physical therapy vs chirpractor which is better

Chiropractor vs physical therapist? Which strategy will help you heal faster, eliminate pain, and recover more completely? It’s one of the most common questions we are asked at Team Rehab and the answer is, well, a bit tricky. Read on to learn:

  • why chiropractic care alone can leave you with lingering aches and pain,
  • answers to top faq’s about chiropractor vs physical therapist care, and
  • misconceptions about physical therapy that are preventing you from seeking care NOW.

Misconceptions About Physical Therapy

  1. People still feel like they have to get a referral to get a physical therapist – this actually hasn’t been the case for decades. You do NOT need a referral for physical therapy.
  2. I can’t get physical therapy because I haven’t been injured.  Even if you randomly develop pain in your body for any reason at all, you can see a physical therapist.

FAQs – Chiropractor vs Physical Therapy

What is the difference between a physical therapist and a chiropractor?

are physical therapists and chiropractors able to do the same things

There’s a lingering misconception that physical therapists are not actual doctors, but that’s simply not true. Both physical therapists and chiropractors are doctors.

The biggest difference between seeking treatment from a chiropractor vs physical therapist is the approach to treatment.

Chiropractic care shines when treating structural issues that involve the skeleton. Imbalances can occur from chronic overuse, acute injury, lifestyle factors or trauma from workplace injuries or a car accident. When the skeletal structure is out of alignment the body is not able to properly heal.

Physical therapy is recommended when soft tissue is involved, whether it be muscle tension, tightness, swelling, or weakness. When this occurs, manual therapy techniques, mobilization, massage, and prescriptive exercises can be used to heal the body.

Our Team Rehab centers are the only centers in the greater Portland area that combines both of these methods when evaluating and creating individualized treatment plans for our patients.

We have both a physical therapist AND chiropractor present TOGETHER during your evaluation and consultation of your recommended treatment.

Is physical therapy better than chiropractic care?

is physical therapy better than chiropractic care?

In over 30 years of experience, we’ve never seen a soft tissue injury that doesn’t have an underlying structural joint condition or dysfunction issue. And we’ve never seen a structural issue that isn’t affect the health of soft tissue.

Bottom line, both of these can impact and contribute to pain and overall dysfunction. Over and over, we’ve seen patients that received either chiropractic treatment alone or physical therapy alone that are just not getting better. This occurs because both the skeletal and soft tissue problems aren’t being addressed together.

Combining both of these treatments at the same time greatly increases the chances of proper skeletal alignment, soft tissue recovery, and elimination of pain.

Can physical therapists and chiropractors work together?

Yes! In fact, we’ve seen the best outcomes and the greatest chance of full recovery increase when both physical therapists and chiropractors work together.

Sometimes receiving just chiropractic care means the soft tissue weakness isn’t addressed and with physical therapy alone structural issues aren’t addressed. The two work synergistically. At Team Rehab, during your consultation, we make sure that both one of our chiropractors and physical therapists are present at the same time during your evaluation to recommend a comprehensive treatment plan. We also have a medical doctor onsite that can evaluate pain and help manage medication for patients.

Can physical therapists perform manipulation like chiropractors?

Yes. Each state has licensing rules and regulations that guide what is in the scope of practice for physical therapists. In the state of Oregon, for example, a physical therapists can perform manipulations similar to chiropractic adjustments. There might be differences in technique and style.

Did you know that the word adjustment is a chiropractic term that was coined decades ago? You might not know that other doctors, such as doctors of osteopathy, naturopaths, physical therapists can perform manipulations or use that type of technique.

How Does My Health Insurance Treat a Chiropractor vs Physical Therapist?

Everyone’s health insurance benefit coverage varies plan to plan. But we’ve found 9 out of 10 people have both chiropractic benefits as well as physical therapy benefits. Many people are surprised to learn that health insurance covers chiropractic care and almost always covers physical therapy because it falls under the traditional medical model of treatment.

In addition, many people have massage and acupuncture benefits that they aren’t aware of.

Additional Resources:

Your Comprehensive Guide to Chiropractic Care Following an Accident
Who Pays For Care? Understand Your Personal Injury Benefit Protection

Get In Touch With Our Team Of Expert Providers

6 replies
  1. Ellie Davis
    Ellie Davis says:

    It’s interesting to know that you do not need a referral for physical therapy. My brother got injured recently, and we are looking for advice to help him with his recovery. I will let him know that he does not need a referral to find the best physical therapist to help him.

    • Team Rehab
      Team Rehab says:

      Thank you for your comment Ellie. Yes it is something that a lot of people don’t realize. Physical Therapist have a doctorate level education so insurance companies allow patients to have direct access to PT without the need of a referral. Saves patients money and time not having to go to there primary care doctor first. If your brothers in the area have him give us a call we would be happy to help.

  2. Dennis Sanchez
    Dennis Sanchez says:

    I’m glad you mentioned that you don’t need a serious injury to visit a physical therapist. My wife recently sprained her ankle while we were out for a morning jog. It seems like visit a physical therapist could help her recover quickly.

    • Team Rehab
      Team Rehab says:

      Sorry to hear about your wife’s ankle. A physical therapist is a great place to start. We will not only help her heal from injury but at the same time we will strengthen her ankle to help prevent future sprains. Remember physical therapist are direct access so no referral needed just call and start healing.

  3. Callum Palmer
    Callum Palmer says:

    I feel that for some things, you should go to one and not the other. If I was having back problems, then a chiropractor would be needed. I’ve been dealing with a leg injury that I got a long time ago. With this, I think it would be best to go with a physical therapist instead.

    • Team Rehab
      Team Rehab says:

      I understand your thought process on this but physical therapist are great with back pain/problems as well to identify the weak area and work on stabilizing it. You may be correct with your leg injury, depending on what type of injury it is a chiropractor may not be appropriate for treatment. This is why at all 3 of our Team Rehab location we offer physical therapy and chiropractic services. We find that this gives patients the best option in treatment and often the two modalities co-treat which we find provides a great outcome for our patients. I hope you find a solution to help with your leg pain, long term pain is not easy to deal with.


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