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Considerations Before Visiting a Physician, a Physiotherapist or a Chiropractor


When you are trying to find medical help, you may want to know about important differences that exist between medical professions. Physical therapists, chiropractors and physicians can be helpful for a variety of medical conditions, but important differences exist between their knowledge, training and treatment philosophy. Differences between these types of medical professionals need to be considered before a decision should be made regarding your treatment and therapy.

Medical Training

Physicians, both medical and osteopathic, complete a bachelor’s degree and then enter four years of rigorous medical training with extensive anatomy, physiology and pathology. After that, specialization training is required for another 3 to 7 years. Physical therapists usually earn a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree or PhD in physical therapy. Sometimes, physical therapists complete additional specialization training. A chiropractor must complete at least two years of college before applying to a four year chiropractic school. All three occupations require practitioners to pass national exams to practice.


Neither a chiropractor nor a physical therapist can diagnose a medical condition or prescribe medications. Diagnosis and prescribing medications is reserved for physicians alone. Although, both chiropractors and therapists have the ability to recognize medical conditions and refer you to a physician. Chiropractors use skeletal manipulation to relieve pain and improve physical function, but are not allowed to perform physical therapy. A physical therapist is allowed to practice manipulation along with physical therapy. Physicians can use any form of accepted medical treatment necessary.


Chiropractors use alignment of the spine to influence the relationship between the spinal column and the nervous system. The chiropractor is attempting influence the physiologic function of all of the organs and systems within the body in this manner. A physician uses a holistic healthcare approach to go beyond simple spinal alignment by dealing directly with abnormal body physiology using an array of techniques. Physical therapy techniques can enhance treatment by restoring movement related to dysfunction for patients in a variety of medical management plans.


If you want to treat a spinal problem conservatively, after proper diagnosis by a physician, soft tissue manipulation and joint adjustments can be made by either a physical therapist or a chiropractor. Detailed physical training used for coordination, rehabilitation and performance is typically reserved for the physical therapist. Complete physical well-being with detailed diagnostics and an all-encompassing treatment plan needs a fully trained and licensed physician.


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