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What Is the Difference Between a Chiropractor and an Orthopedic Doctor?

Nov 20, 2019

If you have an injury, illness, chronic pain, or some other disorder that might cause you to seek out a musculoskeletal expert, you might be considering your options between visiting a chiropractor or an orthopedic doctor in Atlanta. Understanding the differences between the two disciplines can really benefit you in your decision-making process.


It is important to note some similarities before contrasting the two specialties. Keep reading to learn more.


They Treat Similar Conditions 

orthopedic doctor in atlanta helping woman's armChiropractors and orthopedists alike treat issues with the musculoskeletal system. It is the aim of both specialties to relieve pain that originates or affects the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and skeletal system.


Some of the areas treated include arm pain, back pain, neck pain, foot pain, ankle pain, sciatica pain, leg pain, disc problems, nerve issues, joint problems, scoliosis, osteoarthritis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. These doctors commonly treat injuries sustained from sporting events, car accidents, and a host of other traumatic events.


Many patients are looking for treatment for chronic headaches, stress-related conditions, stiff muscles, and even allergies. That’s where chiropractors are helpful. They seek to treat even more holistic physical issues than orthopedists typically do.


Both Types of Specialists Undergo Extensive Training 

Chiropractors and orthopedic physicians/surgeons both need to complete an undergraduate degree in their area of study, as well as significant post-graduate work to gain the experience and knowledge work with patients.


Chiropractors go through a specific chiropractic program, which tends to take 4 years to finish. In addition to this training, they will be expected to complete a hands-on clinical internship, which will take 1 year to finish.


Orthopedists’ training takes quite a bit longer to complete; they will attend 4 years of medical school after earning their undergraduate degree. Then, prospective orthopedic physicians will do an intern year before embarking on a 4-year residency. Individuals who wish to specialize further might add on an additional fellowship year to focus on a sub-specialty.


Needless to say, your musculoskeletal specialists have significant and valuable training that can aid you when you are coping with pain and injury.


They Treat in the Least Invasive Manner Possible 

It is the sincere goal of both chiropractors and orthopedic doctors to treat or manage your symptoms and reduce your pain with the least disruptions to your body that are possible.


Chiropractors accomplish this by trying to alleviate stress and misalignment of your spine in order to allow your body’s nervous system to focus on healing itself. When the issues the spine faces are reduced, chiropractors assert that many musculoskeletal disorders, as well as sources of pain, can be managed effectively.


Orthopedists also seek to provide a better quality of life relative to pain and discomfort, but they do so using more traditional medicine techniques. Surgical interventions are certainly an option, but they are generally not the first suggested path of treatment.


Orthopedists will attempt to prevent or resolve conditions using medication therapy, physical therapy, and other pain management techniques prior to advocating surgery.


Where Do the Two Specialties Contrast?

The most obvious differences between chiropractors and orthopedic physicians would be what motivates them to treat the way they do.


Conventional chiropractic wisdom teaches that all bodily issues are, in some way, connected to one another. This means that nearly any bodily issue can trace back in some way or another to a misalignment that can be treated by a chiropractor.


When a chiropractor aligns the spine properly, the body’s nervous system becomes able to heal issues on its own. This methodology is considered more of an alternative treatment as compared to the more traditional methods employed by orthopedic doctors.


These physicians utilize the latest medical advancements, technology, and techniques to treat pain and illness according to medicinal and scientific principles. They will discern the specific nature of an issue using diagnostic equipment, physical examinations, and then treating the problem with medicine, procedures, and/or injection therapy.


In very plain terms, chiropractors rely solely on non-surgical tools to perform their work, while orthopedic doctors and surgeons utilize diagnostic equipment, prescription medications, and surgical techniques to heal pain and illness.




It is important to keep these points in mind when formulating your personal philosophy for treating your ailments. Both of these disciplines would be extremely helpful in addressing the musculoskeletal issues you are dealing with, but in different ways and to different degrees.


Some disorders are beyond the scope of a chiropractic clinic and should be tended to by an orthopedic doctor. Other chronic pain issues will require regular maintenance, which can be achieved using chiropractic as a treatment plan.


At AICA Orthopedics, our orthopedic doctors and chiropractors in Atlanta are well-equipped to help you address your pain and return you to the quality of life you deserve, so get in touch with us today.


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