Chiropractor vs. Physical Therapist

Physical Therapist

Chiropractors and physical therapists (or physiotherapists) are professionals who help in the treatment of different injuries or trauma to the body.

A chiropractor is a professional who is engaged in the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, whereas a physical therapist (also called physiotherapist) is a medical professional who provides treatment in case of injury, disease or caused due to aging, to assist and restore mobility and function.

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Physical Therapist

Residency and Internship One-year internship that coincides with clinical courses while in training. NO Residency required, but have the option to complete if accepted and desire to. All curriculums are required to have a minimum of 30 weeks of full time internship. Residencies exist in all specialties, certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education.
Practice Private practice clinics, generally. However, some are employed by health systems and hospitals. Generalist practice, neurology related, orthopedic related, and general alignment restoration dealing with the skeletal system. Acute care, Inpatient/Outpatient Neurologic Rehab, General Outpatient, Othopedic, Geriatrics, Pediatrics, Veterans Affairs, Military, Sports Medicine, Women's & Men's Health, Wound Care, Work Rehab, Electrophysiology, etc.
Can prescribe medication No. New Mexico recently allowed limited prescription rights to DCs Unless in the Military, PT's do not prescribe medications. However, all PT's are tested on pharmacology.
Medical Licensing Exam (MLE) National Board Exam (NBCE). Parts I, II, III IV (practical) and state boards. The National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) administered by the Federation of State Boards.
Treatment Techniques Chiropractic adjustment (grade I-V) ranging from soft tissue mobilization to joint adjustment. Electrical Stimulation. Acupuncture, Pain Management All manual therapy techniques including joint manipilation, and all modalities; Neurologic rehabilitation, sports performance, gait training, muscle coordination & performance, wound care, tissue mobilization, massage, cardiovascular rehab, etc.
Years of medical school 4-5 undergraduate years (Bachelor's required / state dependent), 5 Chiropractic school, 1 year residency, minimum 10 years Doctor of Physical Therapy = 3 academic years. All accredited Physical Therapy programs require a Bachelor's Degree. As of January 2012, only 5 Master's programs remain, which are typically 2 years in length. There are 213 programs in the US.
Status DC stands for Doctor of Chiropractic. They are not medical doctors, however for insurance purposes, some states consider chiropractors health care providers, some do not. A PT (Physical Therapist) is also not a medical doctor and cannot prescribe medication. PTs are also considered specialty practitioners by the insurance industry.
Surgery Minor surgery in some states. DCs are non-pharmacologic and non-surgical clinicians who are experts at conservative treatments within their scope of practice. However, do perform MUA in surgical setting. Wound Care. PT is limited to necrotic tissue, does not perform surgery. PTs are movement scientists and non-pharmacologic/non-surgical experts who use conservative treatments.
Specialization Orthopedics, Pediatrics, General Rehab, Internal Disorders, Radiology, Neurology, Nutrition, Occupational Health, Sports Med, Forensic Sciences. Orthopedics (Generalist Practice), Sports Medicine (Generalist & Sports related), Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Women's Health, Neurology(SCI, TBI, MS, ALS, CP, Parkinson's, etc), Cardiovasculay & Pulmonary (COPD, CHF, etc), Clinical Electrophysiology.
For more information Chiropractors are organized by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). All information above was taken from this website. Physical Therapists are organized by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). All information above was taken from this website and various program websites, such as the Mayo Clinic's.
General Expertise DCs have evidence to support their expertise in the adjustment of the spine. Their knowledge extends into the scope of Physical Therapy and general Medicine as well as radiology and neurology. PT's have evidence to support their expertise in human movement and restoration of all movement related dysfunctions. Their knowledge extends into the scope of Chiropractic and general Medicine.
Board Certification National exam, Chiropractic Board at the State level and Diplomate specialty boards. Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) for all US states. Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), division of the US Department of Education, accredits the academic programs.
Diagnosis DCs diagnose joint subluxation complexes, and most medical conditions, depending on state law. Treatment of many acute non spinal or traumatic conditions may require referral of the patient to the correct specialty practitioner. PT's diagnose movement, musculoskeletal, and functional related conditions within their scope of practive. Like DC's, they do not diagnose medical conditions, but have the education and training to recognize and refer to the correct practitioner.
Differences between formal education 5,200 instructional hours. 4 years of undergraduate required for admission into DC school. Programs may vary. Not required to have a Bachelor's degree prior to admission. Total time = 6-8 years post graduate depending on undergraduate course work. > 3,200 instructional hours. The Mayo Clinic's DPT program has about 5,000 instructional hours, thus programs do vary. All PT's have a Bachelor's degree prior to obtaining their clinical doctorate. Total time in school = 7 years with undergrad.
Classification Chiropractor Physical Therapist
Use and application of Chiropractic Manipulation & Physical Therapy. DCs are the only practitioners with the expertise in Chiropractic Adjustments. Some states have laws preventing any other practitioner from performing these interventions. Chiropractors perform therapeutic modalities in most states. PT's are the only practitioner with the expertise to provide physical therapy. PTs may practice manipulation in most states, provided they have the appropriate training.
Average Undergraduate GPA 2.90 3.3

