What Is the Difference Between a Physiatrist and a Chiropractor?


Quick Answer

A physiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in rehabilitation and physical medicine, explains the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. A chiropractor is an alternative health care provider who performs spinal manipulation to treat pain and improve functionality, according to Spine-health.

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Full Answer

Physiatrists use nonsurgical treatments to restore impaired physical function, says the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. These specialists avoid focusing on a specific problem area and instead treat the whole patient. Physiatrists emphasize the development of an individualized program for each patient, and they typically use a variety of tools, such as exercises, braces, medication or massage. Physiatrists employ other specialists, such as physical therapists, neurologists and orthopedic surgeons, to develop a comprehensive treatment program. Physiatrists treat conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, brain and spinal cord injuries, nerve and neck pain, and amputations.

Chiropractors focus on the relationship between the spine and the nervous system, and they treat patients with issues such as repetitive strains, headaches, neck and back pain, arthritis, and sports and accident injuries, notes Spine-health. Chiropractors manipulate the spine using their hands and various devices. They also perform soft-tissue massage, strength and stabilization exercises, and instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization. There are more than 60,000 licensed chiropractors in the United States, and a 2007 survey reported that more than 18 million adults visited a chiropractor in 2006.

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