Physical Therapy or Chiropractic: Which is Right for Me?
Physical therapy and chiropractic have long been set at odds from one another and this is the fault of chiropractors and physical therapists alike. It is very easy to get caught up in one’s own ego and feel that another form of care is inferior or unnecessary compared to what the other has to offer. Today we’re going to set the record straight on the differences between these two forms of healthcare and which one you should be seeking out.
Modern physical therapy got its start right around 1917. It grew from a need to rehabilitate those that suffered injuries during World War I and also from diseases such as Polio. Physical therapy’s aim is to determine areas of weakness or muscular imbalance, then implement very specific stretches and exercises to strengthen and correct these issues. Today we often hear about patients attending physical therapy after: having a surgery or suffering a crippling injury. You can see how this would be an incredibly important form of treatment as it can restore function and greatly improve strength.
Chiropractic, as we know it today, got its start in 1895. Although adjustments and mobilizations had been used for hundreds, even thousands of years, little had been done to determine scientifically how they worked. Daniel David Palmer, the founder of chiropractic, wanted to learn in depth what was actually going on and improve upon these adjustments. Remarkably the first ever adjustment he made restored a man’s hearing after he had been deaf for 17 years! The goal of chiropractic is to improve the alignment of the bones in the patient’s spine or extremities in order to decrease swelling that puts pressure on the surrounding nerves in the area. This swelling can cause: pain, decreased range of motion, numbness, and even muscle weakness. Contrary to public opinion, chiropractic is not really focused on the health of the bones in a person’s body but actually on the health of a person’s nervous system.
After seeing what both forms of care have to offer and how they differ there is only one question left to answer, which is right for you? Looking at it from a physical therapist’s perspective they often hear patient’s say that they saw improvement with chiropractic but it didn’t last long or that they didn’t improve at all. Now looking at this from a chiropractor’s perspective they see many patients, who often come to them as a last resort after already going through physical therapy. Usually they have seen some improvement followed by a plateau or in some cases have actually gotten worse during physical therapy. Do both of these stories sound similar?
The reason that these stories sound so similar is because they are two halves of the same whole. In most cases, patients need both chiropractic and physical therapy. Now you might be asking yourself why would I need both? Chiropractic excels at improving underlying structural issues that unchecked can lead to all of the symptoms aforementioned. Physical therapy excels at strengthening the surrounding musculature/tissues which helps to ensure that the area is stronger and more resistant to injury in the future. A patient that sees a chiropractor regularly but doesn’t exercise or do anything to strengthen the affected areas will see improvement but most likely nothing lasting. Similarly, a patient that only sees a physical therapist may see improvement but only if the underlying structure is close to alignment. If, however, they have underlying structural issues to their spine or extremities, they will at best see limited improvement and at worst may actually experience more pain. Ultimately, chiropractors and physical therapists should be focused on the health and well-being of their patients above and beyond everything else. Chiropractic and physical therapy has the same goal in mind for the patient, therefore, these two professions should work together in order to improve the health of their communities. In order to truly improve your health and/or rehab from an injury or surgery you need to work with a chiropractor and a physical therapist.