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When to See a Chiropractor vs Another Medical Professional | Chiro One

When to See a Chiropractor vs Another Medical Professional

Millions of Americans struggle with chronic back, neck, arm, and leg pain, for which chiropractic care can be a highly effective solution. Chiropractic is a licensed branch of healthcare that promotes the body’s natural ability to heal without surgery or drugs. Chiropractors perform adjustments and prescribe in-clinic therapies to eliminate pain, improve function and promote healing for various conditions, including back pain, disc problems, neck pain, headaches, and sports injuries.

As a starting point, you can make an appointment with a medical doctor (MD) or a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) since they both specialize in diagnosing neuro-musculoskeletal issues. After you receive a diagnosis, your doctor will create a treatment plan. When necessary, they may refer you to a different type of pain expert, as outlined below.  


Chiropractic adjusting a patient image

When to See a Chiropractor

See a chiropractor to treat conditions of the neuro-musculoskeletal system (the nervous system, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bony misalignments aka vertebral subluxation) especially those with uncertain causes. If you’re suffering from chronic pain or injury, headaches, immobility, muscle and joint pain, numbness, or lack of energy you should see a Doctor of Chiropractic.

When to See A Chiropractor vs Other Medical Specialists

Both chiropractors and other medical specialists treat pain and musculoskeletal issues. Both are also licensed to prescribe labs and imaging. However, the key difference between chiropractors and other medical professionals lies in their treatment methodologies. Medical doctors prescribe medication and invasive treatments like surgery, whereas chiropractors perform non-invasive, drug-free treatments and therapies.  

Physical and occupational therapists specialize in exercise-based therapies similar to chiropractic treatment but do not deliver chiropractic adjustments. In many states, a referral from a physician is needed for treatment by a physical therapist or occupational therapist.   

Effective chiropractic treatment often dovetails nicely with medical treatment, physical therapy, and osteopathy.  

Download our free guide on where to seek diagnosis and treatment for musculoskeletal pain.

When to See a Chiropractor vs a Medical Doctor


Chiropractor vs Medical Doctors Venn Diagram

Table Listing Medical Specialist and Their Approach to Musculoskeletal Pain

Chiropractors 

Doctors of Chiropractic (DC) specialize in reducing pain and solving problems that involve the musculoskeletal system. Their expertise is in performing adjustments, recommending therapies, and offering wellness and lifestyle modification advice to help patients heal pain naturally.  

Primary Care Physicians or General Practitioners 

Medical Doctors (MD) or Doctors of Osteopathy (DO) develop a pain-reducing drug regimen or refer patients to specialists for surgery, physical therapy, chiropractic care, etc. 

Specialist Physicians

Certain physician specialists (MD/DO) focus on specific areas of medicine that affect the musculoskeletal system and/or pain management. A few examples are Rheumatologists, Orthopedic Surgeons, and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and (PM&R)/Physiatry. Depending on your condition, your Chiropractor or General Practitioner may work with or refer you to one of these specialists.  

Physical or Occupational Therapists (PTs or OTs)

PTs prescribe various exercises to improve strength, mobility, flexibility and promote optimal function. PTs often help patients rehabilitate after an injury or trauma through various exercise therapies. OTs focus specifically on ensuring patients can complete their daily activities.  

The Difference Between Chiropractors and Osteopaths

Both osteopaths and chiropractors are holistic care providers who target the root cause, not just the symptoms of illness. Osteopaths, however, are medical doctors who can prescribe medication and perform surgery. Hands-on soft tissue manipulation is their most common treatment for optimizing circulation and nerve function.  

Chiropractors, on the other hand, perform adjustments (high-velocity, low amplitude thrusts) and deliver low-force impulses to the spine and joints. These treatments improve motion and optimize nerve function, promoting natural healing. Chiropractors do not prescribe medication or perform surgery. 

Osteopaths are specialist medical doctors that focus on the musculoskeletal system. Like chiropractors, osteopathic doctors focus on the whole body, not just the symptoms of the illness. Both chiropractors and osteopaths treat and prevent disease using their hands with manual adjustments. Most Osteopathic physicians practice in a primary care role. 

The Difference Between Chiropractors and Physical Therapists

Both chiropractors and physical therapists are licensed practitioners specializing in treating and managing conditions without surgery or medication. Both also perform hands-on therapies and therapeutic exercises to treat similar conditions.  

A few key differences between the professions exist. First, a chiropractor is a direct access physician and does not require a referral for treatment. Secondly, while both healthcare providers are skilled at incorporating therapeutic exercises into the care plan, the chiropractor performs adjustments. Chiropractic adjustments are effective for managing musculoskeletal pain and dysfunctions, especially when combined with active therapies.

Common Conditions Chiropractors Treat


Common Musculoskeletal Conditions Diagram

Our chiropractors employ a range of treatments for common conditions affecting the spine and extremities. Chiropractors will not only assess the traditional medical history, they will also use a more holistic approach by evaluating the health and wellness goals, lifestyle choices, diet, and other factors. 

Neck Pain

This year, three-quarters of Americans will experience neck pain.1 A chiropractor will assess the root cause of the neck pain and correct the structural abnormalities to relieve the current pain and decrease the likelihood of the neck pain returning. 

Headaches and Migraines

According to the CDC, nearly half the global population has at least one headache each year, which is why effective solutions for headache relief are in high demand. Luckily, our drug-free spinal adjustments relieve headaches and migraines by correcting underlying issues with vertebrae and muscles.

Back Pain

Experts estimate that around 80% of people will experience back pain.2 Chiropractors combine spinal adjustments, therapies, and postural education to reduce back pain significantly.  

Back Disc Problems

In 95% of cases, lower back issues result from herniated discs.3 Chiropractic adjustments and therapies can help hydrate and realign the spinal discs.  

Scoliosis

Shockingly, doctors perform around 29,000 adolescent scoliosis surgeries per year.4 But it doesn’t have to be that way. Chiro One doctors can provide structural improvements to help prevent scoliosis complications without the use of drugs or surgery. 

Sciatica

On average, sciatica affects up to 40% of the US population.5 Chiropractic care helps to eliminate acute or chronic sciatic pain via spinal adjustments and therapeutic exercises. It can also promote healing.  

Accidents and Sports Injuries

Last year, over 55 million6 American saw a healthcare provider for injuries.6 The good news is chiropractic adjustments and therapies quickly treat injuries and optimize healing.   

But what makes Chiro One stand out? It’s our unique approach to treatment. We start with a thorough musculoskeletal exam that includes x-rays. Afterward, we craft a personalized treatment plan combining targeted adjustments with active, in-clinic therapies.  

Find a Chiropractor Near You

You may still be wondering: Should I see a chiropractor? The answer is YES — after you find a reputable one that’s right for you.  One of the primary benefits of seeing a chiropractor vs another medical professional is that chiropractic care takes a holistic approach and contributes to total body wellness.  

Ready to take your wellness (and your health goals) into your own hands naturally? 

Check in with your nearest Chiro One doc at one of our welcoming open-plan clinics across the country. They’ll explore the root cause of your pain with a thorough exam, then personalize a care plan — a combination of gentle chiropractic adjustments and active therapies.

Find a Chiro One doctor near you

Sources:


  1. Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research; 2American Chiropractic Association; 3Lancet (2018;10137)
  2. Health Policy Institute
  3. Disc Herniation – StatPearls, 2022, National Library of Medicine
  4. Scoliosis in Children, 2019, Spine Universe 
  5. Sciatica: Of All The Nerve, 2016, Year, Harvard Health Publishing
  6. All Injuries: Data in the US, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention