Our healthcare system is highly segregated and specific. Every profession has it’s own specialties and even within specialties there are branches. In medicine, you have physicians that are neurologists, orthopedics, internal medicine etc… but even within those you have MS (multiple sclerosis) specialists, stroke/TBI specialists, shoulder specialists, foot/ankle specialists, spine specialists etc… It’s very complicated and it makes it highly confusing for consumers (general public) to understand who to go see for what symptoms. Hell, the professionals, themselves, don’t even know who to refer you to because it’s so specified and divided. You have back pain? Many physicians will send you to a PT (or chiro/DC) but back pain could be caused by MANY things. Many of which aren’t even in the realm of rehab – aka kidney pain, cysts in your colon, bowel dysfunction etc… Many times the consumer is bounced around from specialist to specialist and it can be frustrating.
The reason I bring this up is, often times I get questions from clients who wonder if they should go see a chiro or a massage therapist or physical therapist. My opinion is that in the outpatient realm, there is so much overlap between DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy), DC (Doctor of chiropractic), LMT (licensed massage therapist) and personal trainers. If we work off the assumption that we’re all trying to keep clients active and moving my explanation will make sense. PTs, DCs, and many personal trainers assess movement of clients and attack the dysfunction from multiple angles. PTs and DCs have different philosophies of approach, but the end goal is the same – improve mobility and strength of the client. It’s a common misconception that Chiros only perform “adjustments” and PTs do soft tissue work/exercise. However PTs can perform “high velocity low amplitude” mobilizations (aka, adjustment with a different name) – though this could be state dependent** – while many chiros will also prescribe exercises to follow up their manual techniques (they do soft tissue work as well!) just like PTs do. Personal trainers help clients reach their goals for strength and often weight loss – but in order to reach these goals they also need to assess mobility of the client and many drills/exercises that personal trainers will prescribe are similar to those of a sport PT/DC.
Many massage therapists, through continuing education courses, will also prescribe exercises to their clients. Through their skills and manual techniques, they also aim to improve the overall wellbeing of the client in front of them through relaxation and decreased soft tissue restrictions. Often times, massage therapists will also have other tools in their tool box – much like DPT/DC/personal trainers do! I also know many massage therapists who don’t do massage work – they do NKT/P-DTR/DNS/SFMA/other continuing education work with their clients and help their clients get better with a similar route that I do – how cool is that?!
Do you see a common theme here? Each of these professions aims to improve the mobility and strength of the client in front of them. So who do you go to? Well, that depends. Within every profession there are good and …. not so good individuals. Not all therapists or trainers are created equal. However, there is a shift currently among all of the above professions (and more) towards a higher standard of care. Many personal trainers are learning more about movement and mobility and incorporating it into their programming for clients. Many con-ed courses will feature students from all professions of PT/DC/LMT. This idea of Chiros do this, PTs do that, LMTs do this etc… is very archaic and there needs to be more understanding that there is a lot of overlap among professions now. The product (end result) is not very different between these professions, yet we have labeled them as highly different from one another.
For me, at the end of the day, go to someone who will get you results! That’s the only thing that matters. It doesn’t matter what their actual “profession” is. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and while I am a huge proponent of NKT because of the wonders it’s done for my clients, I recognize and acknowledge there are other methods that would also get them the results they are looking for. So, in conclusion – don’t go looking for specific professions – go to who is going to get you results. Period.