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The Difference Between Chiropractic and Physical Therapy


Many people suffering from musculoskeletal problems in the United States engage in a long road to recovery, whether it is from an accidental injury or a chronic condition. The variety of treatments extends from surgery, to medication, to physical therapy and beyond. For those on these paths, the treatment plan can vary widely depending upon the unique needs of each person. If a person is described physical therapy and/or chiropractic, they may want to know what the difference is. While it is true that both treatments can have similar goals, the individual modalities used are quite distinct.

Physical therapy is used to diagnose and treat movement impairments and disorders of call kind. Treatments prescribed may be both active and passive stretching, hot/cold therapy, or specific exercises. The goal of physical therapy is to help patients regain lost mobility, maintenance care, or to prevent future injury. Treatments are generally administered in hospitals, nursing homes, or other locations and generally require a referral from a physician.

Chiropractic is different in that its goal is to realign any spinal vertebrae that may be out of place, which can relieve pain and pressure on nerves. While the goals are the same as in physical therapy, the focus is shifted more towards correcting subluxations. Chiropractors will usually adjust a patient’s spine using their hands or adjusting devices in addition to using other potential treatments. Some are the same as what is used in physical therapy, including hot/cold therapy and stretching, but can also include electric muscle stimulation and ultrasound.

Both of these treatments are great options for those suffering from musculoskeletal issues. However chiropractic is also used to treat a variety of other conditions such as asthma, depression, and earaches. Because chiropractic focuses more on the nervous system, there is a wider range of conditions to be treated as the nervous systems extends throughout our bodies and can cause many different problems.

Patients often may wonder which treatment is better for their specific problem. The best way to figure this out would to talk to a primary care physician in order to get a diagnosis.  A treatment plan can then be discussed which may include chiropractic and physical therapy, one or the other, or something completely different. A multidisciplinary approach is often utilized, meaning that care can come from many different realms all towards the same goal. Patients can also discuss their preferences just in case certain therapies are not specifically offered, taking control of their self-care and medical destiny.

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