Physiotherapist vs Chiropractor in Australia. Who should I choose?

Written by: Leon Mao, Physiotherapist.

Almost one-third of Australians will suffer from physical conditions, such as osteoarthritis, lower back pain, joint stiffness and neck pain. Fortunately, your local physiotherapists and chiropractors will work to help service and fix these problems. However, an age-old debate amongst patients always revolves around the topic of "physiotherapist vs chiropractor" and "who should I see?" So you can make up your mind, our article will compare these two health professions.

What is physiotherapy?

Physiotherapists work in a variety of settings to help reduce physical pain and restore movement. They will use non-medicinal and natural ways to accelerate the body's recovery. Common areas where physiotherapists work include:

Practitioners will use a combination of techniques to fix or improve your condition, such as hands-on techniques (e.g. massage, dry needling, spinal manipulation, etc.), electrotherapy, exercise, and lifestyle advice.

Once your problem has resolved or you have achieved your goal, your physiotherapist will cease treatment and discharge you. Depending on your specific injury or condition, between 5-7 treatments may be required for acute issues.

What conditions do physiotherapists treat?

Physiotherapy is practised based on scientific research and high-quality evidence. Under these circumstances, there are many types of physiotherapy which help treat a variety of conditions. Examples of conditions which physiotherapists can treat and manage include:

What is chiropractic care?

Similar to physiotherapy, chiropractors encourage a natural way of rehabilitating the body. Conflicting against modern Western Medicine, chiropractors predominantly utilise spinal manipulation to realign the body for almost every physical problem. However, some practitioner's will also co-treat with hands-on and exercise-based techniques.

Until recently, chiropractors have believed that spinal manipulation improved the body's immune system to protect from disease and infection. Instead, more research shows the 'popping' noise from manipulation is only from gas being released from the joint.

Unlike physiotherapists, chiropractors work in a less variety of areas including GP centres, private clinics and sports clubs. Although granted the title as honorary doctors, chiropractors are not taught and do not work in hospitals.

Additionally, chiropractors will often encourage a maintenance plan whereby patients will be required to schedule for ongoing appointments. On average, you will be required to attend 12 sessions to notice a significant improvement.

What conditions do chiropractors treat?

The scope of practice is also quite different when comparing a physiotherapist vs chiropractor. Given that physiotherapists work in a large variety of settings, they also tend to treat more different types of conditions. Consequently, most chiropractors will effectively treat:

Comparing Physiotherapists vs Chiropractors

Although there are numerous overlapping similarities between physios vs chiros, their practising philosophy and approach are incredibly different. Whilst physiotherapists encourage self-management and physical activity; chiropractors opt for more maintenance through spinal manipulations. Below will be a comprehensive table comparing these two professions.

PhysiotherapistChiropractor
Accredited through either a Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate tertiary programAccredited through either a Masters or Doctorate tertiary program
A large variety of physical conditions and injuries treatedPredominantly treat spinal conditions including low back and neck pain
Hospital trainedNot hospital trained
GP referrral not required, however, physiotherapists are the number 1 choice for GPs in AustraliaGP referral not required, GPs will situationally refer to chiropractors

At the end of the day, it's up to you to decide on who you'd rather see for your condition. However, selecting a high-quality local physiotherapist or chiropractor is pivotal for a positive outcome. To find a quality local physiotherapist, click on the link below.

Find a physio near me!

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