What Is The Difference Between a Chiropractor and Physiotherapist?

Because chiropractors and physical therapists (also called physiotherapists) both help people treat their injuries and find relief from pain, many think these professionals apply similar treatments, such as providing hands-on manipulations and massage. However, while both chiropractors and physiotherapists assist with the musculoskeletal system, only one of them is a medical professional. 

Let’s have a look at the differences between chiropractors and physical therapists. 


The academic degree that is award to chiropractors is known as the Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) and is either awarded after a 5-year Bachelor program or a 2-3 year Masters program, following a regular Bachelor’s degree. 

Chiropractors can work with many parts of the body—not just the spine. These individuals can find unnatural curvatures of the spine and subluxations. They can assist patients by providing relief from acute non-spinal injures, traumatic conditions, and other issues connected to the bones and musculature. The main method for easing pain is through spinal adjustment.

Adjustments are provided with either an instrument or with their hands. Visits to a chiropractor can be very quick, lasting only a few minutes, but are usually no longer than 15 minutes. 

Physical Therapists

Physiotherapists undergo rigorous schooling and need to obtain licenses prior to working in their field. Physical therapists can diagnose movement disorders, musculoskeletal and functional movement related conditions, and assign physical activities and exercises to assist with returning a patient to a stronger state. Similar to chiropractors, physiotherapists do not diagnose conditions. 

 Aside from restoring functional movement patterns and correcting imbalances or joint weakness, physiotherapists can also work in post-surgical care and rehabilitation. In order to do this, physiotherapists can use acupuncture, manual therapy (massage), electrical modalities, visceral manipulation, stretching, ultrasound, and exercise. 

A typical session with a physical therapist usually lasts between 30-60 minutes. 

Differences in Treatment Techniques

Interestingly, chiropractors can use up to 20 different techniques to help their clients. These techniques include things like manipulation of the joints and spine; activation techniques like cox-flexion distraction (targeting compressed spines) or the Thompson technique (where the length of the legs is considered to figure out the kind of spinal misalignment someone has) or the Sacro-Occiptal technique for the base of the spine. Some chiropractors may also suggest exercises to relieve pain, cryotherapy, relaxation practices, and nutrition and dietary changes. 

On the other hand, physiotherapists are more concerned with helping those recovering from car accidents or who have conditions like low back pain, heart disease, arthritis, and physical disabilities. Physical therapists work to restore full range of motion and strength. Techniques commonly used include stretching, massage, hydrotherapy, joint mobilization, muscle energy technique, strengthening exercises, and more. 

Who Should You Visit?

Hopefully, you now know the differences between these two professions. Still trying to figure out whether a chiropractor or a physiotherapist is right for you? Then consider your symptoms. Are you struggling with neck or back pain? Go to the chiropractor, since they focus on spinal health. If you were injured or are post-surgery and experiencing weakness or have problems with your extremities, you should see a physical therapist.