The Future Of Musculoskeletal Care – Why Chiropractors & Physical Therapists Are Better Together

If you’ve spent any amount of time in the healthcare system dealing with muscle or joint pain, you’ve maybe picked up on the fact that there are some unspoken wars and politics happening across different providers and disciplines. You’ve maybe fallen down a rabbit hole of trying one thing after another, being referred to different providers, all attempting to get you in the right place for treatment of your injury. And after a wild goose chase, maybe you finally end up in the right office with someone who can help you, or maybe you don’t and you’re left feeling more confused and frustrated than before.

You’ve maybe also heard your medical doctor say you should never see a chiropractor, or your chiropractor say you should never see a PT, or your PT say chiropractors are quacks. Everyone seems to have a different opinion, and it’s hard to know what to believe and who to trust when answers and guidance aren’t consistent. And oh my goodness, how silly and exhausting is ALL of this. 

I want to first of all apologize for the healthcare system as a whole for how poorly we’ve managed these cases. Because in reality, it should be quite simple! We should be relying on what the research says, NOT on opinions or politics.

The most evidenced-informed, research-based management of non-traumatic musculoskeletal pain and injuries looks like this:

  • Step 1: Trial of conservative care FIRST, before imaging, prescription drugs, or invasive procedures.
  • Step 2: If no progress is made or if progress plateaus with conservative care, imaging, prescription drugs, and/or more invasive treatments such as injections or surgical consult may be appropriate.

Imaging such as x-rays and MRIs should NOT be the first move (unless in the case of a trauma) as most findings on imaging are incidental and don’t actually inform treatment or tell us why you’re in pain.

So let’s chat a little more about conservative care. What even is that? Conservative care is treatment that involves non-invasive or minimally invasive procedures to treat the muscles, joints, nerves, and soft tissues of your body. This includes (but is not limited to) spinal manipulation, dry needling, cupping, soft tissue “scraping”, and corrective exercises. Chiropractors and physical therapists are the conservative care GURUS and should be the first line of defense for injuries like these, and research shows that a majority of muscle and joint pains and injuries will heal with this type of treatment, WITHOUT the need for drugs or surgery.

So wait, chiropractors and PTs don’t actually hate each other?

Historically, chiropractors have been thought to just treat neck and back pain. When most people think of chiropractors, they think of a quick in-and-out appointment where they get their back popped and that’s it. And on the other hand, when most people think of physical therapists, they think of going for injury rehab or after surgery (usually because their doctor makes them go), getting a packet of band exercises to do at home, completing a round of care, and then eventually abandoning the exercises altogether and never going back unless a new problem arises. 

And sure, these models of chiropractic and PT do still exist, so it’s important to do your research and find someone you trust and who is up-to-date on current research and techniques, but this way of thinking is so antiquated. BOTH chiropractors and physical therapists are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries of the whole body. And both are trained in a wide variety of modalities. Chiropractors can prescribe exercises, just like physical therapists can adjust, dry needle, and perform manual therapy.

In a recent poll we conducted on our social media, people were way more likely to see a chiropractor for general maintenance or back pain and more likely to see a physical therapist for a sports injury or for extremity pain. There is still this categorical, stereotyped way of thinking of the two professions, and my hope is that we start to really bridge that gap. I want people to think of seeing a chiropractor for shoulder pain and seeing a physical therapist for routine maintenance care, and vice versa. In reality, there is so much crossover between the two professions that eventually I would love to see them merge into one field. In today’s day and age, you would be hard-pressed to find a difference between a good chiropractor and a good physical therapist. 

And gone are the days of only seeking care when it’s an emergency and you’re in pain. Think of visits to your chiropractor or PT the same way you think of going to the dentist or getting the oil changed in your car—to get regular check-ups, maintain your body, and catch things before they arise or turn into bigger issues. In many European countries, it is common and normal for people to have routine visits to their chiro/physio for this exact purpose. They have normalized taking a proactive, rather than a reactive, approach to their bodies. And it’s about time we all got on board with that. 

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, over 80% of people worldwide will experience an episode of low back pain at some point in their life. Low back pain is more common than getting a cavity during your lifetime! So WHY wouldn’t you have a provider in your network that you can see for check-ups and to quickly help you treat these kinds of injuries if and when they arise?

At The Body Lab, for the first time ever in Lincoln, we are so proud to be combining chiropractic & physical therapy under the same roof. We are bringing the best from each of our professions to create the most well-rounded and comprehensive approach to musculoskeletal pain and injuries. Our goal is to get you in the right hands as soon as possible and to save you time and money by using conservative treatments as a first line of defense. And the best news? We are just as skilled at determining when conservative care is the best option for you, and when it is not. We have an extensive network of providers we trust and can refer to, if needed, for imaging, injections, nutritional counseling, mental health counseling, bloodwork, personal training, surgery, the list goes on. We take great pride in this approach and in co-managing cases with other providers when necessary. And the outcomes speak for themselves.

We believe that is true patient-centered care and the future of musculoskeletal care—getting you better the quickest and most cost effective way possible, getting you back to the activities you love, and providing you a place where you can come to directly for routine maintenance or for management of any muscle or joint pain that may arise, without needing a doctor’s referral.

We are so excited about the outcomes we have seen in our office from this approach and can’t wait to keep delivering this type of care to the Lincoln community. If you have any questions about this new concept or want more information, we want to be a resource for you. Please drop us a message here, call our office at 531-510-0726, or visit our FAQ page on our website. Or if you’re ready to make the plunge and schedule an appointment with either of us, you can easily do so online here

We hope this sheds some light on how to manage your muscle and joint pain and helps make things smoother for you in the future as you navigate the healthcare system. We appreciate you, and thanks for being here!

Written by Dr. Rachel Huston

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