The Difference Between Physical Therapists and Other Medical Professionals

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When it comes to physical therapy many people are actually unsure about what a physical therapist does while others think that the physical therapy profession is synonymous with the chiropractic profession. Recent studies have shown that a high percentage of people view physical therapists as professionals who help people get better after serious health issues, injuries, and accidents. Another percentage thinks they must be referred to physical therapist by a physician.

The reality is that physical therapists perform many different functions which are different from other professionals in the medical field and although they work with other professionals in the medical field it is not necessary to wait to be referred by your physician to consult with a physical therapist.

What a Physical Therapist Does
First, let’s clarify exactly what a physical therapist does so it will help you to understand the difference between physical therapy and another medical profession such as a physician or chiropractor.

A physical therapist is qualified to help people overcome disabilities from chronic illness and injuries sustained from sports, an accident, or other type of mishap. What people are usually not aware of is that a physical therapist can help you with an overall health and wellness program which will promote longevity and keep you from developing future health problems and injuries. For this reason, it is not necessary for you to wait until you are referred by your doctor.

Physical Therapist vs. Physician
A lot of people think, “Well if I have an injury or an illness my physician can take care of everything.” Well, the answer to this is “yes” and “no” since there are services a physical therapist offers which a physician does not.

A physical therapist will do an overall evaluation of the status of your current health and then personalize a plan that suits your individual needs instead of a “one size fits all” type of program which does not really target specific health problems you may be having. A physical therapist can design an overall health and wellness program that is tailored to your current needs.

Whether it is overcoming an injury or chronic illness, or you just want a personalized program for health and wellness which will give you the best results, a physical therapist can help you achieve your goals and guide you along the way as well. If they detect any health problems that require the attention of a physician then they work with those professionals to refer you to someone who is qualified to handle the issue.

On the other hand, physicians take an approach from a medication standpoint to heal your health issues where a physical therapist will take a more holistic approach. You should make it part of your routine to do an annual checkup with your physician and with a physical therapist. Whatever the physical therapist cannot resolve through a holistic approach they can refer you to a physician for medication. The matter also works vice versa where a physician will recommend a physical therapist for treatment you may need which they do not perform.

Physical Therapist vs. Chiropractor
These two professions are very often though of as the same by most people when in reality they are two completely different professions. Although both involve treatment of injuries there is a distinct difference between the chiropractic and physical therapist professions.

Physical therapists use manual therapy techniques which range from mobilization for soft tissues to joint manipulation. They also use therapeutic modalities which involve four different types of therapy which include cold therapy, heat therapy, electrotherapy, and mechanical modalities such as traction, compression, and massage. Physical therapists also use neuromuscular reeducation which helps patients to improve their coordination, posture, and balance and they are qualified to recommend cardiopulmonary training as well as therapeutic exercise and much more.

Physical therapists are also interested in the overall health and wellness of all of their patients and they are qualified to recommend a personalized health and wellness program which is based on a complete evaluation of your health status. Regardless if you have an injury or you are trying to control your weight, a physical therapist can create a program that is designed to help you maintain your health and prevent injuries and illness in the future.

A chiropractor is specifically trained to focus on back pain and the underlying nervous system and uses completely different treatments than a physical therapist. A chiropractor uses treatments such as Cox Flexion Distraction which is a technique used for spinal manipulation and is non-surgical, the Thompson technique which involves using your body weight and gravity in conjunction with a table with recessed sections for different parts of your spine, and other techniques such as acupuncture and the Sacro-Occipital technique which helps to improve the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid. In a few states, chiropractors prescribe medications where a physical therapist will use a holistic approach.

Hopefully this will help you to understand how a physical therapist differs from other medical professions. You should always consider visiting a physician as well as a physical therapist on a regular basis for overall good health and wellness.

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