Physiotherapist or a Chiropractor: Which do I need?

December 24, 2015 - 3 min read

Although your first point of contact for injury or a niggling pain should be your local GP, it’s useful to know your options when it comes to pain relief. Physiotherapists are commonly mistaken for chiropractors and vice versa. However, their treatment methods are extremely different. To find out whether you need a physiotherapist or chiropractor, check out our easy-to-read guide below.


What does a physiotherapist do?

A physiotherapist uses a combination of manual therapy, massage and exercises to aid in the rehabilitation process.

What can a physiotherapist treat?

Physiotherapy is commonly used to help in the recovery process after an injury or surgery. This practice is also used to help ease pain, reduce stiffness and improve mobility. Treatments can be provided for a range of ailments, normally categorised under one of the following areas:
Musculoskeletal (Orthopaedic Physiotherapy): Addresses conditions such as back pain, sprains, strains, posture problems, reduced mobility, arthritis, incontinence, bursitis, sporting injuries, workplace incidents and rehabilitation following surgery.
Neurological: Is used to help treat nervous system disorders such as spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, strokes, multiple sclerosis and acquired injuries. Neurological treatment also includes rehabilitation after brain surgery.
Cardiothoracic: Helps treat cardio-respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema and chronic cases of bronchitis.

What treatments do physiotherapists use?

Each injury or health problem receives a particular kind of treatment suited to the cause of the problem and help alleviate symptoms. This often includes exercises for you to follow at home to improve treatment success rates.
Physiotherapists commonly use the following methods for effective treatment:
Exercise Programs: Used to strengthen muscles, retrain posture and to help improve cardiovascular health.
Manual Therapy: Commonly includes kneading, massage and manipulation of muscles and joints to help ease pain and stiffness.
Breathing Exercises: Practiced to help improve breathing quality.
Muscle Re-Education: This helps to improve control of muscles after injury, illness or surgery.
Treatment can also include acupuncture, hydrotherapy and the use of mobility aids such as crutches, walking sticks, splints and wheelchairs.


What does a chiropractor do?

A chiropractor makes manual adjustments and/or manipulation of the spine to help diagnose and treat nerve and muscle disorders.

What does a chiropractor treat?

Using non-surgical treatments, a chiropractor can help alleviate a range of pain and health issues.
Chiropractors commonly help treat:

  • Neck pain
  • Lower pain
  • Leg pain, including sciatica
  • Strains
  • Sporting injuries
  • Car accident injuries
  • Workplace injuries
  • Arthritic pain
  • Headaches

What treatments do chiropractors use?

To help reduce pain and other symptoms, a chiropractor will assess the cause of the problem and provide treatment to suit. These treatments often include:
Spinal Manipulation: This traditionally involves a high-velocity low-amplitude thrust, which can result in a ‘popping’ sound.
Spinal Mobilisation: A gentler approach than spinal manipulation, this technique doesn’t require any forceful thrusting or twisting of the body.
Heat & Cold Therapy: Commonly used for back and neck pain, switching between heated and ice packs may help to restore blood flow to the problem area and improve the healing process.
Massage: Used to help reduce swelling and inflammation commonly associated with back pain.
A chiropractor may suggest exercise or dietary management to help improve your well-being and overall health.

Looking for a therapist?

Whether you need a physiotherapist or a chiropractor, LocalSearch can point you in the right direction.

Find the best physiotherapists in your area

I'm located in


      If you are experiencing any pain, discomfort or ongoing injuries, please consult your doctor. Your local GP can best prescribe a treatment plan and referral to a treatment facility, such as a physiotherapist or chiropractor if required.