Physical Therapy and Chiropractic Care – What’s the Difference?

Many peo­ple have heard of both phys­i­cal ther­a­py and chi­ro­prac­tic care. How­ev­er, they may be unaware of their dif­fer­ences, sim­i­lar­i­ties and how the two health spe­cial­ties work togeth­er to help patients relieve their pain. 

Phys­i­cal Ther­a­py (PT)

Phys­i­cal ther­a­pists (PTs) see a wide range of patients as they treat all mov­ing parts and mus­cles in the human body. Patients often ben­e­fit from PT if they have orthopaedic issues such as back or knee pain, neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­ders such as Parkinson’s dis­ease and dizzi­ness or are expe­ri­enc­ing pelvic health issues such as uri­nary incon­ti­nence. Addi­tion­al­ly, patients who have recent­ly had surgery often will under­go PT to aid in their recov­ery. PT can help you recov­er faster, heal prop­er­ly, regain strength and increase blood flow to avoid blood clots post-surgery. 

The goal of PT is to improve mobil­i­ty and the abil­i­ty to per­form every­day tasks with ease. Tar­get­ed and spe­cif­ic exer­cis­es are often used as the main form of treat­ment with man­u­al ther­a­py as an assis­tive mea­sure. PTs will care­ful­ly assess the qual­i­ty of your sta­t­ic (body at rest) and dynam­ic (body ready for motion) body posi­tion­ing. After this assess­ment, PTs cre­ate an exer­cise reg­i­men designed to improve any issues they detect, to be per­formed under the super­vi­sion of the ther­a­pist and done at home diligently. 


As chi­ro­prac­tors the most com­mon rea­son peo­ple seek care are neck pain, back pain, and headaches, how­ev­er, chi­ro­prac­tors are also able to treat a wide range of pain in the body and improve over­all func­tion. To do so, they look at the entire mus­cu­loskele­tal sys­tem to find out what might be caus­ing the dis­com­fort. Chi­ro­prac­tors can also help man­age pain from migraines, nerve com­pres­sion and arthritis.

Chi­ro­prac­tic care often includes manip­u­la­tions and adjust­ments. Chi­ro­prac­tors per­form adjust­ments by using their hands or a small instru­ment to apply a con­trolled amount of pres­sure to the tar­get­ed area of the body. The pres­sure makes the joint go slight­ly beyond its nor­mal range, as a result, loos­en­ing the joint. Manip­u­la­tion also helps realign the body to reduce pain and pro­vide a wider range of motion. 

Some prob­lems may not need man­u­al manip­u­la­tion, so a chi­ro­prac­tor is trained to also use a vari­ety of oth­er con­ser­v­a­tive man­age­ment tech­niques such as soft tis­sue ther­a­pies, stretch­ing, acupunc­ture, and exer­cise programing. 

Col­lab­o­ra­tive Care

In some sit­u­a­tions, PTs and Chi­ro­prac­tors work togeth­er to treat a patient. In most of these instances, a patient can expect to see a chi­ro­prac­tor for man­u­al ther­a­py such as manipulation/​adjustment and phys­i­cal modal­i­ties to reduce pain and allow for improved mobil­i­ty before see­ing a ther­a­pist for a skilled exer­cise or reha­bil­i­ta­tion program.

Both PTs and Chi­ro­prac­tors uti­lize man­u­al ther­a­py tech­niques such as soft tis­sue mas­sage with hands or an instru­ment, phys­i­cal modal­i­ties (heat, ice, elec­tric stim­u­la­tion or ultra­sound), dry needling and blood flow restric­tion train­ing. In addi­tion, both often teach their patients exer­cis­es and lifestyle mod­i­fi­ca­tions to ease their pain while away from the office. 

The biggest sim­i­lar­i­ty is the goal of restor­ing move­ment. Both PTs and chi­ro­prac­tors lis­ten to what chal­lenges the patient is hav­ing with their activ­i­ties of dai­ly liv­ing, recre­ation­al goals and assess if there are any joint mobil­i­ty or mus­cu­lar tightness/​weakness issues con­tribut­ing to those challenges.

Have your lin­ger­ing pain addressed by sched­ul­ing an appoint­ment with a chi­ro­prac­tor or phys­i­cal ther­a­pist by call­ing 630−790−1872 for Chi­ro­prac­tic and 630−967−2000 for Phys­i­cal & Occu­pa­tion­al Therapy.

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  • Joseph Agostinelli, PT - Aurora Physical Therapist

    I believe that restoring you to good health is collaborative between you and I. My role is to understand how your pain or symptoms are affecting you specifically and structure a plan for recovery that gets you back to the things you enjoy doing.

  • Blake Schaffnit, DC - Glen Ellyn Chiropractor

    As a chiropractor, I help people feel better by applying the right physical medicine treatments to the right person, so they can perform better in life, work and sport. Individualized care, tailored toward your unique body and circumstances, is the cornerstone of my treatment plan.