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Who do you prefer: a physical therapist or a chiropractor?

Posted by Stephen M.

I've had both speak negatively of the other.
Answers (8)
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Physical therapist. I have to say, I have never been comfortable going to a chiropractor. Although I like the massage part, there seems to be something barbarian about the whole practice of cracking. And if your chiropractor makes a mistake... yikes. A physical therapist can often work with you to build towards a permanent solution instead of a quick fix like a crack. And I think that's part of the problem with the western philosophy behind health care - we don't go for a holistic approach or, in other words, finding an overall, long term lifestyle change to solve physical problems.
Chiropractor. I love my chiropractor. Not only is he a chiropractor, but he has a lot of knowledge of herbs/herbal remedies, takes tae kwan doe, is knowledgeable when it comes to pressure points, and he is an acupuncturist. He does not rely on the use of a table to adjust my back etc. but uses his own hands to adjust me. I find that not only does he take the time to get to know me so that I will be comfortable with him, rather than rushing in and out of the room, he also has interesting things to say, as he tries to relate to me. In the past, I have had chiropractors whom I did not trust, did not like, and did not wish to visit. I would definitely recommend to anyone considering using a chiropractor that they ask around for references, meet with several, and choose carefully.
Physical Therapist. The fact that chiropractors are not covered under many (or maybe even all) insurances makes me a little bit weary of them. I prefer to do build up to a point of comfort, with a routine I can sustain to treat an injury/pain after the treatment is over.

Each has their place. I refer my patients to both, according to their needs.

Chiropractors specialize in skeletal dysfunctions, especially of the spine but also the joints of the extremities. A good one (and keep in mind chiropractic techniques are a physical medicine skill - practitioners are not all equally talented!) can diagnose dysfunction of the small gliding motions between vertebrae and other joints with a high level of sophistication. Those "quick fixes" are sometimes simply the most appropriate. I sometimes find that I need the specialized skill of a chiropractor to restore skeletal function, even though I may need to followup with acupuncture and soft tissue techniques to get the lasting results I want and/or address other issues.

I usually think of physical therapists for ongoing rehabilitative excercises after injury or surgery, gait training, postural correction, etc.

Of course, both chiropractors and PTs may choose to treat (and may be good with) a broader range of problems, depending on their training, skill and interests.

Keep in mind that while chiropractic care may not be covered by all insurance, the typical chiropractor has years more training and education than a PT, and in many states are licensed as primary care physicians.

Braxton Ponder L.Ac.

Actually, I regularly visit my osteopath for spinal adjustments. He uses my muscles to gently bring my spine back into alignment, and without the sudden adjustments of chiropractic.

Hi Stephen M.,

Coming from a Pacific islander perspective, I've grown up with chiropractors and am more comfortable with going to them as a first response for any spinal/skeletal injury.  Then following up with an acupuncturist and/or massage therapy.  Particularly since the chiropractors I've met and most I know of usually have ALOT more training and education than a physical therapist.  I think here in California there are chiropractors who are also licensed physicians so you have more options in choosing a primary if your insurance doesn't cover chiropractors and complementary therapy.

But the key, really, is that you go to a GOOD ONE, whether it be a chiropractor or physical therapist - I've had my share of great therapists, a few inexperienced ones and and ones who were just terrible.  And the great ones not only worked with me on rehabilitative exercises but also had a wide network of experienced fellow therapists to consult with and were more open to working with alternative medicine practitioners.

Hope this helps.

Take care,



It depends on the patient and the nature of the injury.  Different chiropractors use different modalities.  An Osteopath may be helpful as well.

Sometimes it simply comes down to who you feel the most comfortable with.

Best to you. 

Kristen, this is not true. Most chiropractors are covered by health insurance. It just depends on you choose to go to. Some people have out of network benefits, others are in network. So you simply have to call and check, but most times it is covered. Similar to Pt's sometimes they are in network or sometimes out of network.

I think both chiropractors and Physical therapists have a place in the health field.

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