Should You See a Chiropractor or Physical Therapist After a Car Accident? A Guide to Getting the Best Care

Recovering from car accident-related injuries can be a difficult and long process. 

Finding the right kind of care, knowing where to go, and when to be seen can seem like a daunting task. 

No doubt you’ve heard that visiting a chiropractor or physical therapist after a car accident is a wise idea, but you might be wondering which one is better. 

This guide will provide you with the information you need to understand the differences between chiropractors and physical therapists and which one is best for you. You might even be surprised by some of the things you learn. 

Chiropractors and physical therapy aren’t as different as you might think, and we are here to empower you with the details you need to make the right decisions for your health care.

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Chiropractic Care vs. Physical Therapy After a Car Accident: What’s the Difference?

At face value, chiropractors and physical therapists can seem pretty similar, almost as if they are just different versions of each other. While there are many similarities, the key differences vary from practice to practice and even state to state. 

While different states have different rules, all chiropractors are:

  • Chiropractic physicians — they have a very high level of training and education.
  • Fully trained and certified — chiropractors spend roughly as much time in school as medical doctors.
  • Experts in human anatomy — chiropractors spend years learning what makes the human body work and how to help it function better. 

At Cascade Spine and Injury Center, we utilize many of the same therapies and modalities that you would expect from a physical therapy office. We can offer diagnosis and build a care plan specifically for you and your needs. 

When it comes to deciding if you need a physical therapist or chiropractor after a car accident, you should know that physical therapists usually require a referral from another doctor before they will see you. 

This is not the case with chiropractors. 

You can get an appointment with a chiropractor without a referral and, oftentimes, without a multi-month wait. 

When your body goes through a traumatic event like a car wreck, it often needs a little help getting back up to speed. It is a good idea to see a physical therapist or chiropractor after a car accident, but which one is better? Can your chiropractor do the same thing as a physical therapist? 

Read on to find out if you should visit a physical therapist or a chiropractor after a car accident.


Chiropractic care is one of the types of complementary therapy, a technique utilized alongside other forms of medical care, and is used to treat the musculoskeletal system — your bones, joints, cartilage, tendons, and muscles. 

You can credit your ability to move and keep your internal organs protected to the efficiency of your musculoskeletal system. 

When your vision is acting up, you go to an eye doctor. 

When your throat is not functioning at its peak, you visit your otolaryngologist (ENT). 

When something in your musculoskeletal system is off, you should go to a chiropractor. 

While you might have to worry about long wait times with a physical therapist or other specialists, with chiropractors, you typically don’t. 

In many cases, chiropractors are able to get you in quickly, especially if you have recently been in a car accident. 

Techniques Used by Chiropractors

By manipulating the spine, chiropractors can relieve tension within the body which, in turn, can help your body relax and heal. 

Chiropractic care is not just for the nights you slept wrong — it can help your healing process even after traumatic, injury-causing events such as a car accident. 

After an accident, a chiropractor can help realign your spine and provide you with pain relief without needing to use dangerous and potentially addictive medications. 

Chiropractors have a range of drug-free treatment options that include:

  • Spinal adjustments
  • Electric muscle stimulation 
  • Rehabilitative exercises that improve flexibility

Physical Therapists

Physical therapy is a broad term and it encompasses more than you might think. 

At its core, physical therapy encourages your body to heal itself through strength and mobility training. 

Physical therapy can have more applications, while chiropractic care is more specific.

Techniques Used by Physical Therapists

Physical therapists and chiropractors use very similar techniques. 

After a car accident, a physical therapist works with the patient to strengthen damaged muscles and tissues. They can help a patient relearn various everyday functions if the patient has severe injuries. 

A physical therapist uses a variety of techniques such as:

  • Manual therapy to promote tissue healing and joint mobility
  • Custom exercises to strengthen damaged muscles and help alleviate pain
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Heat therapy
  • Electric stimulation

Which Is Best: A Physical Therapist or a Chiropractor After a Car Accident?

When isolating the two and looking simply at their scope, there is no “best” when it comes to deciding between a physical therapist or chiropractor after car accident-related injuries. 

