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Comparing and Contrasting Chiropractic and Physiotherapy

Published: August 22, 2023

At Back in Motion, Cranbourne we offer both chiropractic and physiotherapy.

These are two distinct healthcare professions that focus on improving musculoskeletal health and function. While they share some similarities, they have different philosophies, treatment approaches, and training.

Broadly speaking, here are some key differences between chiropractic and physiotherapy.

Philosophical Approach:

Chiropractic: Chiropractors primarily focus on the relationship between the spine and the nervous system. They believe that misalignments in the spine, called subluxations, can interfere with the nervous system's functioning and lead to various health issues. Chiropractors aim to correct these subluxations through spinal adjustments to promote the body's natural healing abilities.

Physiotherapy: Physiotherapists focus more on restoring movement, reducing pain, and enhancing function in individuals with various musculoskeletal conditions or injuries. Physiotherapists believe musculoskeletal imbalances need to be managed with both physical therapy and strength and conditioning rehabilitation. Physiotherapy, therefore, often includes a broader range of treatment modalities and exercises, targeting specific muscles and joints rather than primarily focusing on spinal adjustments.

Treatment Techniques:

Chiropractic: The central treatment method in chiropractic care is spinal manipulation or adjustments. Chiropractors use their hands or specialized instruments to apply controlled, sudden force to the spine, aiming to improve alignment and mobility.

Physiotherapy: Physiotherapists use various treatment techniques, including manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, heat, and cold therapy, and more which may also be employed by some Chiropractors. The treatment plan is usually individualized based on the patient's specific condition and needs.

Scope of Practice:

Chiropractic: Chiropractors primarily concentrate on treating conditions related to the spine and nervous system, such as back pain, neck pain, headaches, and certain musculoskeletal issues. Chiropractors also work on the extremities. Chiropractors often specialise in areas such as Paediatrics, Sports and even animal Chiropractic.

Physiotherapy: Physiotherapists have a broader scope of practice, and they can treat a wide range of musculoskeletal and neurological conditions. They work with patients of all ages and can address issues like sports injuries, orthopaedic rehabilitation, post-surgery recovery, neurological disorders, and more. This is usually because Physiotherapists have access to the

hospital and rehabilitation environment and therefore, often see a wider range of conditions.

Education and Training:

Chiropractic: In Australia and around the world, Chiropractors undergo extensive education, which typically includes a five-year double degree. The training focuses on spinal manipulation and chiropractic philosophy. In Australia Chiropractors are entitled to use the 'Dr' title as an honouree entitlement in much the same way as Osteopaths, Vet's, Dentists and General practitioners.

Physiotherapy: In Australia, Physiotherapists obtain a degree in physiotherapy which takes 4 years. The education and training cover a wide range of subjects related to human anatomy, physiology, rehabilitation, and various treatment techniques. Many physiotherapists undertake post-graduate training which may include spinal manipulation, hospital specific training programs etc. Some Physiotherapists become specialist Physiotherapists.

Use of Diagnostic Imaging:

Chiropractic: A proportion of Chiropractors will refer for spinal X-rays and other diagnostic imaging to assess the spine's alignment and identify potential subluxations.

Physiotherapy: Physiotherapists generally rely more on physical assessment, functional testing, and patient history to diagnose and develop treatment plans.

In conclusion:

Both chiropractic and physiotherapy are valuable components of an integrated approach to musculoskeletal health. The choice between the two often depends on the patient's condition, personal preferences, and the recommendations of healthcare professionals. For complex or serious medical conditions, it's essential to consult with a qualified healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate course of treatment.

At Back in Motion, Cranbourne, our patients tell us providing both Chiropractic and physiotherapy is the best of both worlds and significantly adds to achieving the very best clinical outcome.


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