There is an ongoing battle between massage therapy and chiropractic. Which one is the real winner? Okay no battles really. Massage therapy and chiropractic work best in tandem.

Chiropractic care and massage therapy are often confused about being the same or very similar. While they may share some similarities, they are very different treatments. Both are effective at preventing some conditions and improving the healing process while providing pain relief.

Understanding these differences can help any individual determine whether they need to visit a chiropractor or a massage therapist for their healthcare needs. Chiropractors and massage therapists are conscious about the importance of the other treatment, so most chiropractors will whole-heartedly recommend massage therapy for certain conditions. 

What Is The Difference Between Massage Therapy and Chiropractic?

Both chiropractic treatment and massage therapy have roots in ancient Chinese culture. Both treatments are considered holistic care, promote  health and increase the body’s ability to heal itself without medication or surgery, but in practice they are very different.

The primary goal of chiropractic care is neuroskeletal care. Chiropractors generally use spinal manipulation and manually applied force or pressure to joints to adjust spine, bones and joints into proper alignment.

While the basis of chiropractic care deals with joints and bones, in massage therapy the basic practice is the manipulation of soft tissues. This manipulation provide with improved circulation and flexibility, relaxation, it’s stimulating the nervous system and promote tissue healing. 

Scope of Practice

What does a chiropractor do? Chiropractors are primary healthcare providers that can treat a number of conditions. Their main goal is to release subluxations in the spine and to make sure the body and the nervous system are operating at their best possible level. Chiropractors are responsible for treating the entire musculoskeletal system and especially the spine. This means that they are treating bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles. In addition to spinal manipulation, chiropractors may use massage, splints, braces, physical therapy or ultrasound therapy. They may also order X-rays and refer patients to other medical specialists such as orthopedic surgeons or physical therapists when needed. Chiropractors may give nutritional advice and prescribe vitamin regimens and exercise as treatment.

Massage therapists on the other hand are experienced in treating only muscular conditions and in helping relieve muscle pain, stiffness and tension through hands-on treatments. Massage therapists focus on the muscles and soft tissues, performing one or several types of massage, often using different oils or lotions. The massage therapist can also use different techniques such as long strokes, deep tissue massage or pressure point massage to provide relief to sore muscles.

What Is The Philosophy?

Each profession offers benefit to the patient, but the approaches are not the same.   

The approach of a chiropractor is to not necessarily just focusing on the area of pain only to provide temporary relief, but rather they focus on “WHY?” the individual is experiencing those symptoms.

While massage therapists provide more temporary relief and are treating the symptoms, but not the reason for those symptoms.

Education and Training

One of the biggest differences between chiropractors and massage therapists is the education background. Chiropractors are healthcare professionals who not only need a four-year undergraduate education but also a four-year doctorate of chiropractic program. During their programs, chiropractors pass several rounds of boards and certification tests and take classes in physics, chemistry, biology, anatomy and physiology.

Massage therapists on the other hand typically complete around 500 hours of training, although it does vary from state to state.

Chiropractic care and Massage Therapy Are Better Together

Ultimately, a balance of these two therapies can provide patients with the best outcome possible. Massage therapy can help loosen up the muscles prior to or after an adjustment, and a chiropractic back adjustment can last longer when a patient’s muscle tension is released.

Do I Need A Chiropractor Or Massage Therapist?

Both chiropractic care and massage therapy can be a useful preventative measure to avoid the pains and discomfort that come from everyday life. It is typically best to visit a chiropractor first, especially if you feel as though you may have an injury, so they will be able to make sure if it is safe to visit a massage therapist.

If your primary issue is muscle pain or stiffness, or you are looking to simply relax and unwind, then massage therapy is the right option for you. By massaging, massage therapists are able to increase circulation to the affected area, and that way relieve the buildup of lactic acid that often causes muscle spasms and pain.

Chiropractic care is a better choice if you have joint pain, spinal disc issues, or pinched sciatic nerve. Chiropractor will identify the cause of your pain, whether it is muscular or skeletal and will help in choosing the correct course of treatment.

Ultimately, if you have any concerns that require professional attention, you should always consider consulting your chiropractor.

To find out if you are a candidate for chiropractic treatment at our San Francisco clinic in the North Beach Area, please call at 415–421–1115 or book an appointment online.

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