Understanding the Differences between Physiotherapy and Chiropractic Care for Back Pain
Back pain is an incredibly common problem in British Columbia—particularly in athletes. Whether it’s due to heavy lifting, poor posture, or an injury, back pain can range from mild to debilitating. If you’re into sports like hockey, soccer, or track, or are an active individual, you’re particularly at risk of developing back pain—but anyone can experience it.
Fortunately, physiotherapists and chiropractors can help relieve your back pain. But how do you know which type of specialist is best for you?
In this guide, we’ll explore the differences between physiotherapy and chiropractic care for back pain, with the goal of helping you make a more informed decision about your treatment.
(Note: See the end of this article for help if you’re trying to decide between booking an appointment with a chiropractor or a physiotherapist.)
What Do Physiotherapists Do?
Physiotherapists / Physical Therapists (PTs) are trained health professionals who help patients with movement disorders or injuries rehabilitate through exercise, massage therapy, and other forms of manual therapy. They use various techniques to reduce pain and improve overall function by examining the body’s mechanics and offering exercises that will help strengthen weak muscles and restore flexibility. They can also help those they treat rebuild strength, increase mobility and endurance, and reduce the risk of future injuries.
What Do Chiropractors Do?
Chiropractors are also trained health professionals who specialize in musculoskeletal problems, including back pain. They often focus on spinal manipulation (adjustments) to treat misalignments in the spine that may be causing pain or limiting mobility. This involves using hands-on techniques such as applying pressure to specific areas of the spine in order to realign it properly. Clients who receive chiropractic care will typically have muscular or joint pain, such as back pain, neck pain, arm/leg joint pain, or certain types of headaches.
An In-Depth Look at Physiotherapy for Back Pain
Physiotherapy treatments for back pain involve assessing the athlete or client’s biomechanics (how the body moves) and identifying areas of weakness or tension that could be contributing to their symptoms. Then they create a customized plan of exercises and stretches designed to improve mobility, strengthen weak muscles, increase flexibility, reduce inflammation, relieve pressure on nerves/ligaments/muscles etc., all with the goal of reducing back pain.
Common types of physiotherapy exercises used for treating back pain include core strengthening exercises like planks or bridges; stretching exercises like toe touches or cobra poses; balance exercises like single-leg stands; low impact aerobic activities such as swimming or walking; foam rolling; massage therapy; shockwave therapy; electrical stimulation; etc.
An In-Depth Look at Chiropractic Care for Back Pain
Chiropractic care focuses on restoring proper alignment to the spine by using adjustments (manipulating joints). The goal is to relieve any nerve impingements that could be causing your symptoms as well as improving mobility in tight joints/muscles/ligaments etc.
Common types of adjustments used by chiropractors include spinal manipulation (mobilizing joints); trigger point release (applying pressure to tight muscle knots); spinal decompression (stretching out compressed vertebrae); heat/cold treatments etc.. However, chiropractors don’t solely rely on adjustments. They may combine them with other treatments such as massage, stretching exercises, and lifestyle advice to help clients maximize their care and achieve the best results.
Physiotherapist or Chiropractor? Which is Right For Your Back Pain?
When deciding between physiotherapy vs chiropractic care for your back pain relief there are a few things you should keep in mind.
- If you have an acute injury, physiotherapy may be better suited for you since it focuses more on rehabilitating muscles/joints.
- However, if you have chronic conditions, chiropractic care may be a better option because its focus is more on relieving nerve impingements caused by misalignments in the spine which can cause long-term problems over time if left untreated.
- Both forms of treatment can be effective ways to alleviate back pain, so it really comes down to your specific pain and the type of treatment you prefer.
Chiropractors and Physiotherapists in Victoria
Continuum Health Centre on Vancouver Island has an integrated support team that includes experienced physiotherapists and chiropractors, along with other health professionals such as athletic therapists, mental performance consultants, registered dietitians, and others who work together to provide the best possible care for your back pain.
With chiropractic care and physiotherapy under one roof, Continuum provides a comprehensive, holistic, approach to treating pain. If you’re not sure which type of treatment is right for your pain, our integrated team can assess your condition and create a personalized plan that fits your individual needs.
We understand that everyone’s needs are different, so we take the time to get to know each of our clients before recommending a course of treatment. Contact Continuum Health Centre in Victoria, BC at 1-778-433-7737, or use the links below to book an appointment with one of our practitioners online:
- Click here to book an initial Physiotherapy Assessment
- Click here to book an initial Chiropractic Assessment