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Chiropractor vs Physiotherapist: What’s the Difference?

Armin Ghayyur

Armin Ghayyur

An estimated 7.63 million Canadians over the age of 15 live with chronic pain. That is one out of every four Canadians.

Add to that all the people that have pain, injuries, and mobility issues and that number grows even bigger.

The good news is that physiotherapy and chiropractic care may be able to treat your condition. Read on to learn the similarities and differences between a chiropractor vs physiotherapist. 

What is a Chiropractor?

Chiropractic medicine is a field that focuses on the nervous system and how that ties into pain and the body’s ability to heal. 

A chiropractor is a specialist that deals with the spine, nervous system, and muscles and treats pain and body alignment issues.

People mistakenly believe that you only should visit the chiropractor if you have neck or back pain. However, spinal misalignment can interfere with your nervous system and cause a whole lot of symptoms that may seem unrelated.

For example, headaches, incontinence, or muscle cramps in your legs are all connected to the nervous system and so can all be treated by a chiropractor. 

Chiropractors use manipulation of the joints (called adjustments) along the spine and limbs.

This manual technique allows the joints to return to the proper range of motion. Chiropractors also use soft tissue techniques, stretching, strengthening, and rehab techniques you can do at home to improve your condition. 

Provincial governments regulate chiropractors in Canada, which means they need a license to practice.

What Can I Expect During an Appointment?

Your initial visit to a chiropractor will include a consultation. Your chiropractor will ask about your medical history and lifestyle. They will perform various exams to figure out where the problems are in your neuromusculoskeletal system.

Then, the chiropractor will perform adjustments to improve the issues in your body. To realign your spine, your chiropractor could pull, push or rotate your body.

It is common to hear a pop as your joints readjust. Don’t worry, this sound is made as air bubbles are released within the joint capsule. Just like if you crack your knuckles. 

The Canadian Chiropractic Association explains that chiropractic adjustments may seem aggressive, but they rarely cause pain.

Sometimes, immediately after your adjustment, you can have instant relief. This may or may not happen after your initial visit. It depends on how serious your condition is. 

Now let’s turn our attention to physiotherapy. 

What is a Physiotherapist?

Physiotherapy helps treat and prevent injuries and pain.

These experts specialize in the diagnosis, management, and prevention of movement disorders. Basically, the goal of a physiotherapist is to improve an individual’s ability to move and function. 

Physiotherapists look at your muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems to identify problems in how your body moves. They will also take your work and recreational activities into consideration.

They use hands-on techniques to mobilize your joints as well as massage to release tight muscles or connective tissues. Physiotherapists will develop a customized exercise program for each client. 

This program will include exercises you can do at home to reach or maintain improvements in mobility and function. 

Physiotherapists can also establish a prevention plan to address issues related to poor posture, sports, or pregnancy.

Physiotherapists are required to register with their province to practice legally in Canada.

The aim of physiotherapy is to rehabilitate and improve a person’s ability to move and function.

They look at the interaction between your muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems to see what could be contributing to your issue. Then they look at what aspects of your sporting, work, or recreational life may also be contributing.

Who Can Benefit From Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapists treat patients of all ages who experience any of the following:

  • Back pain
  • Muscle or joint injuries
  • Chronic pain or diseases
  • Incontinence
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Head injuries
  • Motor development disorders
  • Osteoarthritis

During your initial assessment, you will be asked to perform a series of movements such as walking, bending, squatting, and lifting your arms and legs. The physiotherapist will analyze your posture and the way your body moves.

They will discuss your daily activities with you and ask you for the history of your pain or injury.

Then, the physiotherapist might manually perform massage or guide you through a series of exercises. They will help you perform the movements correctly. 

You will leave with homework. Often it will be a set of exercises that you will need to perform several times a day to improve mobility. 

At your next visit, your physiotherapist will evaluate to see your progress and will likely adjust your home exercises.

Chiropractor vs Physiotherapist: Which do I Need?

When comparing a chiropractor vs a physiotherapist, how do you know which one you need? 

both chiropractors and physiotherapists use manual techniques to treat and manage pain and stiffness in your body. Both fields are practiced by licensed professionals with years of education in the sciences.

Both specialists discuss your health history, examine you, and might even order certain tests. Both physiotherapists and chiropractors have similar goals for patients, but they achieve these goals differently. 

While both practitioners use manipulations, chiropractors tend to use shorter movements that are more forceful. Physiotherapist manipulations are smoother, less forceful, and usually supplemented with exercise or massage.

Depending on your condition, you may even want to see both a physiotherapist and chiropractor to relieve pain and improve your quality of life. Sometimes, you might add another specialist such as a massage therapist into the equation.

Enjoy Improved Quality of Life

There you go! Now you understand the differences and similarities between a chiropractor vs physiotherapist. We hope this article has helped you see the benefit and value of both in improving your quality of life.

At Easy Allied Health, we offer a wide range of services to help you move pain-free and get back to the life you love, fast.

Book your appointment today. We offer both in-clinic and mobile visits. 


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