Chiropractic vs Physiotherapy: Which is Better?By Nigel Chua
When it comes to seeking treatment for musculoskeletal issues or pain, two commonly sought-after professions are chiropractic and physiotherapy.
Chiropractors and physiotherapists play crucial roles in managing and rehabilitating various musculoskeletal conditions, but they have different approaches and techniques.
Hence, it would be best if you understood the differences between chiropractic and physiotherapy before making a decision on which treatment option to choose.
We will explore and provide in-depth knowledge of both practices and their differences in this article!
What is chiropractic care?
Chiropractic care is a form of alternative medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine.
Chiropractors believe that many health problems are caused by misalignments of the vertebrae, known as subluxations, which can interfere with the nervous system's functioning.
By spinal adjustments and manipulations, chiropractors aim to correct these misalignments, relieve pain, and improve overall health.
According to this idea, spinal joint manipulations could be used to prevent or treat all medical conditions.
What is physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy, also known as physical therapy, is a healthcare profession that aims to restore, maintain, and promote optimal physical function and mobility.
In Singapore, we are licensed and regulated under the Allied Health Professionals Council (AHPC), which is directly managed by Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH). That's why you can find physiotherapists in both public and private hospitals in Singapore.
The aim of physiotherapy is to manage pain, restore loss of muscle strength or control, restore joint mobility to stiff or painful joints, and decrease swelling, with the ultimate goal for patients to go back to work, sports and life at 100% performance or better than before their injuries or pains.
What are the differences between chiropractic and physiotherapy?
At a simple glance, it may seem that both physiotherapy and chiropractic treatment share commonalities (to reduce pain, improve function and mobility and promote overall health and well-being), but there are several key differences between both practices.
Philosophy and Focus
Chiropractic care primarily focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders within the musculoskeletal system, particularly the spine.
The practice is based on the belief that the core of most health issues is caused by spinal misalignments, which can disrupt the function of the nervous system.
On the other hand, physiotherapy is based on researched, evidence-based rehabilitative science that is regulated. We are also licensed and certified to work in public and private health.
Physiotherapy also has a broader scope, targeting not only the musculoskeletal system but also the neuromuscular, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems.
Physiotherapy focuses on restoring and improving a patient's mobility, functionality, and quality of life, dealing with a variety of conditions such as:
- chronic pain
- swelling in joints
- bone fractures
- repetitive strain injury
- sports injuries
- cartilage, ligament and tendon damage
Chiropractors primarily use manual adjustments and manipulations, which involve precise and controlled force applied to the spine or other joints. The goal is to "realign" the vertebrae or joints, decrease pain, and restore proper nerve function.
Physiotherapists utilise a broader range of treatment techniques, including therapeutic exercises, manual therapy, joint mobilisation, soft tissue techniques (such as massage), heat and cold therapy, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and more.
Physiotherapists are also skilled in manual adjustments and manipulations (we call this Grade 5 Mobilisation).
However, this is not the end-all-be-all approach - there are safety considerations and contraindications that need to be carefully considered. Not everyone can or should get their joints cracked or manipulated, despite how good it may feel or sound.
Every modality, including mobilisation, is carefully selected based on the patient's needs and conditions. This varied toolkit allows us to tailor the approach based on each individual's unique circumstances and requirements.
Scope of Treatment
Chiropractors commonly treat conditions such as back pain, neck pain, headaches, and certain types of joint issues. They are known for their expertise in spinal health and can provide preventative care for musculoskeletal health.
Our senior physiotherapists are well versed in orthopaedic, sports and musculoskeletal conditions such as neck pain, lower back pain, joint issues, arthritis, sports injuries, repetitive strain injuries - any disorders relating to bones, muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, cartilages and nerves.
Our fellow physiotherapists who choose or prefer to specialize in other areas of expertise include respiratory conditions, neurological issues, pediatric or geriatric and even mental health.
(At Phoenix Rehab, we just enjoy and specialize in orthopaedic and sports physiotherapy; that's why we do what we do.)
Physiotherapists also play a crucial role in rehabilitation - helping patients recover and regain movement in their affected body parts, power, stability, balance and function after injuries or surgeries.
Which treatment is better?
The choice between chiropractic and physiotherapy will depend on the individual's specific condition, needs, and treatment goals. However, as we explore further, you'll see why physiotherapy might offer more advantages in many scenarios.
Physiotherapists tend to adopt a more holistic approach, addressing an individual's overall movement and functionality. This can involve tailored exercise programs, manual therapy, education about healthy movement, and lifestyle advice.
This modality's holistic focus on overall movement and functionality means that physiotherapists can help patients manage a diverse range of health issues.
Another significant advantage lies in the tailored, individualized treatment plans that physiotherapists devise. These plans are built around the specific needs, goals, and abilities of the patient, ensuring an approach that caters uniquely to each individual.
Additionally, the fact that physical therapists work as part of a larger healthcare team can lead to more integrated, comprehensive care for the patient.
They collaborate closely with other health professionals, ensuring that treatment plans align well with a patient's overall healthcare strategy.
While chiropractic care has proven beneficial for many, it does come with certain controversies that might give individuals pause.
Firstly, the potential risks associated with spinal manipulation – such as discomfort, headaches, fatigue, or, in rare cases, more serious complications – could be a deterrent for some.
Furthermore, chiropractic's heavy emphasis on spinal adjustments might not offer a comprehensive solution for patients. For instance, issues rooted in muscular imbalances, poor posture, or inadequate strength might not be fully addressed through spinal adjustments alone.
Lastly, criticisms have been made about the lack of robust scientific evidence for some of the claims made by chiropractors.
While research has shown chiropractic care can be effective for certain conditions like low back pain, claims about it treating non-musculoskeletal conditions have been met with scepticism in the medical community.
Transform the quality of your life with Phoenix Rehab!
Looking for effective treatment that actually addresses your pain?
No worries, as Phoenix Rehab provides a range of services for your health goals, ranging from Physiotherapy and Deep Tissue Massage to Ergonomics and Injury Prevention.
Our skilled multi-disciplinary team of professionals is here to prevent, assess, and treat various movement disorders caused by physical disabilities, sports injuries, or illnesses.
We prioritise creating a relaxed, patient-centred environment with a holistic approach that considers you as a 'whole person'. Our friendly physiotherapists will conduct an in-depth review of your medical history to fully understand your symptoms, lifestyle, and health goals before carrying out clinical tests.
Best of all, we'll customised a treatment plan specifically for you to help you reach your health goals!
Step into a world of renewed vitality and let our dedicated physiotherapy team guide you towards optimal health.