Chiropractic VS Physiotherapy
To first understand the differences between chiropractic care and physiotherapy, one must understand their similarities. Though sometimes pitched against each other as competing practices, chiropractic and physiotherapy are similar in many aspects. Beyond the intervention strategies employed by these practitioners, chiropractic and physiotherapy are systems of understanding and working with the body. The main difference lies in the philosophy of why, and methods of how these practitioners choose to work with the human body.
Chiropractors understand that improper biomechanics (“misalignments”) in the spine can affect the nervous system, which could potentially lead to a series of problems for the individual such as pain, numbness, weakness, muscle tension, headaches and many others. Therefore, treatments are aimed at restoring the spine’s natural structure and mechanics, in order to relieve pressure on sensitive neurological tissues. Restoring this function allows your body to do what it was designed to do more effectively, which is to repair and regulate itself, helping you to feel better and achieve true health.
Physical therapists understand that injuries and pain are often caused by muscle imbalance. Such an imbalance disrupts the alignment and movement of your joints and leaves you prone to injury. Therefore, treatment focuses on restoring balance back to the muscular system, stretching and strengthening imbalanced antagonistic muscles to bring the joints and movement back to their natural state. Some physical therapists may also employ other modalities for relieving symptoms such as electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and others.
Philosophically, chiropractors appreciate that many systems of the body are connected or influence each other in some way, and they aim to restore the body’s natural coordination between these different systems. Physiotherapists, on the other hand, often emphasise working on individual tissues which have been injured, and may not always treat the body as an interconnected system.
However, in practice, both chiropractors and physiotherapists treat a range of musculoskeletal problems by improving proper movement, flexibility and strength. This will typically lead to decreased pain, with the ultimate goal of restoring full function to your body. As treatments are tailored to provide optimum benefit to the individual, the forms of therapy adopted may often overlap, and aren’t as mutually exclusive as one might expect.
Differences in Education Between a Chiropractor and Physiotherapist.
To become a physical therapist in Singapore, one can opt for either local or overseas education. Many of whom undergo a 4-year degree program in physiotherapy, to become eligible as a registered physiotherapist. Singapore does not have a chiropractic education programme, thus all locally registered chiropractors must be trained overseas. While the education requirements can vary among different countries, the majority of the world’s chiropractors come from the United States. To become a chiropractor in the USA, one must complete 3-4 years of undergraduate coursework and in many US states finish their bachelor’s degree before enrolling into a graduate chiropractic program. After which then consists of another 3-4 years of coursework, over 1000 clinical hours and 4 national board exams in order to become a licensed chiropractor. From this chart alone, you can deduce that the education to become a doctor of chiropractic is analogous in length to that of a medical doctor or osteopath, and the academic hours are roughly three times that of what most physical therapists go through.
Back Pain: Should I consult a Physiotherapist or a Chiropractor?
Both physiotherapy and chiropractic offer relief and treatment for back pain, which may come from shared knowledge and techniques. In fact, these treatments are more complementary than typically perceived, and both forms of treatment should be tailored to best suit the patient’s needs. The ultimate goal for both chiropractors and physiotherapists is to target the root causes of your dysfunction, so as to help you reduce pain and improve physical and mental well-being, rather than simply addressing symptoms with medication.
In general, doctors of chiropractic are more trained and experienced in applying skilled passive therapies, such as precise spinal manipulation or certain myofascial therapy techniques. Hence, chiropractors offer more immediate pain relief by quickly restoring joint and soft tissue mobility. In addition, many chiropractors also focus on analysing and restoring structural or postural deviations which may predispose people to recurrent muscle injuries and/or nerve irritation.
Physical therapy, on the other hand, often encourages active care through education and hands-on learning that help patients to take charge of their own health and well-being. As part of their treatment process, PTs will identify and explain the cause of the problem, then walk you through exercises that help improve your function over time. Generally both PTs and chiros will prescribe their patients specific rehabilitation exercises to stabilise and strengthen the body.
At Elite Spine Centres we believe that the optimum approach for most people is transitioning from more passive care during the initial palliative (help you feel better) stage into the rehabilitative stage where we work on improving flexibility, strength, and in many cases remodelling postural issues which can have long-term benefits.
Our doctors of chiropractic at Elite Spine Centers have achieved additional certifications in physiotherapy and are well-equipped to employ physiotherapeutic methods as well as chiropractic techniques with our patients. We adopt a hybrid approach of what many might consider more traditional chiropractic analysis and techniques, along with physiotherapeutic methods. By combining muscle and soft tissue work along with expert spine and nerve analysis and treatment, we give our patients the best of both worlds! In the process, saving them the time and cost of going to multiple centres, all while enjoying the convenience of being able to get everything they need under one roof.
If you experience pain or discomfort, you should first seek out a professional consultation and examination. The root causes of your concerns should be determined before determining the best course of action. Both chiropractors and physiotherapists provide exercises and lifestyle advice to assist in managing injuries and health conditions, along with employing a range of manual therapies depending upon their education and technique focus.
At Elite Spine Centres, we firmly believe the future of healthcare is moving towards integration; not only between chiropractic and physiotherapy, but also between a broader range of conservative treatments and mainstream medical interventions. The human body is extraordinarily complex, and what works for one particular patient may not work exactly the same way for another patient. Therefore, providers of every speciality should look to broaden their horizons to learn theory and practice beyond a narrow scope which may have been traditionally defined in the past, and provide options which will best help their patients.
We pride ourselves on continually exceeding our patients’ expectations and redefining what it means to be under high-quality chiropractic care in Singapore. Let our experts help advise whether modern chiropractic care, physiotherapeutic methods, or a customised combination of the two may be the best way to help you live pain free, and learn how to stay that way!
Author: Dr. Michael Bryant