Patients suffering from spine pain can often be unsure of the best treatment available. Two of the most common choices are chiropractic care and/or physical therapy. In this blog we will investigate the differences between these two options and learn which may help you the most.
Physical therapy for spine complaints generally includes passive modalities (ice, heat, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, etc) combined with stretching and strengthening exercises. Research shows moderate evidence (depending on the longevity and region of complaint) for these adjunctive treatment modalities. Physical therapy is usually performed by a physical therapist or physical therapy assistant under a script from your primary care physician. Interestingly, many health professionals have found that these modalities are best used after proper biomechanics have been established.
The hallmark of chiropractic care is spinal manipulation or adjustments. Chiropractors are the undisputed experts in this form of treatment due to their extensive training. This is one of the reasons chiropractic care and spinal manipulative therapy have a distinct advantage over physical therapy for the conservative care of spine complaints. Adjustments provide a direct effect on biomechanics of the spine and as we touched on earlier; establishing improved biomechanics is the first step in spine care. Of specific note is not all adjustments are high velocity. Many adjustive techniques utilize slower movements. Your chiropractor can speak with you regarding which adjustive technique will best serve your needs. Chiropractic care is administered by a Doctor of Chiropractic. Your chiropractor is able to diagnose, evaluate, treat or refer without the aide of another physician; although they may communicate and work with many primary care providers in your area.
After establishing an improvement in segmental motion (biomechanics of the spine) your chiropractor may choose to use some passive modalities. Additionally, he/she may provide you with instruction for stretching and strengthening exercises. In many research studies chiropractic care and spinal manipulative therapy have resulted in superior outcomes when compared against physical therapy for spine complaints. In my opinion this is for two distinct reasons. First- the adjustment or spinal manipulation is one of the most powerful, safe, and effective tools for influencing the spine. Second- chiropractors have the training and expertise to not only provide a spinal adjustment, but also to tailor either passive modalities or an exercise program to your exact needs (if necessary).
For many patients, chiropractic care is the best choice possible for conservative spine care. The information above is just the tip of the iceberg regarding conservative care of the spine, but highlights the major differences between physical therapy and chiropractic care.
A growing body of research continues to show the safety and efficacy of chiropractic care for various spine conditions. Reputable primary care physicians are referring to chiropractors each and every day but remember, you don't need a script to make an appointment with a doctor of chiropractic today!
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