Chiropractic and physical therapy treatments are two well established options geared towards rehabilitation and maintenance of pain and injury through spine and joint manipulation or mobilization. Generally, chiropractors diagnose, treat or prevent mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, mainly along the spinal column. Their goal is to restore the function and stability of the spine by realigning the vertebrae via spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulations involve a passive, high velocity, low amplitude thrusts are applied to different regions of the spine. Joints can also be manipulated in this fashion. Doing so releases tension in the spine and relaxes the muscles surrounding afflicted areas. Manipulations can also relieve pressure along the nervous system, allowing for more efficient communication between the brain and the body.
Physical therapists are generally known to evaluate, diagnose and treat a patient in order to develop, maintain and restore maximum joint function and movement. They often provide treatment when movement and function are compromised by age, injury or disease. Physical therapists mainly focus on treatments that help to develop strength, range of motion, flexibility, balance, posture, coordination and mobility. Physical therapists often rely on mobilization treatments in which small amplitude high velocity passive movements are applied to joints to achieve this goal. Pain relief and recovery via physical therapy may not occur as quickly as a chiropractic adjustment. This is because physical therapy focuses on gradual recovery and long term maintenance of the results. Chiropractic care, however, tends to be more of a short term option for pain relief, often requiring followup visits to maintain the results of the treatment.
Though they may perform one more than the other, chiropractors and physical therapists are not limited to either treatment, as both types of medical professionals are known to perform manipulations and mobilization on their patients. Both chiropractic and physical therapy care have proven to be effective when used on their own. However, the combination of treatments can enhance patient recovery when both modes of treatment are properly integrated. A scoliosis patient, for example, can benefit greatly from an integrated treatment. Upon the scoliosis patient visiting a chiropractor, a spine manipulation would be performed, realigning the spine and loosening the muscles. The chiropractor may also provide exercises to the patient in order to strengthen these muscles to help keep the spine in alignment. A physical therapist would then show the patient how to properly perform the exercises while also helping them improve their mobility, strengthen and tone their muscles and reduce inflammation in the afflicted area. Receiving a spinal manipulation prior to visiting a physical therapist for back pain or injury can help prevent muscle guarding, the tensing of the muscles near an afflicted area. This is especially important as muscle guarding can prolong recovery time and lead to the recruitment of other muscles during exercise, which can lead to a possibly detrimental muscle imbalance over time.
St. Lawrence University '15
Mirror Lake Chiropractic Intern