Physiotherapy vs. Chiropractor – what is the difference?

As Physiotherapists we are often asked the difference between Physiotherapy and Chiropractic so we’ve summarised a few key points to help you understand. Some people have the belief that there is an ongoing rivalry between the two professions, but it is just not true.

Physiotherapy is thought to have a broader scope of practice than chiropractic treatment does.  A well trained physiotherapist should have the ability to mobilise and manipulate the spine, perform muscle release techniques, use acupuncture or needling treatments, teach core stability exercises, help work on your posture and balance or build a sport specific training program for you.

Physiotherapy is geared towards;

  • Restoring mobility
  • Improving independence
  • Restoring functionality
  • Improving psychological well being
  • Returning to sport following injury
  • Regaining strength from injury or surgery

Physiotherapists treat back and neck pain, sciatica, arthritis, swelling in joints, repetitive strain injury, sports injuries and cartilage, ligament and tendon injuries. Treatment is aimed at being able to help you help yourself and manage the symptoms that are affecting your body. We treat children all the way through to adults and have expertise in respiratory conditions and neurological conditions that shouldn’t be missed.

Physiotherapy practice is widely recognised by the NHS and insurance companies as a conservative treatment modality used in an attempt to avoid injection therapy or surgical interventions. Following surgery consultants within the orthopedic profession will often refer patients for a course of physiotherapy treatment to ensure they reach their healing potential.


Chiropractic treatment uses techniques of manipulation to relieve pain, realign the spine, adjust posture, and restore joint function. The practice of chiropractic is focused on the spine and treatment involves the use of the practitioners hands to adjust the joints of the spine and limbs where signs of restricted movement are found. Gentle, specific manipulation techniques (often refered to as ‘clicking’) help to restore normal body movement. Treatment aims to make you move better and more freely.

Chiropractors treat acute and chronic low back and neck pain, sciatica, neck related and tension headaches, neck related dizziness or vertigo and extremity joint conditions.

While both practices utilise manipulations, chiropractors use a style that frequently makes use of shorter and more forceful movements. In contrast a physio will use these less often, and supplement their manipulations with therapeutic exercise and/or massage.

Similarities between chiropractic and physiotherapy

While the two fields are quite different, they do still share some common ground in terms of treatment and outcome. Both use manipulations and both look to restore joint function, improve posture, and relieve pain as clinical end points. This is where the similarities more or less end however, as the two disciplines are quite different in how they are applied and why.