Contents: Chiropractor vs Physical Therapist

edit Differences in Medical Education and Training

The academic degree for chiropractors is called Doctor of Chiropractic or (DC). The World Health Organization (WHO) also lists other potential paths for pursuing this fulltime: B.Sc (Chiro) a 5 year integrated bachelor program and a 2-3 Masters program (M.Sc. Chiro) following a bachelor’s degree. Candidates can apply to a DC program after completing a four-year undergraduate degree. DC Program is a four-year full time program. Post-graduate residency is available in specialized spheres of chiropractor like orthopaedics, radiology and neurology. In the United States, training in physical therapy leads to the DPT (doctor of physical therapy) degree, which is a four-year program. Other programs also offer a Masters (MSPT, MPT). Education in this field includes clinical internships. Candidates also have to clear the National Physical Therapy Examination before they can practise. Physical therapy has many specialities in common areas such as Cardiopulmonary, Pediatrics, Neurologic, Orthopaedic, Geriatric, Integumentary, and Sports Physical Therapy and Clinical Electrophysiology. Other countries have different requirements for this profession.

edit Differences in Treatment techniques and Specialization

There are at least 20 types of techniques used by chiropractors. These include Manipulation of the spine and other joints, Extremity adjusting and Activator techniques like, Cox-Flexion Distraction (which targets compressed spine and relieves back pain), Thompson technique (method of adjustment in which the length of legs in analyzed to determine the type of misalignment and uses a “drop table”), Gonstead (looks at misalignment of spine causing pinched nerve), Sacro-Occipital technique (addresses the dysfunction of the base of the spine), which aims to correct vertebral and pelvic misalignments. Other modes for relieving pain are exercises, nutritional and dietary recommendations, cryotherapy (with ice packs) stress-relieving and relaxation techniques and disease prevention advice.

Physical therapists help people who have been in accidents, patients with low back pain, arthritis, heart disease, fractures, injuries and those with physical disabilities. Physical therapy is often clubbed with other medical practices in order to restore mobility and rehabilitation of the patient. Techniques include massage and stretching, hydrotherapy or aquatic therapy (in water), joint mobilization (passive procedure which loosens up restricted joints), muscle energy techniques (active procedure involving voluntary contraction of patient’s muscles, against a controlled counterforce), aggressive high velocity low amplitude thrusting, back strengthening exercises and a combination of these techniques.

edit Board certification for chiropractors vs physical therapists

Chiropractic schools are accredited through the Council for Chiropractic Education (CCE). This program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties lists seven certifications different areas of physical therapy.

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Comments: Chiropractor vs Physical Therapist

Anonymous comments (12)

May 18, 2014, 4:36pm

Chiropractor and Physical Therapist are two different professions and they should not be compared as they are almost not related to each other when it comes to a medical/hospital setting. A chiropractor will go see a Physical Therapist under certain medical conditions and a Physical therapist will see a Chiropractor is needed. If a Chiropractor has a stroke and is no longer able to walk he will go to the nearest EM then will be sent to a physical rehabilitation center in which the chiropractor will be seen by a Physical Therapist for 2-3 hours daily to teach him how to walk again a Occupational Therapist 2-3 hours daily to teach him how to dress and bath and eat, a speech therapist to train him how to talk, a physiologist do diagnose his mental state , a nurse to take care and administer the Chiropractors medication and a Medical Doctor to manage overall health. The Physical Therapist will then go visit the a Chiropractor after work to help relief the back pain from lifting the patients and the sick chiropractor. True Story. Both professions are important but serve different purposes.

— 98.✗.✗.21

June 6, 2014, 2:57am

I am a DPT student and I feel that the evidence based practice I am learning was the right choice. That's not to say that chiropractics isn't valuable and helpful when appropriately applied. What I dislike about chiropractors en masse is their "mystical dogmatism" (it's not just about spinal nerves, c'mon now!) and their tendency to denigrate the masterful scope of PT practice. In DPT school there is a greater emphasis now on being a primary care provider and being able to appropriately refer patients to other specialists as required. A chiropractors general mistrust of the medical system might endanger his patients if he is unwilling to refer them to the appropriate medical specialist.

— 24.✗.✗.85

July 16, 2012, 6:22pm

I would like to point out the Physical Therapists (i.e. PTs) are trained MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS with the ability to treat many Musculoskeletal (DEF: musculoskeletal system - the system of muscles and tendons and ligaments and bones and joints and associated tissues that move the body and maintain its form
body, organic structure, physical structure - the entire structure of an organism (an animal, plant, or human being)) and neurological conditions. PT's can as well help and treat ailments associated with many NON-musculoskeletal conditions.

