Over the years I have been asked on multiple occasions, do I see you, a physical therapist, or a chiropractor? It’s not an easy answer since each field comes with different areas of knowledge and practice.

Lets talk about the difference between these two fields in terms of education and knowledge of the body.

Physical Therapy and Schooling:

Today, admission to physical therapy (PT) school is highly competitive with an acceptance rate of 10-15%. In order to apply a student must earn a Bachelor’s Degree in a related field meeting pre-requisites to study physical therapy. This next level schooling is three additional years after completion of a Bachelor’s Degree.

During these three years, a physical therapist’s education consists of musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular and pulmonary systems along with research. A physical therapist earns an educational Doctorate (DPT) upon completion of PT school. After, they must take a board exam for licensing, which is maintained every two years with continuing education.

What does a Physical Therapist Understand?

From these seven years of schooling, physical therapists develop an innate understanding of:

  • Joint biomechanics
  • Muscular function
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Brain, spinal cord and autonomic nervous system

Physical therapists perform manual therapy techniques on their patients. Meaning they have the ability to assess individual joint mechanics through hands on skills and correct mechanical dysfunction. They also address soft tissue and postural dysfunction muscular imbalance, and flexibility.

Chiropractors and Schooling:

Schooling for chiropractors is a bit different from physical therapists, and is something you should take into account when comparing the two fields.

Chiropractors must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree and a state license. In order to complete this a student enrolls in a Doctor of Chiropractic program, which typically take four years to complete. A chiropractor is required to complete at least three years of undergraduate college education for admission.

What does a Chiropractor Understand?

During a chiropractor’s schooling and studies they learn about:

  • Alternate Approaches to Medicine
  • How to Diagnose a Patient’s Conditions
  • Proper Spine Function
  • Spinal Assessment
  • Spindal Adjustment Techniques
  • Spinal Anatomy
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Ethics

Chiropractors focus their work on the theory that “proper alignment of the body’s musculoskeletal structure, particularly the spine, will enable the body to heal itself without surgery or medication.” Chiropractic treatment implements hands-on spinal manipulation and other alternative treatments.

Chiropractors are often mistaken for medical doctors who specialize in the spine. This is not the case. Chiropractors treat patients through non surgical intervention for spinal dysfunctions.

Physiatrists are medical doctors (MD) who, in addition to medical school, also complete four additional years of postdoctoral residency training. During this residency training, they spend 1 year studying fundamental clinical skills and three specifically on physical medicine and rehabilitation. These physicians are experts in the management of non surgical spinal disorders.

Joy and Joyce are physical therapists who specialize in manual therapy; thus their evaluation and treatment approach is comprehensive with an emphasis on one-on-one hands on care. If you would like to make an appointment for a PT consultation call (704) 541-1191, or email jkight@kcpphysicaltherapy.com.