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Should You See a Chiropractor or Physical Therapist for Back Pain?

Feb 10, 2021

Should You See a Chiropractor or Physical Therapist for Back PainEvery day, people experience back pain for a wide variety of reasons. It may come from a sports injury, from lifting a heavy object, from a traumatic fall or car accident, or simply from sitting all day at a computer desk for your job. In any case, back pain is never fun and can lead to more serious problems down the line without care from a trained back injury doctor. You may be advised to see a chiropractor over a physical therapist or vice versa, and you may not know which one is the best option for you. Both offer natural approaches to back pain, rather than simply prescribing you medication, but what is the difference? Use the guide below to understand the role of each provider and how they may help you.

The Basics

Chiropractors are medical professionals focused on the treatment of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. This means they are able to address things like joint and muscle pain, including in the back, headaches, and a number of nervous system-related conditions. Chiropractors use a hands-on approach to treatment with a particular focus on the spine. Chiropractic adjustments are designed to realign the vertebrae in the spine, releasing tension in the body and relieving pain. This is usually done through a series of visits in which the chiropractor slowly helps your body to return to an aligned and functioning state.

In some ways, physical therapists are very similar to chiropractors. A PT is also focused on the musculoskeletal system, as well as the neuromuscular system, with a particular emphasis on injuries and conditions that impact your movement or function. The goal of physical therapy is to rebuild strength and endurance after an injury, surgery, or another major event. The process of physical therapy also involves a series of visits, mostly consisting of exercises designed to help you improve function over time.

The Education

Many people wonder if a chiropractor or a physical therapist is a “better” or more well-trained doctor, but the answer is they receive similar levels of advanced training. A physical therapist will have a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) once they complete a program at an accredited school. In order to practice, a PT graduate will have about three years of graduate-level education, including classroom and lab time as well as clinical rotations. They must also pass a national licensure exam and participate in continuing education annually.

Similarly, a chiropractor will receive a Doctorate of Chiropractic (DC) through an accredited graduate program and pass a national board exam in their state. Chiropractors must also be involved in clinical rotations during their study and continuing education throughout their careers.

The Benefits

Both practices have a range of benefits for patients, though some are more suited to certain needs than others.

There are several life long benefits of chiropractic care. It is often seen as the least invasive and most natural treatment option for many people. Each chiropractic care plan is tailored to the patients’ body and needs and adjustments evolve over time as a mechanism of this. One of the things many people cite about chiropractic care is that the restorative effects can often be felt immediately, with pain being reduced and mobility being improved after early treatments. Chiropractic care is also known to have positive impacts on other areas of health due to its focus on restoring the nervous system.

Physical therapy is often focused on restoration or recovery and is usually best suited for someone with a recent injury or illness. A physical therapist will help you set recovery goals and then work slowly towards meeting them. The focus here is also on natural recovery, though physical therapists will also work to help you manage your pain. In addition to addressing prior issues, physical therapy can be used to prevent future injuries for high-risk patients.

The Choice

You may have some sense now of which provider best fits the needs of your back pain. But the best part is, you don’t have to choose. At AICA Orthopedics, our back injury doctors work as a team, allowing you to see both chiropractors and physical therapists in addition to other specialists. By combining these disciplines, AICA Orthopedics is able to offer customized, holistic treatment plans that address your back pain from all possible angles. The two practices are extremely complementary and together, go even further in preventing future injuries or health problems. If you are in need of a back injury doctor, contact AICA Orthopedics today for the best of both worlds!


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