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Chiropractor vs. Physical Therapist in New Jersey

Chiropractors and physical therapists are both medical professionals who treat conditions that affect the back, spine and other parts of the body. Understanding the differences and similarities of a chiropractor vs. physical therapist will help you get the treatment that is right for you. Performance Rehabilitation enhances the outcomes of both of these medical professionals at our offices in Totowa and Lafayette Township in New Jersey.

Education and experience play important roles in how a physician approaches patient care. Patients who are living with back pain can make an informed decision about their care by understanding how the subtle differences between physicians will influence treatment.

The complexity of the structures in the back and spine make proper diagnosis challenging. For this reason, your family physician may refer you to a specialist who has the necessary experience to identify specific disorders of the musculoskeletal system. The two most common specialists for these types of cases are physical therapists and chiropractors. In more complex cases, your physician may recommend that a team of specialists be involved in your care.

Who is a Chiropractor?

The field of chiropractic medicine involves the diagnosis and treatment of structures within the nervous system and musculoskeletal system. A chiropractor can also advise patients about ways to avoid damaging the structures within these systems. A chiropractor’s role in your care is to identify the specific structures and disorders that are causing your pain. Next, a treatment plan is developed that involves using various techniques to resolve the problems. The overarching goals of chiropractic care are to:

  • Relieve pressure on nerves, discs and other structures
  • Improve your stability, use and mobility

As you discuss your treatment with a chiropractor, several terms will be used to describe the degree of corrective pressure that is placed on the affected area. Specifically, the terms are “mobilization,” “adjustment” and “manipulation,” each of which may be performed manually or by utilizing specialized machines. For example, patients who have chronic or acute back pain may undergo a series of mobilization and manipulation treatments that target the soft tissue and joints and improve mobility.

Who is a Physical Therapist?

Physical therapy is most often recommended by general practitioners after a surgery or injury. Like chiropractors, these professionals can diagnose and treat conditions that affect the back. Physical therapists help you regain use and mobility by helping with stamina, coordination, balance, strength and flexibility.

Patients who live with back pain either on a short-term or chronic basis understand the debilitating effects of this condition. Tasks such as climbing stairs, walking and lying down, can suddenly be excruciating. As a result, quality of life either quickly or slowly declines. Athletes are especially prone to back pain and other injuries to the nervous and musculoskeletal systems, and the results are far-reaching. In the mildest of cases, training must be postponed. In the severe cases, though, an athlete may face an uncertain future.

Your physical therapist considers your current condition and determines a treatment course that will help you make the necessary improvements through supervised, targeted exercise.

What are the Differences between Physical Therapists & Chiropractors?

Listed below are the different approaches and treatment styles of both chiropractors and physical therapists.

Physical Therapists

  • Provide education to patients to reduce and/or prevent episodes of discomfort
  • Provide treatment that focuses on the neuromuscular and musculoskeletal aspects to balance strength in the affected area, improve mobility and posture, and align the joints
  • Strive to decrease discomfort and improve range-of-motion by gradual strength training both at home and in a specially-equipped facility
  • Use sessions that last approximately 45 to 60 minutes, and patients generally need one to two months of therapy for optimum results
  • Provide treatments for a wide range of conditions, including sports-related and rehabilitation after a stroke
  • Develop targeted treatment plans that involve a particular part of the body
  • Help with mobilization and exercises that involve the spine, joints, nerves and soft tissues


  • Provide ongoing adjustments at varying frequencies to maintain proper alignment and reduce discomfort
  • Have a goal of decreasing pain, followed by periodic sessions to maintain proper alignment
  • Maintain an approach that is centered upon proper function of the nerves through focused pressure applications to areas of the neurological and skeletal structures
  • Require sessions that take between ten and 30 minutes. Treatment may last from three months to one year, after which time routine follow-up treatments are recommended
  • Mostly deal with cases involving the spine, although any area of the body may benefit from chiropractic care

Physical therapists and chiropractors with the expertise to give you long-term relief from back pain and other disorders will develop comprehensive treatment plans that shorten your recovery time and ensure quality of life. The subtle differences between their underlying philosophies in how to treat musculoskeletal and neurological disorders work to the benefit of the patient. The overlapping areas of the two fields are the genesis of a holistic and effective treatment that gives patients the relief they desire. Both of these professionals believe in non-invasive techniques, active participation in patient care and advanced therapies that are proven to help with inflammation and pain.

Physical therapy and chiropractic care go hand-in-hand for restoring mobility and reducing pain, especially after surgery and injuries. The combination of specialized training, experience and diverse treatment plans ensure that the body is restored in every possible manner.

If you are interested in learning about how chiropractors and physical therapists can help you, contact Performance Rehabilitation to schedule a consultation at our Totowa and Lafayette Township office in New Jersey.