The Advantages of Complementary Health Approaches: How Physical Therapy & Chiropractic Care Work Hand In Hand

A doctor is performing an adjustment on a man's arm

Chiropractic and physical therapy both focus on restoring and maintaining the function and mobility of the human body. While both forms of treatment may seem similar and share the same goals, chiropractic focuses more specifically on the manipulation of misaligned joints, particularly the spine. Physical therapy is the treatment of an injury through methods like exercise, stretching, massages, and/ or heat treatment.

Chiropractic & Physical Therapy Overview

Both forms of care aim to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle. The main benefit of combining both chiropractic and physical therapy is that patients can recover faster and maintain longer-lasting pain relief.

“Injuries are common across multiple systems in the body,” said Total Health Systems chiropractor Dr. Ethan Ames. “Specifically, spinal injuries frequently involve muscle, joint, and nerve.” Chiropractic adjustments act on all three of these systems. Chiropractors use their hands to apply pressure and stretching to manipulate specific joints and provide more immediate relief of pain through an adjustment (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2019). They also perform a physical evaluation and will order and review X-Rays to treat the patient correctly. The goal is to improve the mobility of joints and maintain function of the body.

Physical Therapy aims to strengthen muscles, relieve pain, and provide patients with strategies to care for their body on their own. “Physical therapists’ exercises and mobilizations affect the muscle and joint by increasing range of motion and strengthening that range, as well as relaxing musculature,” Ames said.  Physical therapists will assess different factors of patients’ physical conditions and can perform guided movements and stretches. They use an individualized treatment plan and can use heat, cold, electrical currents, or ultrasound, as well as exercises the patient can perform themselves (IQWiG, 2022). Typically, treatment plans include short- and long-term goals to promote an effective recovery.

How Chiropractic & Physical Therapy Work Together

A chiropractor is adjusting a woman's arm and shoulder

Many injuries can be rehabilitated using chiropractic care and physical therapy in tandem. “Both philosophies focus on restoring healthy movement to the body,” Ames said. Physical therapy can play a significant role in cases where injury causes pronounced impairment by restoring strength, flexibility, and function. Chiropractic care can help alleviate pain and restore alignment. Physical therapy also provides patients with exercises and techniques to improve overall mobility, strength, and flexibility, which help maintain the benefits of a chiropractic adjustment.

A patient holds a medicine ball in her hands, while a physical therapist shows her how to do a resistance band stretch

Physical therapists and chiropractors offer techniques that patients can use on their own time to maintain their wellbeing between appointments. Both professionals typically focus on patient-centered care by addressing unique needs and preferences, and when both physical therapy and chiropractic are applied, a treatment plan is developed that takes into account the underlying causes and immediate symptoms of a patient’s injury. Proper education on subjects such as body mechanics, posture, and injury prevention can help a patient determine the best at-home techniques for their specific condition.

Using physical therapy and chiropractic care together can improve your condition and prevent future injuries. Additionally, by seeing both a physical therapist and chiropractor, patients get the benefit of collaboration between these two professional fields and receive a more comprehensive treatment better suited to their needs. “These different focuses allow a very complete treatment plan for patients receiving both physical therapy and chiropractic care,” Ames said. “Together, these two approaches to treatment offer a conservative treatment style that helps keep patients off of drugs and out of surgery.”

Schedule Complementary Health Care Today

Total Health Systems offers both chiropractic care and physical therapy, and our clinics provide the space to give collaborative care for all patients. Still not sure what treatment you need? Schedule an appointment with a chiropractor or physical therapist at any of our Total Health Systems locations, and we’ll get you pointed in the right direction.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2019, April). Chiropractic: In depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. In brief: Physical therapy. [Updated 2022 Jun 24].

Dr. Ethan Ames, a chiropractor at Total Health Systems

Ethan Ames's Bio

Dr. Ethan Ames earned his Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the Frederik Meijer Honors College at Grand Valley State University. There he developed a passion for rehabilitation and the healing that movement can provide. He went on to graduate Cum Laude from Palmer College of Chiropractic – Florida with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. He is a Metro Detroit native who has always been dedicated to helping and serving the community, even achieving the rank of eagle scout in high school. He returned to Michigan with a loving fiancé and 2 year old son. Dr. Ethan was an avid Rower throughout highschool and college. He still enjoys being on the water any chance he can get and is a volunteer rowing coach during the season. He is dedicated to serving his patients with the skills and knowledge he has obtained through his studies and will help those patients achieve their health goals.