Many now obtain Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees with make them qualified to identify signs and symptoms of systemic (DEF: Relating to or affecting the entire body or an entire organism: systemic symptoms; a systemic poison. ) disorders and can refer appropriately. We are as well trained in the use of manipulation (only the SAFEST techniques) but use it in accord with proper exercise regimens to treat many conditions. PTs use evidence backed clinical prediction rules to accurately PREDICT who will benefit from manipulation and do not merely offer it to EVERY patient.

Chiropractors are like surgeons. They have one tool and they are certainly going to use it. Like stated in the bullet points above, Chiropracters are not aloud to practice PT and are NOT qualified to prescribe a proper exercise routine. This is not saying that patients can not and will not benefit from the use of manipulation, but let me assure you it is not for every patient.

I have gone to school for 8 years (including 5 years undergrad in psychology) to get my Doctorate of Physical Therapy. We are well equipped to assist a variety of conditions and definitely make a plan of care that can benefit individuals chronic and acute conditions.

— 67.✗.✗.173

October 18, 2012, 8:12pm

I think it's important to point out that Chiropractic certifies themselves while PT is certified not only by the US Board of Educations_________________re: Correction, I went to a Chiropractic College/ University that was accredited, which mean by def.: "Accrediting bodies must be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in order to approve colleges to receive federal financial aid." I definitely received financial aid and went to a school Accredited by The Council on Chiropractic Education, which oversees 15 programs offering the doctor of chiropractic degree in the United States. My school also offered Master's degrees in both Sports Science and Rehabilitation and Nutrition, both of which can be extensions of the Doctorate Degree we receive not above this degree. Also, Physical Therapists are highly skilled practitioners, in no way are they the first line as case workers like Chiropractors. They work well co managing with Chiropractors, I know, I worked with them during my internship in a Hospital on an Air Force Base. In fact me and the Doctor I worked under treated most of the PTs there as well as their patients, and the same went for the MDs, and PAs on staff and their patients. All of them that were ignorant to what we do were pleasantly surprised by our effectiveness at treating Segmental ROM rather than simply addressing Global ROM like our PT partners.

— 24.✗.✗.61

October 5, 2012, 5:50am

Corrections for Chiropractors:
Chiropractic schools do have residency if they choose in Radiology or DACBRA.
Education: no less than 4200 student/teacher contact hours (or the equivalent) in four years of full‐time education in chiropractic school. Chiropractors do have one year in pharmacology and take almost 1000 hours in physical therapy.
Application: Most states allow chiropractors to perform physical therapy but most insurance companies see it as overlap in service so they don't pay for it.

— 75.✗.✗.1

October 2, 2012, 2:26am

I think a clinican whose treatment approach is comprehensive (addressing joint, muscle, fascia and compensation patterns) can be effective, DPT or DC.

— 68.✗.✗.218

February 20, 2012, 3:58pm

As with some MD's, some DC's do not practice in an evidence-based way, but mainstream DC;'s do, and there is as much evidence of efficacy for what chiros do for backs, necks and headaches as there is for medicine., That evidence is found in medical journals such as Annals of Internal Medicine, Spine, JAMA, etc.

— 72.✗.✗.21

April 20, 2014, 1:49am

Average undergrad gpa of chiro students is less than 2.9. Average gpa of PT students is closer to 3.5. Get your facts straight

— 72.✗.✗.250

September 25, 2013, 11:52pm

This was likely written by a chiropractor. Under scope of treatment in the state of Texas and under many other states the use if the term " physical therapy" by non- licensed personnel is against the law. It amazes me how many chiros get away with telling the public they provide physical therapy. It wouldn't be it's own profession with its own standards if it were simply a term. It's watering down the publics belief of physical therapy. Where I live we now even have people making up terms to sound fancy like " myopractor" etc. this should not be viewed as an accurate reflection of physical therapy.

— 166.✗.✗.23

September 9, 2013, 11:33am

Cont'd from below....It IS NOT ILLEGAL to practice PT if you are not a PT as chiropractors go through PT classes and take a PT board in order to get certified in "PT" allowing them to perform therapeutic modalities, exercises, etc. Most states now actually require these extra classes and passing that extra board test to even get licensed as a DC (even if you never perfrom or bill for a PT modality in your life)

— 98.✗.✗.183

October 2, 2012, 5:00am

I think it's important to point out that Chiropractic certifies themselves while PT is certified not only by the US Board of Educations, but also two other organizations who are not themselves. If you recognize that, everything underneath or thereafter is irrelevant because who is giving credit to each statement? It's like me saying I practice in neurosurgery and I am certified by me myself. Doesn't work that way. Where do you get your accreditation?

— 67.✗.✗.1

May 17, 2012, 1:15am

Physical Therapists are technicians! They cannot render a medical diagnosis in most states! The Joint Commission recognizes Chiropractors and Optometrists as physicians as of 2009, along with Medicare. PT's have a more limited scope and cannot be relied on for diagnosis. I am a Chiropractic Physician who works in a hospital setting. I had PT's working for me in my private practice taking my orders for Physical Therapy so I find it humorous at best that a technician/mid-level provider in the eyes of the federal government----a PT can act so arrogantly on

— 216.✗.✗.162


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