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The Difference Between Chiropractic Care and Physical Therapy

Abby Schenk 
October 11, 2022
The Difference Between Chiropractic Care and Physical Therapy

The Difference Between Chiropractic and Physical Therapy


Many of my patients ask me what the difference between our services and chiropractic care is. Both disciplines treat similar conditions and injuries but with distinctly different approaches.  Both Chiropractors and Physical Therapists at this current phase in their profession require doctoral degrees to be recognized as a licensed practicing clinician.  


Chiropractic treatment involves adjustments or manipulations to the spine that impacts the musculoskeletal system.  The thought behind getting an adjustment is once the spine is in alignment the muscles can function in their natural neutral state and position.  Like physical therapy, chiropractic treatment is non-invasive without surgical measures.  


Physical Therapy also addresses the spine in conjunction with the muscles, tendons, and joints. Physical therapy focuses on alignment through joint mobilization, soft tissue release, and neuromuscular re-education with movement.  Physical Therapy focuses on improved movements patterns through use of exercises that allow the patient to independently return to life pain free.  The goal of therapy is to allow natural movement patterns once aligned and functional, but independent of external adjustments and manual corrections.  This is an important key component to assist individuals in the performance of movement through sport and day to day activities when not under the supervision of a clinician.


The biggest difference between chiropractic and physical therapy is that therapy is meant to help patients recover and learn how to prevent injuries in the future. By contrast, chiropractic adjustments must be performed by a chiropractor again and again over time to correct injuries and conditions with emphasis on the spine. Physical therapy focuses on both joint and muscle tendon issues with the goal to release the patient to be independent with preventing the injury from recurrence through tools, exercises, stretches, and self-care at home.  


Patients can be directed into maintenance and performance programs that are within the scope of our profession. There is a misconception that Physical Therapy is only used with the presence of pain and injury. Physical Therapists are great at treating from both the injury side where there is pain present to the prevention side where the emphasis is on biomechanics and return to sport.  


Oftentimes being treated in conjunction with both a Physical Therapist and a Chiropractor can be beneficial.  Once in alignment it is very important to retrain the musculoskeletal system how to move within the neutral position of the spine to prevent injuries.  Mal-rotation or misalignment is typically secondary to weakness, tightness, or strain from the muscles that attach to both the spine and joints.   So instead of thinking that Chiropractic Care and Physical Therapy are either vastly different or the same, think of them as a team approach to long term goals and health.

Meet the Author
Abby graduated with her doctorate in Physical Therapy from the St. Francis University in 2013. Since graduation she has been spending her time advancing her manual and professional skills through additional certifications. Her vision is to be able to offer elite services to her patients through spending quality one on one time in order to education, specify individualized therapy sessions, and make a greater long-term impact by creating adaptable changes. Her mission is to refine the physical therapy experience by creating a path of recovery unique to each and above the standard of care. Abby ran cross-country, track, and was on the high school swim team. She went on to run cross-country and track in college and was All- American, and captain. She loves working with the fitness athlete, the collegiate athlete, and the active adult population because she understands personally what it feels like to be both on the injury and recovery side. Abby understands life happens and the body gets tired of our daily poor movement habits, however her intention is to prevent injuries from interfering with your health and fitness goals. Her mission is to empower her patients to be their very best self and move freely without pain or restraints. The outcome is accelerated healing by providing the highest level of skilled services for each patient’s needs. Combining a patient’s dedication, higher level sport-specific conditioning, and movement re-training, the result will be the best you. Some of Abby’s advanced training includes: Rock tape and Certified Rock Blades Technique Specialist, Blood Flow Restriction Certified, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, Myofascial Decompression, Myofascial Release, Pose Certified Running Technique Specialist, amongst other advanced education.