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Physiotherapy or Chiropractic: Truth or Dare
Many clients and friends ask me what the difference is between physiotherapists and chiropractors and which one they should go and see. The goal of this blog is to give the reader some useful information on what you should be aware of to make an informed decision.
So first off, as a physiotherapist, I am trying to be a neutral as possible here. I actually work in a multi-disciplinary clinic with chiropractors and we work as a team on some of our patients. Matching the skills of the therapist with the patient’s needs is ideal. However a lot of clinics are not set up in this way.
Finding a therapist that fits with your needs can be a bit of trial and error. As a patient you should know what to expect. Chiropractors and physiotherapists skills vary depending on what training they have. For physiotherapists, the advanced hands-on skills come after they do post-graduate courses and after their basic training in school. If they have done the courses they can offer more specific hands on assessment and treatments techniques.
Chiropractors learn spinal adjustments in school and generally have more proficiency in the joint and spinal adjustment area. Some chiropractors and physiotherapists will have post-graduate training in acupuncture, active release and rehabilitation exercise. There are lots of skill sets so you should ask what these are before you book. I think its best to talk on the phone with the therapist first to ask these questions and get a feel if they are the right fit for your injury/condition.
For patients that are wary of the joint manipulations or adjustments, there are alternatives. A joint mobilization is a slower technique, almost like massaging a joint. The goal is the same as the quick adjustment. Both chiropractors and physiotherapist can offer this if they have the training. You can always ask for this if you don’t like the idea of an adjustment. Its safe to say most chiropractors do adjustments whereas some physiotherapists with specific training do them.
Things to avoid are when a therapist is only adjusting you and advises you to keep coming back for more. They should be offering some soft tissue work in the form of massage or stretching and rehabilitation exercises to address the core of the issue. Otherwise it’s just chasing symptoms. Another one to avoid is a therapist that has been using ultrasound or electric modalities for weeks and no exercise or hands-on treatments.
Ask these questions before you book.
• Describe your injury and ask what the treatment options are?
• Do they provide manual therapy, soft tissue massage/stretching and exercise?
• Will I get a home program?
The ideal scenario is to go to a multi-disciplinary clinic where there is a team approach to patients. Either the physiotherapists or chiropractor can assess you and determine which of their skills you need. That makes it a lot easier for you!
Damian Wyard Msc PT
About the Author
Damian Wyard trained is a Registered Physiotherapist and Stott Pilates Rehabilitation Instructor with 20 years experience in his field. He is the owner of Pilates4Physio in Toronto. You can reach him privately at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at his Pilates studio www.pilates4physio.ca www.facebook.com/pilates4physio