Mandy Knaap

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The difference between Physiotherapy and Chiropractic

The definition of physiotherapy according to the South African Society of Physiotherapy :

Physiotherapy is concerned with assessing and treating human movement disorders, restoring nerve function /minimising dysfunction and pain in adults and children with physical impairment, to enable them to achieve the highest possible level of independence in their lives, preventing recurring injuries and disability in the workplace, at home or during recreational activities and promoting community health for all age groups.

Physiotherapy improves your physical condition by restoring normal body functions and prevents disability that may arise from disease, trauma or injury.

The definition of physiotherapy according to Chartered Society of Physiotherapy:

Physiotherapy helps restore movements and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability. This is done through movement and exercise, manual therapy, education and advice.

The definition of chiropractic according to the Chiropractic Association of South Africa and the World Federation of Chiropractic:

Chiropractic is a health profession specialising in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculo-skeletal system and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health.

Both chiropractors and physiotherapists specialise in the musculo-skeletal system to restore health, function, and overall well-being. Both help in the treatment of injuries or trauma to the body. Both use manual techniques in their treatment and their fields of interests overlap. Both treat the spine, neck, upper and lower back and headaches. Physios have a medical training and chiropractors have a biomechanical background.

Chiropractors treat mainly by joint manipulation/adjustments. They focus primarily on the spine and alignment of the vertebrae, skull and pelvis.

Physios also use manipulation techniques, but generally not as a first option for treatment. Physios would usually choose joint mobilisation techniques (which are gentler) and a whole basket of other techniques in their toolbox including: dry needling, myofascial release, other soft tissue mobilisation techniques, stretching, exercise programmes, massage, electrotherapy, neural tissue mobilisation, ergonomic correction and posture correction amongst others. There is evidence that a basket of treatment, (a multi modul treatment approach) is more effective than one single module. Physios treat conditions ranging from back and neck pain, arthritis, sports injuries, strains and sprains of joints, muscles and other soft tissues, RSI and even asthma. Other types of treatment include neurological rehabilitation, sports performance enhancement, gait training, muscle co-ordination and performance improvement and wound care.

Chiropractors help to improve the body’s nervous systems. Chiropractic assumes that a healthy and properly functioning nervous system equates to improved overall health and well-being. They aim to improve the flow of information along the nerves which are sometimes impaired through malalignment of the vertebrae.

Physios aim to help your joints and muscles work to their full potential. They help to increase movement, mobility (including mobility or glide of the nervous system) and posture.

Where treatment involves headaches, the neck or the back, it is my opinion that the choice of treatment (chiropractic vs physiotherapy) is up to the individual.

Do you prefer aggressive manipulation (chiropractic) or gentler mobilisation (physiotherapy)?