Yes, absolutely, your background in physical therapy will help you in your journey toward becoming a chiropractor. Whether you’re a licensed physical therapist or a PT student, the knowledge that you already have will complement the new information you’ll learn. Plus, the courses that you already completed may meet chiropractic school prerequisites. The fact that you want to advance your education to help others improve their health makes you a great candidate for chiropractic school. By knowing the similarities and differences between the two professions, you can make an educated decision regarding the profession that’s best for you.
Chiropractic Care VS Physical Therapy
An individual who earns a postgraduate degree in chiropractic care receives the title Doctor of Chiropractic, or D.C. While this is not the same as a medical doctor, or MD, many states allow DCs to be primary health-care providers.
An individual who earns a postgraduate degree in physical therapy receives the Doctor of Physical Therapy, or DPT, title. Physical therapists with postgraduate degrees cannot act as primary health care providers, making them specialty practitioners that are most often accessed through a referral from a primary care provider.
Years of School
To graduate with a doctor of chiropractic degree, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree. Upon graduation, you’ll attend a chiropractic school, which can take between two and five years to complete, depending on the school you attend. You must then complete at least one year in a residency program. To practice as a D.C., you must also pass national and state board exams.
To earn a doctorate in physical therapy, you must earn a bachelor’s degree first. After graduation, you’ll attend an accredited physical therapy program for about three years. To practice as a physical therapist, you must also pass the National Physical Therapy Exam, which the Federation of State Boards administers.
Internships and Residency
Internship and residency programs vary by chiropractic school. At some, you may complete an internship that coincides with clinical courses, followed by a residency program. Others may not require you to complete a residency program, but will have a similar program as part of the curriculum.
Most physical therapy programs require you to complete an internship program that’s at least 30 weeks long. If you wish to pursue a specialty, you will have to complete a residency program.
Treatments, Skills and Expertise
Chiropractic doctors use evidence-based techniques to make adjustments to the spine and, depending on an individual’s specialty, other extremities. Chiropractic adjustments range from soft tissue mobilization to joint adjustments. Chiropractors have extensive knowledge in general medicine, physical therapy, neurology and radiology. Some also use massage and physical therapy techniques to aid patients.
Physical therapists use evidence-based techniques to help patients use movement and other therapies to restore function to the parts of the body in question. These experts also have knowledge in general medicine and chiropractic care. Some professionals employ joint manipulation, soft-tissue mobilization, gait training, sport performance, neurologic rehabilitation, wound care, massage and other techniques to aid patients.
Chiropractors diagnose joint subluxation complexes. Depending on the state in which they practice, a chiropractor may also diagnose medical conditions.
Physical therapists diagnose and manage movement dysfunctions. They cannot diagnose medical conditions, but receive training to recognize them and refer patients to appropriate medical providers.
Most U.S. states prohibit chiropractors from writing prescriptions. At the time of publication, only chiropractors in New Mexico may write prescriptions for approved medications if they have an “advanced practice” status.
While physical therapists have knowledge about pharmacology, they cannot prescribe medications. The exception to this may be for physical therapists in the military.
Most chiropractors do not perform surgery. Some states, however, allow D.C.’s to perform minor procedures within their scope of practice.
Physical therapists do not perform surgery. They may, however, clean and treat wounds that are within their scope of practice.
Chiropractic care and physical therapy both aim to help patients relieve pain and restore range of motion. Both professions follow similar educational paths. While one is not better than the other, the best path for you is the one that aligns with your professional aspirations and best employs your talents. To learn more about becoming a D.C., contact an admissions counselor at Palmer.