What is the difference between a Chiropractor and Physiotherapist?

03 December 2021

Image of spine, which symbolises the Profession Chiropractor

There has always been a little confusion about the two professions, and, in truth, there is overlap between the two (Chiropractor & Physiotherapist). We want to explore and differentiate between the two professions to help you develop a better understanding.

What are Physiotherapists and Chiropractors.


The Chartered Society of Osteopathy says that Physiotherapists help to restore movement and function when a patient is suffering with a certain injury. They do this through movement, exercise, manual therapy, education, and advice.

Treatment: Before a Physiotherapist starts any treatment, they will complete an assessment; they will need to learn as much as possible first. This includes a detailed medical history and carrying out passive accessory movement screening tests which help highlight the problem and potential causes of your condition.


Physiotherapists restore ‘musculoskeletal health’, a professional term meaning bones, muscles, fascia, tendons, and ligaments. They tend to focus on the body’s extremities and joints (shoulder, elbow, wrist, knees and ankles).

A list of treatments may include:

  • Joint Mobilisation
  • Soft Tissue Massage
  • Soft Tissue Manual Therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Taping
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Self Management programmes

Over the last 20 years, there has been a huge improvement in the understanding of the human musculoskeletal system and how it works together to help you move. The profession has developed many different theories and manual techniques to help alleviate and rehabilitate you.


The United Chiropractic Association defines chiropractic as a healthcare discipline which emphasises the power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. It focuses on the relationship between structure (primarily the spine) and function (as coordinated by the nervous system), and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health.

Assessment: Chiropractors will perform a range of tests before any adjustments take place. Tests may include a posture analysis, assessing the range of motion of your joints, assessing your nerves and muscles, and palpating the spine.

Headaches - lady with head in hands

When Chiropractors assess patients, they also take into consideration their entire physical and mental well-being. They can use a range of techniques, like hands-on adjustments, to help free joints in the spine. This can help to alleviate pain, improve your mobility, decrease stiffness, improve your posture and alignment, and reduce injuries. This all increases your physical well-being, which in turn improves your mental well-being. If you’d like to read more about chiropractic, we have some information that might be of interest to you in our previous article.

A list of treatments may include:

  • Adjustments
  • Therapeutic Exercise
  • Soft Tissue Manual Therapy
  • Physical Therapy Modalities
  • Diet and Nutritional Advice
  • Lifestyle Modification Advice to manage physical and mental stress of daily life

Over the last 20 years, there has been a huge development in the understanding of the human neuro-musculoskeletal system and how it works together to help you move. The chiropractic profession has developed many different techniques to help alleviate pain and restore your body’s natural function.

Differences Between Chiropractors and Physiotherapists 

The main differences between a Physiotherapist and Chiropractor is that traditionally Physiotherapists focus more on the muscles, and will use mobilisations and exercises to relieve pain. Chiropractors will focus more on the function of the spine, pelvis and neck and its alignment, and its effect on the nervous system.

Differences in Approach Between Chiropractors and Physiotherapists

The main differences between a Physiotherapist and Chiropractor is that their approach and philosophy to care is different. For example; a client might be suffering from low back pain. A Chiropractor would use hands on adjustments, and some would also use soft tissue techniques, to help promote healing. Whereas traditionally, Physiotherapists are less hands on, and will typically use a more rehabilitation exercise approach. A Physiotherapist is generally a more reactive treatment to an injury, whereas a Chiropractor uses a more proactive approach to health to optimise the function of the body.

So Which Service Do I Need ?

Physiotherapy treats a lot of different injuries, and has broad – based training. They work with a diverse number of conditions, including sports injuries and post operative rehabilitation, and traditionally will focus on joints rather than the spine or neck. If you’re looking for a specialist in back pain, neck pain or pelvis issues, Chiropractors specialise in the spine and the effects that a fully functioning nervous system has on optimising well-being.

If you’re interested in solving your back pain, neck pain, or you want a general check up, contact us today. Our aim is to make a meaningful and lasting impact on your health and quality of life by relieving you of pain and enabling you to live your life to the full!

Book your consultation today. Call 0117 980 7755

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