Difference Between Chiropractor & Massage Therapist

Jun 15, 2021

Comparing Chiropractors to Massage Therapists

Chiropractors and massage therapists use their hands to alleviate pain on a person's body. One of the differences between these professionals is what parts of the body they manipulate and how. Chiropractors are required to have a doctoral degree and therefore earn a much higher salary than massage therapists.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary* (2019) Job Outlook* (2018-2028)
Chiropractor Doctoral Degree $70,340 7%
Massage Therapist Postsecondary Certificate or Diploma $42,820 22%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Chiropractors vs. Massage Therapists

Chiropractors and massage therapists work with patients over an extended period of time to treat their pain, but the focus of the treatment is different. While chiropractors are medical professionals that may adjust a patient's spine, massage therapists may see people who are recovering from an injury or people who just want to improve their general health through relaxation. Chiropractors typically work in office settings, but massage therapists may find work in a wide variety of locations.


Chiropractors manipulate parts of a patient's spine and neuromusculoskeletal system. They are highly trained professionals who must complete a Doctor of Chiropractic program and be licensed by their state. A high percentage of chiropractors are self employed, and while chiropractors work in offices, their hours may vary and include some evening or weekend shifts to accommodate their patients. The work they do can be physically demanding since they use their hands to manipulate a patient's body and spend long periods of time standing throughout their shift.

Job responsibilities of a chiropractor include:

  • Meet patients to discuss their medical condition
  • Review patient charts
  • Determine how to treat the patient's issues
  • Educate patients about lifestyle choices that may be affecting their health
  • Order tests
  • Treat patients during appointments

Massage Therapist

Massage therapists can prepare for their career by completing a postsecondary program. They physically adjust the soft tissue or muscles of their patients, and their specific goals range from reducing pain to helping clients relax. State licensure or certification may also be required, depending on which state they work in. Massage therapists may work in medical offices, or they may be employed in other locations such as health centers, spas, or fitness centers. They could also have their own home-based office or travel to a client's home to provide treatment; approximately 33% of massage therapists were self-employed in 2018, according to the BLS. They may work evening and weekend hours as well as daytime hours.

Job responsibilities of a massage therapist include:

  • Assess their client's condition
  • Determine the type of treatment the client needs
  • Maintain client records
  • Teach clients relaxation techniques
  • Knead muscles and soft tissues of their client's body

Related Careers

Like chiropractors, physical therapists need to be physically active while treating patients and assessing their condition, so individuals thinking about a career as a chiropractor may want to consider a career as a physical therapist as well. Those thinking about becoming massage therapists may be interested in being physical therapy assistants, since they work directly with patients and teach them exercises to help them recover from injuries or illness.

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