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Should I See a Physical Therapist or Chiropractor?

chiropractor santa feDischarged patients are often confused whether they should go to a chiropractor or physical therapist for pain management. Well, the answer to this question is a little tricky because it all depends on what kind of treatment you are looking for.

A physical therapist and chiropractor potentially belong on the same level and but have a few differences. These differences let you decide from whom you should seek treatment. Before looking at their area of expertise, let’s talk about their education level.

Education Level

A chiropractor and physical therapist receive proper practice credentials only after they have graduated. Chiropractors must have a certificate of Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) and Physical therapists must have a certificate of Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). The education takes a total of seven years, which includes internship hours.


Both practitioners must complete training before receiving their licenses. A chiropractor is required to intern for a complete year and a physical therapist has to intern for at least 30 weeks.

Practice Areas

You will find more physical therapists working in hospitals than a chiropractor. They can also have their private practice and work in other facilities such as rehabilitation centers, patient homes, in military settings, schools, and outpatient offices. As for chiropractors, most of them have a private office.

Ordering Imaging

In this area, a chiropractor and physical therapist have different responsibilities. The former practitioner can order ultrasound, MRIs and X-rays to make sure that whatever manipulation will be done, will not harm the person. A physical therapist is not allowed to order any kind of imaging. In fact, it is against the rules and can cost them their license.

Who Should You See For a Prescription Medication?

Neither a chiropractor nor a physical therapist can provide prescription medication.

Who Should You See For Surgical Procedures?

Again, neither a chiropractor nor a physical therapist is allowed to perform surgical procedures. When it comes to quasi-surgical techniques, they do have some control.

  • A physical therapist can do debridement of tissues for wound care
  • Chiropractors can do Manipulations Under Anesthesia (MUA)


Lastly, both practitioners are allowed to recommend exercises in the patient’s care plans. The ones recommended by a physical therapist are part of the patient’s rehabilitation process, whereas those recommended by the chiropractor may not may only relate to the patient’s needs rather than diagnosed conditions.

Now that you know what both practitioners offer, you can easily decide which one to go to. If you are simply stressed from your daily life and are experiencing pain from sitting in a chair all day long, then a chiropractor is your guy. On the other hand, if you have been experiencing severe pain and are looking for an advance treatment, then you should go to a physical therapist. After your trip to the ER, you can get advice from your doctor to find who will work best for your condition: a chiropractor or physical therapist.

If you need any help, feel free to contact us here.