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Chiropractic vs Physical Therapy

Many patients ask us about chiropractic vs physical therapy. They are actually very different treatments, for different purposes, and are viewed differently by most insurances. There is a great amount of info on the web about each but we thought it might be helpful if we just provided a quick breakdown of the main differentiators between chiropractic vs physical therapy.

Physical Therapy

  • Physical therapy emphasizes hands-on manual techniques including manipulation (chiropractors call these “adjustments”), independence through exercise, self maintenance when the patient is ready and if appropriate, and education to expedite recovery.
  • Physical therapy involves patient in-care and treatments.
  • Physical therapy treatments last up to 60 minutes.
  • Physical Therapy is based on traditional western medicine similar to MDs, Nurses, etc.
  • Insurance will typically cover treatment.


  • Chiropractic emphasizes thrusting joint manipulation, minimal to no exercise, and maintenance adjustments.
  • Majority of chiropractic treatments are passive and do not involve patient in-care.
  • Chiropractic treatments are as short as 15 minutes.
  • Chiropractic is a complimentary and alternative medicine similar to massage therapists, acupuncturists, and homeopathy.
  • Insurance may not cover treatment.

Above are the very top line differences of chiropractic vs physical therapy but if you would like additional details about the similarities and differences please ask your physical therapist. At Atlas Physical Therapy we always welcome your questions and are happy to explain our recommendations.

Jamie Bovay, DPT, CSCS