Chiropractors versus Physical Therapists: Similarities, Differences, and What You Need to Know About Both

Chiropractors versus Physical Therapists: Similarities, Differences, and What You Need to Know About Both

A lot of people lump chiropractors and physical therapists in the same category of medical professionals. While they certainly have some similarities, the vast majority will look very different from their counterparts.


Both chiropractors and physical therapists can treat injuries, pain, and general discomfort with their knowledge and techniques. Both aim to improve issues with non-invasive and non-surgical options, often utilizing manual therapies or instrument-led techniques to reduce pain. Many physical therapists and chiropractors can treat the same issues, particularly limb-related injuries or ailments. Both professions require individuals to have a lengthy and comprehensive education, and both chiropractors and physical therapists are licensed medical professionals.


Physical therapists tend to focus on minimizing pain and improving range of motion. While this is also true of chiropractors, they also seek to maximize the function of the body, improve whole-body health, and remove any spinal misalignments that are causing problems. Physical therapists tend to focus on individual areas of the body that are causing pain or working improperly, whereas chiropractors aim to improve the function and wellness of the entire body. Physical therapists work primarily with the musculoskeletal system, and while chiropractors focus on the spine, their adjustments and techniques can improve the health of the entire body, from the digestive system to the reproductive system to minimizing headaches and more. Physical therapists will primarily offer stretches, massage, and range of motion activities to improve your mobility and decrease your pain. Chiropractors will perform adjustments to the spine and other joints in order to activate neural pathways and help the body heal itself.

What to Know About Both

Some chiropractors will have physical therapy offerings in their offices. This is not ideal for a few reasons. First, they are not trained physical therapists. They have to have some education in this field to become a chiropractor, but they are not as experienced or knowledgeable as a practicing physical therapist. Second, they should be focused on the central nervous system and optimizing your whole-body health through neurological adjustments, not on physical therapy exercises. There is certainly a time and place for PT services for some individuals, but that is a very distinct specialty from chiropractic, and you should see the different professionals for their different services.

Depending on what you’re dealing with or what your health goals are, you may prefer to see a chiropractor or a physical therapist, or you might even opt to see both for maximum benefit. Dr. Thomas Madigan and Dr. Brendan Shanahan are Rochester Hills chiropractors who would love to serve you in their office with neurologically-based chiropractic care. They and their team at Vitality Precision Chiropractic encourage you to schedule a consultation to learn more about the countless benefits of chiropractic care