Differences between a Sports Chiropractor & A Physio

At the Wimbledon Chiropractic and Sports Injury Clinic patients often ask what's the difference between your Sports Chiropractor and your Physiotherapists. It's often very hard to receive an honest answer, as the person providing the answer is usually a Chiropractor or an Physio, so their response is skewed towards their profession.


Experience a patient receives when visiting any manual therapist (osteopath, Physio or Chiropractor) may not be clear-cut. One pair of hands is different to another, and each clinic may have made different equipment investments. Also, in the years following the initial 

FOUR - FIVE YEARS (Osteopaths and Chiropractors) or the THREE YEARS (Physiotherapist) training may undertake the same or different post-graduate courses. e.g. some Chiropractors might focus on sports injuries, while some Physio's may concentrate on treating stroke patients. The above results in the overall package of care being different or very similar depending on the individual clinicians being compared.

As a Chiropractor myself I inevitably know more about the ins and outs of the Chiropractic profession than Physiotherapy. While in no way considering myself or being allowed (by law) to call me; a Physiotherapist, I have a great deal of respect for the Physiotherapy profession. Below is my best attempt at a straight answer, ignoring any additional post-graduate courses a practitioner in private practice may have taken (apologies in advance to any Physiotherapist for any inaccuracies).


Physiotherapy and Chiropractic share common goals of using hands-on manipulate of the body parts to relieve and prevent body pain the goal after this pain has dissipated is to return your strength. Physiotherapist tend to focus only on muscles and have associated muscle skills (massage and exercise prescription) where as a Sports Chiropractor will focus body wide on everything that moves and use a range of extra skill to treat those parts as well as muscles (manipulation, massage and exercise prescription).


Chiropractic traditionally has a strong emphasis on achieving optimum joint alignment (where all the body joints have equal distance between their surfaces), particularly of the joints in the spine to maintain optimum health. Chiropractors place great emphasis on the exact position of any misalignments and the direction in which correction needs to take place and are trained to use x-rays to aid in this process (although they may use other methods to avoid x-ray exposure - photographs). Physiotherapy does recognise the potential for misalignments and indeed was a leader, at one point in Germany, with the Schroth Method, but they do not receive the same training in x-ray analysis in later years. Not having this radiographic skill, Physiotherapy presently doesn't tend to place exacting emphasis on how your body sits but rather focuses on how it functions (strength testing and ability assessing) as a way of diagnosing problems.

Although both can yield the same results of correct diagnosis one is exacting and finite whereas the other is prone to practitioner error. From personal clinical experience of not using both objective measures (x-ray and Clinical pictures) taking to using them I can say fewer patients get misdiagnosed through the ethos of more information means better diagnosis


Most osteopathic treatments include a fair amount of soft tissue work (massage and stretching) as well as joint articulation or “clicking” (High-Velocity Thrust, HVT) to loosen or re-align stiff joints, and re-set nerve reflexes. An average Chiropractic treatment will focus on re-aligning the spine and pelvis using manipulation, but exact method of manipulation will depend on which chiropractic method being used, for example, Diversified, Bio-Physics, Gonstead, Activator, Drop Table, or Mc Timoney Chiropractic techniques. We use a combination of Diversified, Bio-Physics, and drop table technique and couple it with softening techniques (massage and foam rolling), stretching and stability exercises.

Diversified is taught to all Chiropractors at the undergraduate level, for the neck and middle back the techniques are very similar to the HVT techniques learnt by osteopaths. For lower back treatment Osteopaths are taught a method known as the “lumbar role” whereby the main thrust is delivered through the Osteopaths forearm on the patient's pelvis. This lower back technique differs in (diversified) Chiropractic where the push is given by direct contact with the Chiropractors hand on the segment being moved. The direct contact reduces the force needed and comes with an emphasis on precision (only moving what needs to be moved)


Treatment times tend to be a little longer for Osteopathy, whereas Chiropractic treatments tend to be a little shorter but more frequent. However, at The Wimbledon Chiropractic & Sports Injury Clinic, these are usually 30mins a similar length to most osteopaths.


Costs and sessions need to get patients out of the crisis are statistically similar to both professions.