I have a painful neck and back, should I see a Physical Therapist or go to a chiropractor?

By DYLAN CHISHOLM, DPT

Many people at some point in their lifetime will encounter a situation where they experience neck or low back pain. Neck and low back pain can significantly impact quality of life and make activities that were once enjoyable debilitating and unfulfilling. When someone experiences spine related pain the question to ask is “who do I see that can make my back and neck pain go away”? Two of the primary options for conservative treatment of low back pain and neck pain include seeing your local chiropractor or local physical therapy. So, who should you see?

It is important to first understand the similarities between both of these conservative treatment options for your spine pain. Both PT’s and chiropractors primarily focus on the reduction of your pain patterns through use of manual interventions to restore function and mobility to allow you to be able to do the daily activities that you enjoy. PT’s and chiropractors also go through extensive schooling requiring doctoral level entry to deliver optimal care to each patient they treat.

So, how does physical therapy and chiropractor differ, and which treatment option should I seek?

First, chiropractors primarily perform spinal manipulations often called “adjustments” on patients with goal of restoring alignment and your spines self-awareness, known as proprioception. Often individuals with back pain go to their chiropractor, get seen for ten minutes, and go home feeling great. However, after a few days, their pain often returns, and they need to go see their local chiropractor again.

Physical therapy will focus on identifying the limitations and dysfunction in the musculoskeletal system that may be contributing to your spine pain patterns. PT will perform a thorough evaluation of how your spine moves, including identifying any dysfunctions in muscle flexibility, joint mobility, strength and neuromuscular deficits including sensation and reflexes. From there, PT will work with you on how to properly gain segmental mobility through your spine with the goal of restoring functional mobility to get you back to doing the activities that you enjoy. Physical therapists in the state of NH are permitted to perform spinal manipulations, similar to that of a chiropractor.

Cervical manipulation by a physical therapist for neck pain and stiffness

However, with PT we use these adjustments as a compliment to other interventions with the goal of addressing the dysfunctional movement patterns and changing the way you move, which over time will lead to long term pain relief. These additional interventions include use of manual therapy and soft tissue mobilization to improve tissue pliability and reduce joint and muscle inflammation, therapeutic exercises specifically targeted towards your goals and your pain patterns to provide support to your spine, dry needling to address deeper muscle binding and pain and electrical stimulation to block your bodies pain signals to get you feeling better before you leave.

Physical Therapists don’t want you to have to come back every 2 weeks if we can educate you on techniques to get you feeling better ALL the time!

Physical Therapist applies instrument assisted soft tissue work for muscle pliability

Physical Therapist applies electrical stimulation for pain modulation

At Hampton Physical Therapy, our skilled licensed physical therapists are able to perform many of the skills that chiropractors use to get their patients feeling better, however that is just one component to the treatment services we provide. You get the benefits of feeling better leaving PT, like you would going to a chiropractor, with the goal of attending PT for 4-8 weeks and then not having to keep coming back to address your pain!

If you’re experiencing any low back, neck or mid back pains and are looking to get evaluated by one of our skilled doctors of physical therapy, give us a call today! 603-929-2880