Difference Between a Physiotherapist & a Chiropractor

Physiotherapists and chiropractors play a significant role in helping individuals regain motor functions or reduce pain from injuries and illnesses. Similarities and differences in their work are explored here.

Comparing a Physiotherapist to a Chiropractor

Physiotherapists are also known as physical therapists. Like chiropractors, they treat patients. Chiropractors focus on aligning parts of the body, while physiotherapists use exercise programs and assistive devices to improve a patient's mobility or reduce pain levels.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary* (2016) Job Outlook* (2014-2024)
Physiotherapist Doctoral Degree and licensure $85,400 34%
Chiropractor Doctoral Degree and licensure $67,520 17%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of a Physiotherapist vs. a Chiropractor

Physiotherapists and chiropractors both work with patients who are experiencing pain or having difficultly performing different physical tasks. Their patients may be recovering from an illness or injury, and may need medical guidance in order to safely regain motor functions. The key difference between these professionals is their treatment methods. Chiropractors focus on aligning the neuromusculoskeletal system. Physiotherapists focus on reducing pain and improving mobility through exercise plans and may also prescribe assistive devices, such as walkers.


Physiotherapists, or physical therapists, treat patients who are affected by injury or illness with a goal of pain management or improved mobility. They must have a doctoral degree in physical therapy and a license in order to work in this field. Many work in offices with other medical professionals; some may work in hospitals or nursing homes. Their work hours vary based on where they are employed, and those that work for companies providing in-home healthcare services may spend their day traveling to patients' homes.

Job responsibilities of a Physiotherapist include:

  • Meeting patients and assessing their health issues
  • Consulting with other doctors or medical professionals who may have referred patients
  • Identifying the patient's specific health needs
  • Preparing a plan to help their patients achieve their health goals
  • Teaching patients how to safely perform exercises
  • Assessing patients to determine if their condition is improving


A doctoral degree and license are required to become a chiropractor. Chiropractors are often self-employed, although some work in hospitals. They may work some evenings or weekends, as well as regular daytime hours. They require physical stamina, since they spend a lot of time standing and using their hands to physically manipulate their patients. Their objective is to help their patients improve their physical health, and they achieve this by correcting the alignment of the spine, joints, muscles and other parts of a patient's neuromusculoskeletal system.

Job responsibilities of a Chiropractor include:

  • Meeting with patients to discuss their health issues
  • Examining patients
  • Identifying issues with a patient's alignment
  • Adjusting a patient's spine
  • Treating a patient's injuries

Related Careers

Since it takes many years of postsecondary study to become a physiotherapist, people who are considering that career may be interested in working as a cardiovascular physical therapy assistant instead. After attending less school than physical therapists, these assistants help patients with similar issues and use exercise plans developed by physiotherapists to help treat them. Those thinking about a career as a chiropractor may also be interested in massage therapy since clinical massage therapists also use hands-on treatments with patients to help improve their physical health.

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