Physiotherapy vs Chiropractic: What is the Difference?
General Health Tips

Physiotherapy vs Chiropractic: What is the Difference?

15 Mins read

Commonly used in sports injury rehabilitation for Pro athletes, chiropractic and physiotherapist treatment are now increasingly common to reduce pain and stiffness caused by the modern lifestyle. Heavy screen time, accompanied by a sedentary lifestyle, is blamed for shoulder, neck, and back pain across the population.

An alternative discipline founded in 1845,  chiropractic gained worldwide popularity in the 80s, marked by the establishment of the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC). According to a 2019 study, the total number of chiropractors worldwide was 103,469. Nevertheless, this sector is still not mature in Hong Kong, with only 200 chiropractors in town, while chiropractic education and training are still unavailable locally.

When you are suffering from musculoskeletal conditions, it can be tricky to know what kind of treatment is needed. Many often ask about the differences between chiropractic and physiotherapy.

Let's explore the objectives and fees of both chiropractic and physiotherapy for you to choose the right treatment that suits your needs.

Both chiropractors and physiotherapists treat musculoskeletal problems, aim to reduce pain, and improve flexibility to achieve wellness.

  • Focus on managing pain and discomfort without relying on medication or surgery
  • They may use manual or hands-on therapy to treat a specific symptom
  • Both may treat, or co-treat, the same conditions
  • Both are health professionals with certified education and training

Despite their similarities, there are distinct differences between both chiropractic and physiotherapy.



Physical Therapist


Treat disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system.

Modern chiropractic is based on a spinal care model. But chiropractic manipulation has its roots in less scientific theories, and therefore, is seen as an alternative medical treatment.

Maintain, restore, and improve body movement and activity.


Focuses mostly on issues related to back pain, neck pain, joint pain in the arms or legs, and headaches.

Focuses on how the body moves and functions as a whole.

Treatment Procedures

Chiropractors perform manipulations and adjustments to help your body heal itself.

Physical therapists help you perform stretches and exercises to improve your mobility.


Include but not limited to:

  • Massage Therapy
  • Ultrasound Therapy
  • Interferential Current
  • Low-level Laser Therapy
  • Cervical Traction
  • Activator Method

Include but not limited to:

  • Therapeutic Exercises
  • Electrical Stimulation
  • Traction Therapy
  • Manual Therapy
  • Cold/ Hot Therapy
  • Ultrasound Therapy
  • Shockwave Therapy


Founded in 1895. The therapeutic procedure was commonly referred to "spinal manipulation" and "chiropractic adjustment."

Specifically designed for American army rehabilitation during World War I.

Fees & Charges

Public hospital: ~$150/session
Private clinic/hospital : $400 - $1200 / session
Fees vary for special modalities

Public hospital: ~$150/session
Private clinic/hospital : $500 - $1500 / session
Fees vary for special modalities

As a general rule, discuss your concerns with a healthcare professional for appropriate options. In some cases, incorporating both therapies can maximize benefits.

Chiropractic treatment can be an option if you have:

  • Back pain, neck pain, and joint pain: Could be due to problems with musculoskeletal alignment
  • Headaches: Can be caused by or a misalignment in the neck or spine
  • Poor flexibility: Chiropractic adjustments realign the bones and joints, relieving pain, and increasing the body's range of motion. Having normal range of motion helps the body to function optimally

Physiotherapy treatment can be an option if you:

  • Have limited movement due to an accident or surgery
  • Feel pain related to movement
  • Want to maintain or increase your ability to move with ease
  • Need to build strength and combat a health condition's effects, such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and stroke

Both chiropractor and physiotherapist are also helpful for people who wish to improve physical performance for sport or hope to return to a sports activity after a prolonged inactivity period.


Whether it’s a chiropractor or a physiotherapist that you need, opt for personalized health insurance that can cater to your needs across life stages. Cigna DIY Health Plan enables you to freely choose from various protection benefits to customise your plan to your individual needs, including dental coverage, regular oral check-up, treatment cost and emergency. Tailor your health coverage now.


  1. San Francisco Chiropractic & Acupuncture - Should I See A Chiropractor Or Physical Therapist?
  2. Healthline - Physical Therapy (Physiotherapy) or Chiropractic Care? How to Know Which One You Need
  3. WHO - Musculoskeletal conditions
  4. Nayturr - The 7 Types of Chiropractic Treatment Options (Modalities)
  5. The Chiropractic timeline - from the 1800's to 2018 and beyond
  6. 【醫療困局】本地零培訓 政府欠支援 脊醫需求急增苦無新血入行

Recommended for you

Subscribe to Cigna Smart Health

Get the latest health tips & premium contents from our newsletter