Physical therapists and chiropractors have a lot of similarities but chiropractors really shine when it comes to getting your body back in alignment. Chiropractors are certified and licensed to do a full adjustment on their patients whereas physical therapists are not. 

Finding a practice that incorporates principles of both is a great way to maximize your healing. At Cascade Spine and Injury, we know how important that is — which is why we utilize physical therapy-type treatments with our chiropractic care.

3 Ways You Can Benefit From Both  Chiropractic Care and Physical Therapy After a Car Accident

Physical therapy and chiropractic care go hand in hand to create an optimal post-injury healing experience. 

By incorporating both into your care plan, you can ensure that you are getting the best of both worlds paired together to offer you the greatest assistance on the road to recovery. 

By choosing a multi-disciplinary clinic that combines the two, such as Cascade Spine and Injury Center, you can get all of your care under one roof. 

#1: Chiropractic Adjustments Complement Physical Therapy Treatments by Positively Affecting the Nervous System

Did you know that your brain plays a huge part in your body’s healing after an event like a car accident? 

It’s true. 

Chiropractic adjustments have the power to effect change in the brain that makes the body receptive to healing and treatment. 

There is a massive link between chiropractic care and the brain. One study suggests that chiropractic care could be a treatment option for children with epilepsy. 

Chiropractic adjustments can help to reorganize parts of the brain and allow them to function better. 

These adjustments can decrease pain by resetting pathways and improving the mechanical function of the adjusted area, allowing the brain to learn from the exercise done. 

#2: Chiropractic Care and Physical Therapy Combined Can Prevent Long-Term Damage

When you start working with your physical therapist or chiropractor after a car accident, your treatment goals are not limited to just treating your most recent auto-related injury.

Here at Cascade Spine and Injury, we know that prevention is the best cure so we work with you to help equip your body to prevent future injuries. 

You will learn exercises designed to help:

  • Strengthen muscles
  • Promote flexibility
  • Teach your body to support itself

#3: Oregon Chiropractors Can Diagnose Potentially Hidden Injuries and Coordinate With Physical Therapists to Create a Proper Treatment Plan

In some states, such as Oregon, chiropractors have a larger scope of practice

For instance, a chiropractor in Oregon has nearly the same scope as a physical therapist.

This means that a chiropractor can diagnose injuries that another physician might have missed. 

Your chiropractor can then coordinate with your physical therapist to create a care plan that addresses your needs for both physical therapy and chiropractic care. 

Holistic healing is best achieved when you combine physical therapy with chiropractic care. 

The Best of Both Worlds: Cascade Spine and Injury Center Offers Chiropractic Care That Mirrors Physical Therapy Treatment

At Cascade Spine and Injury Center, we believe in holistic care which is why we combine physical therapy and At Cascade Spine and Injury Center, we believe in holistic care which is why we combine physical therapy-type treatments with our chiropractic care.

As Oregon Chiropractors, We Have the Ability to Diagnose and Treat Injuries

In Oregon, the scope of chiropractic training is more fully recognized and that means we can both diagnose and treat injuries, just like you would expect your physical therapist to do. 

This means you don’t have to wait for a diagnosis and then wait again for a treatment plan. 

We can do it all.

We Utilize Physical Therapy Modalities to Encourage and Support Healing After a Car Accident

We don’t stop at adjustments because we know that you need more. 

We utilize the same modalities that physical therapists do and this allows us to care for many more of your needs. 

Some of the modalities we utilize include:

Our Chiropractic Treatments Encompass Exercise Therapy to Help Overcome Injuries

Physical therapy is about more than just ice packs and exercise balls. 

We incorporate exercise therapy to round out your care plan. 

With exercise therapy, you might work on agility training, aerobics, endurance, or coordination. 

Your body was made to move and movement can heal.

Searching for Treatment After a Car Accident? Cascade Spine and Injury Can Help You on the Road to Healing

If you are looking for a center that utilizes holistic approaches from caring staff to help you with your needs for a physical therapist or chiropractor after a car accident, Cascade Spine and Injury Center is just what you are looking for. 

We specialize in treating car accident patients. In fact, Dr. McClaren is an accredited accident reconstructionist. 

We have the tools and training needed to help get you on the path to recovery.

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