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Chiropractor vs. Physical Therapist vs. Orthopedic Doctor

Our clients often look to us for guidance as to which type of doctor they should turn to for the best care after an accident. This article will provide some general guidelines and is not meant to replace the advice of a trained-medical professional. In fact, if you have a preferred family doctor, or primary-care physician, we recommend that you seek that doctor’s advice first. The answer to the chiropractor vs. physical therapist vs. orthopedist question will also depend on your individual/philosophical preferences and the injury severity.

Chiropractor vs. Physical Therapist vs. Orthopedic Doctor 1For Serious Injuries: if you sustain severe injuries to your neck or back in a car accident, or if you suffer from numbness/tingling in the legs, travelling/radiating pain, incontinence/bladder control problems, seeing spots, vomiting, etc… you are going to want to see a medical doctor. Particularly severe accidents will require seeing a medical professional that can prescribe medications, perform advanced imaging tests, perform surgery and consult with other specialists (neurologists for example).

But if you have sustained a relatively low-impact accident and are complaining of static pain or soreness in the neck or back, many of our clients have reported great success after being treated by an experienced chiropractor. There are over 50,000 chiropractic physicians practicing; they represent the largest alternative medical profession in the United States today.

Chiropractor vs. Physical Therapist vs. Orthopedic Doctor 2Chiropractors usually obtain their bachelor’s degree and then go on to receive three to five more years of training from an accredited Doctor of Chiropractic institution before sitting for their chiropractic-licensing exam. In addition, some chiropractors participate in a post-graduate residency program to obtain board certification. Chiropractic therapy is centered around spinal and other joint manipulations to improve musculoskeletal performance. This is often used in conjunction with other physical therapies such as: electrical-muscle stimulation, hot/cold packs, massage, and others.

Chiropractic therapy take a “hands-on” approach and does not utilize prescription medications or invasive/surgical procedures. Many of our clients also like that they get to spend more quality time with their doctor of chiropractic, than they normally would with an Orthopedist.

Chiropractor vs. Physical Therapist vs. Orthopedic Doctor 3Physical Therapists are more likely to be recommended by medical doctors, will work in a hospital setting (i.e. post surgery rehab), and are less likely to engage in spine manipulation as are chiropractors. Some of our clients still consider chiropractors “too alternative” and prefer a more traditional approach.

Then again, some of our clients prefer a dual approach – i.e. being first examined by an Orthopedist and receive their out-patient physical therapy from a Chiropractor.

So, to summarize: in the event of an accident, we recommend reviewing the above points and considering the severity of your injuries in conjunction with your personal philosophy as to medical treatment. Your personal-injury attorney can also help guide you in the appropriate direction as far as treatment and recommend excellent chiropractors, physical therapists and/or orthopedic doctors.

If you would like to speak to a miami personal-injury attorney, please call 800.379.TEAM and ask for Jason Neufeld or he can be emailed directly at

  • UPDATE: to read about another medical professional that specializes in the treatment of injured/disabled patients, please read the personal injury blog post entitled: What is a Physiatrist?