Difference between Chiropractor & Physical Therapist: Part 1

By Dr. Drew Voelsch

As parents, we want to ensure that our children receive the best care for their health and well-being. When treating musculoskeletal conditions or injuries, chiropractic care and physical therapy are two common options.

However, many parents may need clarification on the differences between these two professions and which one best fits their child’s needs. In this two-part article, we will discuss what a chiropractor and a physical therapist are comprehensively.

What Is a Chiropractor?

Chiropractic care is a form of alternative medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal disorders, particularly the spine. Chiropractors use a hands-on approach to manipulate or adjust the spine and other joints to improve mobility, reduce pain, and enhance overall health.

Education and Training

Chiropractors are trained professionals with a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree. To become a chiropractor, one must complete an undergraduate degree and a four-year chiropractic program. Chiropractic students receive extensive training in anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics and hands-on clinical experience. After completing their education, chiropractors must pass national board exams and obtain a state license to practice.

Conditions Treated

Chiropractors focus on the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, which can affect many conditions and symptoms. Some of the most common conditions treated by chiropractors include:

  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Sciatica
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Sports injuries
  • Car accident injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Pregnancy-related pain and discomfort
  • Digestive issues
  • Allergies and asthma

Chiropractic Techniques

Chiropractors use various techniques to manipulate or adjust the spine and other joints. Some of the most common techniques include:

Spinal Manipulation: This technique uses quick, controlled force to move a joint beyond its usual range of motion. This can create a popping or cracking sound, which is harmless and is caused by the release of gas bubbles from the joint.

Mobilization: This technique involves slower, gentler movements to improve joint mobility and reduce pain.

Soft tissue Therapy: This technique involves massage, stretching, and other manual techniques to relieve muscle and soft tissue tension.

Instrument-assisted Manipulation: This technique involves using a handheld instrument to deliver a gentle force to a joint rather than using the hands.

Benefits of Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care has been shown to be effective in treating various musculoskeletal conditions and improving overall health and wellness. Some of the benefits of chiropractic care include:

  • Reduced pain and discomfort
  • Improved mobility and flexibility
  • Improved posture
  • Improved nervous system function
  • Improved immune system function
  • Reduced need for medication or surgery

Risks and Side Effects

Chiropractic care is generally safe, but as with any medical treatment, there are some risks and side effects to consider. Some of the most common side effects of chiropractic care include:

  • Soreness or stiffness after treatment
  • Mild headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

In rare cases, more serious side effects can occur, such as:

  • Nerve damage
  • Stroke
  • Herniated disc
  • Fracture

To minimize the risk of side effects, choosing a licensed and experienced chiropractor is important. Ensure you also discuss health concerns or medical conditions with your chiropractor before treatment.

Choosing a Chiropractor

When choosing a chiropractor, it’s essential to research and chooses a licensed professional with experience in treating your specific condition. Make sure to consider the following factors:

1. Get Referrals

Ask your primary care doctor for a list of chiropractors they recommend. You can also ask friends, family members, and colleagues for referrals.

2. Check Credentials

Look for a chiropractor who is licensed and has a good reputation. You can check their credentials and any disciplinary history on your state’s chiropractic licensing board website.

3. Experience

Find a chiropractor who has experience treating your specific condition. Ask about their success rate with patients who have similar conditions.

4. Treatment Approach

Ask the chiropractor about their treatment approach and techniques. Make sure they align with your preferences and goals.

5. Communication

Choose a chiropractor who is a good communicator and listens to your concerns. They should be able to explain the treatment plan and answer any questions you may have.


Chiropractic care is a safe and effective treatment option for many musculoskeletal conditions. If you’re considering chiropractic care, research, choose a licensed professional, and discuss any concerns or questions you may have with your chiropractor. Chiropractic care can help you achieve optimal health and wellness with the right care and guidance. Be sure to check out the second part of this article to learn about physical therapists.

If you’re looking for a reliable chiropractor in Arlington, look no further than Hawkeye Chiropractic! Led by Dr. Drew Voelsch, our full service center provides top-notch care for all your chiropractic needs. Schedule an appointment today and experience the difference for yourself!