What is the difference between Physiotherapy and Chiropractic treatment?

Physiotherapy and Chiropractic. What’s the difference?

We are asked this question a lot and to be honest, even amongst us chiropractors and physiotherapists it can lead to a lot of head scratching. There is an awful lot of overlap in our professions, probably even more so now than when our disciplines were first defined.  Chiropractors and physiotherapists will all treat musculoskeletal conditions affecting potentially any joint or muscle from head to toe as well as addressing dysfunctions of the nervous system. There is perhaps a slight bias towards joint conditions with chiropractors and towards soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) with physiotherapists. Both types of therapist will however discuss your problem, perform a physical assessment, provide a diagnosis and formulate a treatment plan which might include joint mobilisation, soft tissue release, postural and lifestyle advice and exercise prescription.

The major difference we feel is in the particular approach to joint mobilisation. Physiotherapists will more commonly use soft tissue release and slower, rhythmical, manual techniques to release a joint whereas chiropractors will more commonly use something called a joint manipulation or “adjustment”.

So what exactly is an adjustment?

If required as part of a treatment protocol, a chiropractor may use a specific manipulation or adjustment to a joint. In general, a chiropractic adjustment is a directional thrust delivered to a patient’s spinal or peripheral joints for therapeutic purposes. This force is applied to specific joints and adjacent tissues to improve joint movement as well as function of the muscular and nervous systems. It is applied manually or using specialised tools and may be accompanied by a popping or cracking sound. This “pop” more than anything else is the thing people seem to associate with chiropractic treatment? The sound is a result of nitrogen gas being expelled from the joint. There can also be an associated sense of euphoria immediately after the procedure, possibly due to a sudden relief from pain and discomfort but also from a release of endorphin, the “feel good hormone” which can then lead to you feeling sleepy. Although not painful, the “popping” sound heard during a chiropractic adjustment makes it discernible from other forms of treatment. But relief from pain may be the most memorable!

How do I choose which approach is most suitable for me?

In very general terms, if your joints feel “locked”, stiff or sore then you may benefit from a chiropractic adjustment.  Beyond that, if you are suffering from any condition affecting your joints, muscles and possibly nervous system then either type of therapist will be able to treat you effectively. It often boils down to what you may have found effective for your body in the past, or what your family/friends/GP have recommended to you.

At Courtyard, we want you to end up with the therapy and therapist that suits you best. If you begin on one path and either you or we feel you’d benefit from a change, then we will facilitate that. The main thing that physiotherapists, chiropractors and all our therapists have in common is that we want you to feel better.

If you would like to see either a Chiropractor or Physiotherapist, Give us a call or email on 01453 548119, info@courtyardclinic.com