Physiotherapist or Chiropractor?

One of the questions that we are often asked is “Should I visit a Physiotherapist or a Chiropractor when I have a suspected back problem or issue”?

We are a group of Chartered Physiotherapists and our simple answer, with our justification below, is that you should always visit a Physiotherapist for any suspected back issues.

Physiotherapy is supported by the NHS – Chiropractor treatment is not:

The NHS, which we all love, is a world class Health Organisation. In general you can’t get Chiropractor assessment on the NHS in Scotland because it is considered a type of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which means it’s not a conventional medical treatment. Physiotherapy is clinically recognised within the NHS, and is a key element of treatment and recovery. Perhaps this is a question worth asking before going to see a Chiropractor?

A Physiotherapist will define and treat the ACTUAL problem:

Many people go to Chiropractors because they suspect a back issue – after all they are the people who ‘fix’ backs aren’t they? But are they?

For instance, people commonly report to us that they have been told by a Chiropractor that they have a ‘Slipped Disc’ which was ‘put back in’ by the Chiropractor.

In reality our body is more complex than that, and there is no such thing as a ‘slipped disc’ which can be manipulated back in to place.  A slipped disc is actually a prolapsed disc which means that the central portion of the disc has escaped from the structure of the disc, similar to how jam would escape from the middle of a jammy doughnut if you press the front too often! How can this be pushed back in? Simply: It can’t!

In fact, a sore back, is more likely to be joint, soft tissue, or muscle issues. What is key is that the actual issue is diagnosed – that is what a Physiotherapist is trained to do.

The ‘click’ we feel when joints are manipulated is in fact a noise the joint makes when air is ‘popped’ within the joint. In the same way that people who crack their knuckles can do. What this does is temporarily relieve the stiffness within the joint and increase lubrication of the capsule. It can certainly make you feel less pain and improve movement but the effect is always temporary. A Physiotherapist can manipulate your back in the same way but we will also always try to get to the root cause of why you have a back issue and give advice accordingly, perhaps on, posture or lifestyle changes, a strengthening or rehab programme, but something designed to make sure the changes last!

Chiropractors are great at Marketing:

Many people report that they need to return to the Chiropractor for regular treatment. It’s amazing how many people visit a Chiropractor to be told – “Your body needs re-aligned” and that is the explanation for the cause of your symptoms.  In truth, we are all out of alignment (the X-ray that some Chiropractors will take, and charge you for, will confirm this!)

Anecdotally, we have regularly been told from clients who attend Chiropractors that the Chiropractor has advised them to get realigned regularly, over a long period of time or else their condition will worsen.  Some people have even been told they may end up in a wheelchair without treatment! Chiropractors often book in patients for 10 sessions ‘because it’s cheaper’. It’s great marketing and salesmanship, but does it actually fix your issue?

How do you know the treatment will work?

 Many clients have attended Physio-flex following Chiropractor treatments with a fear of movement as they feel their bodies will ‘pop’ out as soon as they bend over. How do you then put on your socks without worrying? Clients feel weak in their bodies and become inactive and change how they move and function due to fear! This inactivity is what actually worsens people’s symptoms over time! Not because you are out of alignment!

Just for information:

  • The majority of people have one leg shorter than the other!
  • Most of us have one side of our body more developed.

Why are we ‘out of alignment’? We fell when we were young and maybe changed the way we walked for a short time which developed one muscle more than the other? We played football so developed a kicking leg! Are we right or left handed? Our bodies develop over time because of what we DO on a daily basis and what we have DONE through our lives.

Treatment, even a Chiropractor treatment, can certainly alter the stiffness of our joints or the way our muscles pull our bodies ‘out of alignment’ but our bodies will revert to their ‘comfortable position’ unless you make the changes needed after treatment by strengthening muscles and ligaments. This is the beauty of Physiotherapy treatment – we treat the ISSUE and don’t have a pre-determined diagnosis. We then treat your issue with the correct procedure and give you help and advice on all the things you need to do. We set care plans to your level on a NEEDS basis rather than sign up for treatments in advance which you may not need.

Physiotherapist or Chiropractor? PHYSIOTHERAPIST!

We can’t guarantee full recovery for all problems as this is just not possible for chronic conditions. Our job, in that situation, is to help you to understand and manage your condition to maximise your function, recovery and pain management.
What we do care about is the way we treat you.
We care about you and the service we provide you.
If you are NOT happy with our service or approach then please let us know. We would love the opportunity to immediately rectify it. We all make mistakes but we believe in making as few as possible, and when we do, we look to make things right.

At any point if you are still unhappy with our service we will immediately refund your treatment fee.

Caroline Bennett
On Behalf of PhysioFlex (West Lothian) Ltd