Which One: Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, Massage Therapy?

When it comes to manual therapy and treating conditions involving muscles and joints, a question that often comes up is “When should I see a chiropractor versus a physiotherapist versus a massage therapist?” There are a variety of treatment techniques that each profession uses – some are quite similar, while others differ quite a bit.

Here are a few things to consider when deciding which healthcare provider to see.

Patient Preference

First and foremost is patient preference. What therapy has worked well for you before? What kind of treatments do you think you’d like to try? As evidence-informed healthcare providers we’re always looking to match up the best therapy for the right condition. But it’s not just about treating conditions – it’s about treating the patient as a whole. And taking patient preference into consideration is an important part of the healing process.

Practitioner Recommendations

“It is amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.” – John Wooden

Often, your practitioner may recommend co-management with another provider to help with a particular condition.

The above quote applies to our multidisciplinary clinic. It’s also in line with recent guidelines from the National Pain Centre which recommend a multimodal approach to managing pain. These recommendations include education about self care, exercise, spinal manipulation, massage therapy, and cognitive behavioural therapy, among others. This also highlights the fact that no single profession holds a monopoly on best healthcare practices and outcomes – a cooperative, and collaborative approach is often needed.

It should be noted, however, that just because a variety of options are available, it doesn’t mean that all of them need to be used. In fact the goal is always to apply the least amount of intervention needed to gain the greatest effect. This varies from person to person.

Comparing Therapies

The following is a list of reasons of when you may consider seeking one type of healthcare provider over another. These are general reasons, using broad strokes, and there can be significant overlap between professions and the therapeutic outcomes.

  • Chiropractic
    • Best known for: back pain/neck pain/headache management; improved joint mobility; pain relief
    • What to expect: a thorough history and physical exam; a diagnosis of a specific condition
    • Most common therapy: adjustments/spinal manipulation; focussed soft tissue therapy; specific stretches and exercises
    • Average treatment length: 15 minutes
  • Physiotherapy
    • Best known for: muscle/joint, and sports injury management; pre-post surgical rehabilitation; pain relief
    • What to expect: a thorough history and physical exam; a diagnosis of a specific condition
    • Most common therapy: focused rehabilitation exercise; soft tissue therapy; joint mobilization; electrotherapeutic modalities
    • Average treatment length: 30 minutes
  • Massage Therapy
    • Best known for: pain relief, improving symptoms related to stress and anxiety
    • What to expect: an assessment and discussion about current health conditions; an explanation about your current concern/condition
    • Most common therapy: hands on soft tissue therapy; specific stretches and exercises
    • Average treatment length: 45-60 minutes
  • What you can expect from all the practitioners at our clinic:
    • An evidence-informed approach to helping you, and your condition(s)
    • Making sure that you are receiving the best treatment, at the right time for your condition. Sometimes that may mean recommending a different practitioner within, or even outside of our clinic.
    • An environment within which you can feel comfortable asking questions, and seeking information.

As you can see, there is no cut and dry answer to the question of who to start treatment with. Again, choose what you’re most comfortable with. Talk with your provider(s) about what options may be best for you. And then set out a plan to see what works.

If you’re in the Guelph area and would like more information about the services we provide, please contact us, or book online. We’re always happy to chat.

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