Physiotherapists versus chiropractors – similarities and differences

August 5, 2016


Both physiotherapists and chiropractors specialise in treating different injuries or trauma to the body. However, while their basic treatment specialties may be similar, there are several distinct differences between the two professions.

Physiotherapist job description

Physiotherapy is a primary healthcare profession that focuses on restoring mobility and function to the fullest potential when someone is affected by illness, disability or injury.

A physiotherapist is a medical professional who undergoes training in administering specialised treatment that is aimed at restoring movement and function in individuals with mobility issues. The main goal is to facilitate recovery so that individuals can remain independent for as long as possible.

Physiotherapy is usually practiced in a hospital setting, in which a patient presents with an illness or injury that limits their movement and has a negative effect on their quality of life. A physiotherapist then aims to restore both mobility and quality of life by means of therapeutic exercise, manipulation, electrotherapy, hydrotherapy or any one of many different tools they have available.

Chiropractor job description

A chiropractor is a practitioner who specialises in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system and their effects on the function of the nervous system and on general health.  This practice is especially related to the spine.

While physiotherapists deal with a wide range of physical issues and their presentations, a chiropractor focuses on the treatment of joints and other musculoskeletal structures such as ligaments and tendons, especially those that are in and around the spine.

A chiropractor exclusively employs techniques of manipulation to reduce pain, restore joint function, adjust posture and realign the spine. The practice of chiropractic is very spinally focussed. Some conditions that a physiotherapist would not attribute to spinal alignment would be considered as such by a chiropractor.


While the two fields are quite different, they do still share some common ground. Both employ manipulation techniques in order to restore joint mobility and function, improve posture and relieve pain as clinical end points.


While both practitioners use manipulations as their primary treatment technique, chiropractors tend to use shorter movements that are more forceful. Physiotherapists use these techniques less often. Their manipulations are smoother, less forceful and usually supplemented with the appropriate therapeutic exercise or massage.

Educational qualification

To work as a physiotherapist you need to complete a 3-year Bachelor’s Degree programme. It is a legal requirement for graduates to be registered with the Physiotherapy Board of Australia before being able to practice in any state or territory.

To practice as a chiropractor in Australia, you will need to complete a 5-year accredited chiropractic programme. After successful completion of the program, you will need to register with the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia.

In both specialties, participating in continuing professional development courses is necessary to keep your skills updated and stay current on the latest development.


Chat with us on Facebook or Twitter, or email

Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.