seek Physical Therapy?

Physical therapy is often recommended for individuals who require rehabilitation or assistance with restoring functional movement. Consider consulting a physical therapist if you have:

Sports Injuries

Whether you’ve sprained an ankle while playing sports or are recovering from a more severe athletic injury like a golfer’s elbow, a physical therapist can help with your recovery. They will design a personalized treatment plan that includes exercises focused on strengthening the affected area and gradually increasing mobility.

Post-Surgery Rehabilitation

Following surgical procedures such as joint replacements or reconstructive surgeries, physical therapy is crucial for regaining strength, range of motion, and functionality. Physical therapists work closely with surgeons to develop comprehensive rehabilitation programs tailored to each patient’s needs.

Combined Benefits of Physical Therapy and Chiropractic Care

There is a powerful combination of holistic approaches that can work synergistically to optimize your healing potential: chiropractic care and physical therapy. These two practices, when integrated and tailored to your specific needs, can provide a comprehensive approach to address the root causes of pain and promote long-term recovery.

Let’s explore the combined benefits of chiropractic care and physical therapy and how they can help you achieve optimal health.

  1. Both chiropractic care and physical therapy can help reduce pain by addressing issues in the musculoskeletal system.
  2. These treatments often focus on improving flexibility and strength, which can enhance mobility and overall functionality.
  3. By correcting muscular imbalances and promoting healthier movement patterns, chiropractic care and physical therapy can help prevent future injuries.
  4. Both therapies are non-invasive, offering a natural alternative to surgery or medication.
  5. Regular treatment can correct posture-related issues, leading to improved comfort and well-being.
  6. Both chiropractic care and physical therapy look at the body as a whole, often leading to improved overall health and wellness.
  7. Each person’s body and needs are unique, and both therapies offer personalized treatment plans to address specific concerns.
  8. Chiropractic care and physical therapy can be used together or in conjunction with other forms of treatment for maximum benefits.
  9. Both therapists often provide education on proper movement techniques and exercises, empowering patients to take an active role in their healing process.
  10. Rather than just masking symptoms, chiropractic care and physical therapy focus on addressing the root cause of issues for long-term relief and improved functioning.

Myths About Chiropractors Doing Physical Therapy

When it comes to healthcare and alternative therapies, there are often misconceptions that can cloud our judgment and prevent us from exploring the full range of available options. One such area where myths persist is in the realm of chiropractic care and its relationship to physical therapy.

Below we have addressed common misconceptions about chiropractors providing physical therapy services and shed light on the truth behind these myths.

Myth 1: Chiropractors Lack the Necessary Training for Physical Therapy

It is a common belief that chiropractors do not have the proper education or qualifications to provide physical therapy. However, this misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. Chiropractors undergo extensive training in their field, which includes knowledge of musculoskeletal anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, and rehabilitation techniques. Many chiropractors also pursue additional certifications in physical therapy modalities to enhance their skills and broaden their scope of practice.

Myth 2: Chiropractic Care Only Focuses On Spinal Adjustments

While spinal adjustments are a cornerstone of chiropractic care, it is important to note that chiropractors are trained in a variety of manual therapies beyond just adjustments. These may include soft tissue techniques, joint mobilization, stretching exercises, and rehabilitative exercises – all of which can be encompassed within the broader domain of physical therapy. Chiropractors approach patient care with a holistic perspective, aiming to address not only spinal health but also overall musculoskeletal wellness.

Myth 3: Physical Therapy Provided by Chiropractors Lacks Evidence-Based Practice

Some skeptics argue that physical therapy administered by chiropractors lacks scientific backing or evidence-based practice. However, like any healthcare profession, reputable chiropractors base their treatments on current research and clinical guidelines. They utilize evidence-based techniques supported by peer-reviewed studies to ensure safe and effective patient outcomes.

Bottom Line

While chiropractors and physical therapists both play pivotal roles in maintaining our health, they are distinct professionals with different scopes of practice. The misconception that chiropractors perform physical therapy could lead to confusion about their respective roles. It’s essential to understand that each has unique strategies and techniques to optimize your health and well-being. We hope this blog post has dispelled some common misconceptions. Feel free to explore and read our other blogs for more insights and facts about health-related issues.

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