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What's the Difference Between a Chiropractor and a Physical Therapist

Posted by Florida Spine and Injury | May 2, 2018 2:51:57 PM

Is There a Difference Between a Chiropractor and a Physical Therapist?

When we have musculoskeletal problems, some people are still in question if they should go to a Chiropractor or a Physical Therapist.

There are others who think that this two occupation are the same.

Before going to a Chiropractor or a Physical Therapist, you should learn about these two professions to fully understand what they can do to help with your current health condition.

So what are some similarities and differences between the two?

Chiropractors and physical therapists or physiotherapists are two different professionals.

But these two can help treat different injuries or trauma to the body.

A Chiropractor is someone who is focused on the diagnosis and treatment of some mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

A Physical Therapist, on the other hand, is a medical professional who can provide you with the treatment of different injuries and diseases that are caused by aging.


Article Table of Contents:


Comparing Chiropractors and Physical Therapists

Woman getting Adjusted by a Chirorpactor  

To fully understand where Chiropractors and Physical Therapists fit in our world, their similarities and differences should be considered.

Here is some critical information about these two that you should be aware of. 


Residency and Internship

  • A Chiropractor has a one-year internship which is the same with other clinical courses while still in training. Residency will not be required. They will have an option to complete if accepted.

  • The Physical Therapist will need to complete all the curriculums required. This will be a minimum of 30 weeks of full-time internship. Residency is required in all specialties. This should also be certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education.


Years Spent in Medical School

  • Chiropractors spend 4 to 5 undergraduate years which may require a Bachelor's’ Degree, 5 Chiropractic school, 1-year residency, a total minimum of 10 years. The average undergraduate GPA requirement is 2.90.

  • The Doctor of Physical Therapy spends 3 academic years. They should undergo an accredited Physical Therapy program which requires a Bachelor’s Degree. There is only 5 Master’s program which usually lasts for 2 years. In the United States, there are a total of 213 programs. The average undergraduate GPA requirement is 3.3.


Medical Licensing Exam (MLE)

  • Chiropractors undergo the National Board Exam (NDCE). They can attain Parts I, II, III, IV (practical) and also state boards.

  • Physical Therapists should pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) which is administered by the Federation of State Boards.


Specific Practice

  • Chiropractors will commonly have private practice clinics. But there are also some who are employed by the health systems and hospitals. They focus on the generalist practice, neurology related, and even general alignment restoration which deals with the skeletal system.

  • The Physical Therapist, conversely, focuses on acute care, inpatient or outpatient neurological rehab, general outpatient, orthopedic, geriatrics, pediatrics, veterans affairs, military, sports medicine, women’s and men’s health, wound care, work rehab, electrophysiology, and so much more.


Medical Status

  • DC stands for Doctor of Chiropractic. But they are not medical doctors. There are some states who consider chiropractors as healthcare providers, but some also don't. This is solely for insurance purposes.

  • PT stands for Physical Therapist. They are also not considered a medical doctor, which is why they cannot prescribe medications. They are classified as specialty practitioners by the insurance providers.


DiagnosisDiagnostic Techniques of Chiropractors and Physical Therapists

  • Doctors of Chiropractic can diagnose joint subluxation complexes and also other medical conditions. But this will depend on the state laws. They can also provide treatments for acute non-spinal or traumatic conditions which commonly requires referral of the patient to a particular specialty practitioner.

  • Physical Therapists can diagnose movement, musculoskeletal, and also functionally related conditions that are within their scope of practice. Similar to DCs, they can also diagnose medical conditions but needs to have the proper education and training to be able to recognize and provide a referral to the correct doctor.

Related Article: How Do Chiropractors Diagnose Injuries?

Treatment Techniques

  • Chiropractors have Chiropractic adjustments Grade I - V which ranges from soft tissue mobilizations and also joint adjustments. They also use Electrical Stimulation, Acupuncture, and Pain Management.

  • Physical Therapists use all manual therapy techniques which can include joint manipulation and modalities. They also utilize Neurologic Rehabilitation, sports performance, gait training, and muscle coordination and performance. They can also do wound care, tissue mobilization, massage, cardiovascular rehab, and so much more.


Who Can Prescribe Medication?

  • In most countries and states, Chiropractors cannot prescribe any medication. But recently in New Mexico, there are prescriptions that can be done by the Doctors of Chiropractic.

  • Physical Therapists can prescribe medication to patients because PTs have undergone an education in pharmacology. But there is an exception which is the military where Physical Therapists cannot prescribe medications.



  • Chiropractors are allowed to do minor surgeries in some states. But you must remember that the Doctors of Chiropractic are non-pharmacologic and non-surgical clinicians. They are experts in conservative treatments that are within the scope of their practice.
  • Physical Therapists can do wound care. They are limited to necrotic tissue, but they cannot perform surgery. They are considered as movement scientists who are non-pharmacologic or non-surgical experts who also use conservative treatments.


Chiropractic Manipulation and Physical Therapy

  • Doctors of Chiropractic are the only considered practitioners who have the expertise is Chiropractic Adjustments. There are some states who have laws that prevent other practitioners from performing these interventions. The Chiropractors can perform therapeutic techniques in most states.

  • Physical Therapists are the only practitioners who have the expertise to provide a patient with physical therapy. They can practice manipulation in most states as long as they have the proper training and education.

Finding the Right Solution For You

When you have problems related to your musculoskeletal system, you now have the necessary information about the two professionals that you can go to.

You are now able to identify the help that you can get from a Chiropractor as well as the Physical Therapist.

Don't be confused. If you need more information about these two professions, you can always do your own research online or ask your primary physician.

If you have come to the conclusion that a Chiropractor is best for you and you live in the central Florida area, visit Florida Spine and Injury to receive start-of-the-art evaluation and treatment from qualified chiropractors. Click below to schedule a free consultation.

Free Chiropractic Consultation


Original Article Here

Topics: chiropractor

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