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Chiro vs Physio: Choosing the Right Path to Pain Relief


Written by Luke Jarrouge

What’s the difference between Chiropractic and Physiotherapy?


You might have this general belief that Chiro’s treat the spine, and Physio’s treat limbs and help with rehab. While that might have been the case in the past. These days (thankfully) that’s not true anymore; Chiropractors can treat all musculoskeletal issues, and Physiotherapists are an excellent option for spinal care.

About Luke:

I’m Dr Luke, a Chiropractor in the Northern Beaches with an emphasis on Sports Chiropractic and functional neurology, I have learned under some of the top Chiropractors and Physiotherapists in Sydney, in clinics specialising in NET, Applied Kinesiology, as well as rehabilitative clinics. Being a part of Bodhi allows me to help enlighten people of common questions I find don’t have a common answer.

What’s the difference and when do I choose between a Chiro and a Physio?

Chiropractors and Physiotherapists both work with the Musculoskeletal system, both are educated in anatomy, physiology, and neurology. 

So if you’re a bit lost as to what you need and you’re trying to work out what’s the right choice for you, you’ve gone down the standard medical route with your pain or complaint and you still haven’t found an answer, then keep reading, by the end you’ll clearly understand the right choice for you!

Traditionally Chiropractors have mainly used adjustments for their treatment. As the profession has developed Chiropractors have been able to specify in their specialty and now there are a wide array of Chiropractors, some that mainly perform Applied Kinesiology, NET (or Neuro-emotional technique), and sports Chiropractic as well. Creating generalistions of Chiropractors doesn’t do us justice, however it might be appropriate to understand Chiros as more esoteric practitioners, which commonly presents itself as a more “holistic” treatment as a Chiro will understand the importance of addressing the nervous system as being involved in a complaint, typically that comes down to two things emotions and stress.

Commonly Chiro’s will treat stress by working through the spine and primarily use spinal adjustments, while others use variations of adjustments such as activator (that small clicky tool you may have seen) or drop piece (the table that comes up in segments and gets pushed down).

Thankfully Chiropractic has expanded from just adjusting and we can choose to add soft tissue work, scraping, dry needling, and rehabilitation to treat the body from different structures (fascial, intermuscular, and joints).


On the other hand Physiotherapists mainly have classically had more of a “hands off” approach to care, and there’s been an eternal debate in the Physio world as to “hands off vs hand on” care, where “hands off” Physios believe in the importance of building independence in patience by getting patients to do the work to get themselves out of pain and functioning well.

However it seems (and I’m very grateful about this) slowly the profession is understanding the importance of both. So now the modern day Physio understands the importance of “hands on'' care and in fact I work with some amazing Physio’s that adjust the spine (they can’t adjust the neck though). From my perspective though it seems philosophically Physio’s have a less esoteric approach to care, and are more biomechanical in their approach.


I believe there lies the fundamental difference between Chiropractors and Physiotherapists, it’s not the treatment modalities they chose to use, I for example love working with patients who have just had ACL surgery and need a full rehab program, and as mentioned Physios can adjust the spine. Instead I think it’s the philosophical approach to care; a “standard” Chiro will acknowledge the nervous system as one of, if not the main generator of dysfunction driving your complaint. Whereas the “standard” Physio will take a more biomechanical approach and address the issue from that region and its relation to joints surrounding it.

Again this is a generalisation, in my own professional development I have come to learn about the importance of both philosophies and try and understand what approach is more suitable for the patient in front of me. So when trying to decide on a Practitioner it’s best to do your research on them in order to understand what style of approach they take and whether that’s what you’re looking for.

You’ll usually find a Chiro that focuses strongly on the Nervous System will talk about stress, emotions, and the nervous system, while with Physio’s you’ll see communicate a message on rehabilitation of some sort.

In my personal opinion I believe both Physiotherapy and Chiropractic are both excellent, my recommendation as to choosing which one is right for you, is to find what FEELS right for you, does it Feel like you need a more “holistic” approach to your care, or does this sound like it needs a more rehabilitative approach?

Ultimately we are at a time where I Feel confident that regardless of who you see, a Chiro or a Physio, I am confident you are going to be looked after. You’ll find the most success with a Practitioner that you Feel connected to either because of a loved one recommending them and saying something about their care that ignites an emotion that drives you, or you do your research online and the message they’re projecting resonates with your emotional brain… that’s the Chiro in me telling you to listen to your nervous system.

About the Author

Luke Jarrouge

Luke is a passionate Chiropractor blending modern sports Chiropractic with functional neurology, utilising various modalities. His purpose is to provide unique, high-quality, and ethical care that sparks positive change in people's lives. He is extremely passionate about delivering the highest quality of care possible. This passion has served him well as it has guided him to opportunities that have shaped the practitioner he is today. Luke offers a modern approach to chiropractic tailored to people’s needs, where compassionate care and a holistic perspective meet.

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