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PT vs. Chiropractic – What’s the Difference?
July 12, 2019

One of my favorite topics is about how not all PTs and PT clinics are the same, for a number of reasons.

And another favorite question I get is this: what’s the difference between physical therapy and chiropractic?

In today’s blog/video, I want to give you my opinion on the differences between physical therapy (the way we do it at Gordon PT) and chiropractic care.

Now, before you start thinking I’m about to throw the chiropractors under the bus and tell you how awful they are, let me assure you that that’s not what I’m doing today.

Instead, I’m going to highlight a few differences, and then I’ll give you some information to help you decide how you can make the best decision for your health.

What’s the Difference?

The biggest difference between PTs and chiropractors is the treatment techniques. Our therapists at Gordon PT are very skilled when it comes to hands-on techniques, which is a vital component of our treatment approach. Most chiropractors are also skilled with their hands, since manipulating your joints is one of their primary treatment techniques. In contrast, our therapists will mobilize your joints, which is a different way to improve your joint mobility.

In addition to mobilizing your joints to help them move more freely, our therapists also use other hands-on techniques to treat your muscles. Chiropractors will treat your muscles at times as well, but it depends on the chiropractor. Some will use a little thumping device called an “Activator”, while others might do some massage or “active release” to loosen the muscles before trying to adjust your joints.

Another key difference is that most of us PTs will use various exercises and stretches as part of our treatment plan. Like I mentioned last week, the use of hands-on techniques vs. exercise techniques varies from PT clinic to PT clinic, and I tend to value the hands-on techniques above the exercise ones, at least when it comes to the early phases of recovery. However, a lot of chiropractors are very knowledgeable with exercises as well, and some will prescribe them for you. It just depends on their training and how much time they have to spend with you.

So those are a few key differences from my point of view: joint mobilization vs. manipulation, other hands-on techniques to treat muscles, and the use of exercises in your recovery.

Here are some more key points I want to make today:

Point #1: not all chiropractors are created equally. Just like my description of the differences between PTs and PT clinics, I can safely tell you that some chiropractors are better than others when it comes to choosing the best treatment options to help you. In addition, some are better at listening to you before trying to jump straight into treatment. So be just as picky when choosing a chiropractor as you should be when choosing a PT!

Point #2: to some extent, PTs and chiropractors aren’t that different. We’re both trying to help you reduce your pain and stay as active as possible. We just might help you achieve your goals with different techniques.

Point #3: you don’t have to choose one or the other. Many people benefit from working with both a PT and a chiropractor. This is especially true for those people who are struggling to get on top of their pain and inflammation. People who’ve been in car accidents are an excellent example of this situation. These people tend to have an unusually high level of pain and inflammation, and they tend to make faster progress when PT and chiropractic care are combined.

I hope today’s post helps clear the air about PTs and chiropractors, how we differ, and how we can work together very effectively to help you get on top of your pain as quickly as possible.

If you have any more questions, please feel free to email the to me at

– Luke Gordon, DPT

Here’s the video version of today’s topic: 


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