So you want to be chiropractor? Then you have come to the right place. In the section of ChiroGeek.com, I shall provide some basic information about the chiropractic profession including the history of the profession, the educational requirements for entry, and a brief description of what a doctor of chiropractic does.
GENERAL INFORMATION: The Two Breeds of Chiropractic
A doctor of chiropractic is a primary healthcare provider (meaning he or she can treat the public without referral) who specializes in injuries and pain syndromes of the spine. Unlike medical doctors, chiropractors often believe that the human body is “wise” and has an innate ability to heal itself from most musculoskeletal conditions (i.e., sprains and strains) and from some non-musculoskeletal conditions. Generally, most chiropractors are not in favor of introducing foreign substances into the body (i.e., prescription medication) and don't believe in surgery, unless it is a life or death situation. Instead, doctors of chiropractic believe in assisting the body's natural healing mechanisms in various ways and often recommend natural forms of medication, such as vitamins, minerals, and/or herbs.
Although the majority of chiropractors enjoy professional cross-referring relationships with medical doctors, (1) there are still plenty of chiropractors who are extremely "anti-medical" (possibly throwbacks from the days of D.D. Palmer [see the History Page]) and would not refer a patient unless it was a life or death situation.
At over 60,000 strong, the chiropractic profession is the number one form of “alternative” health care in the United States and is expected to swell to 100,000 by the year 2010.(2)
Basically, there are two broad classifications of chiropractors: Straights and Mixed.
Traditionalists--often called “straight” chiropractors--are those doctors who believe that misalignments between the bones of the spine--call subluxations--may interfere with the nervous system in such a way as to cause musculoskeletal pain, joint dysfunction and disease within the organs of the body. These doctors treat any condition of the body including sprains, strains, allergies, digestion conditions, respiratory conditions, menstruation dysfunction, diabetes, bed wetting, head banging, and even cancer. This breed of chiropractor [which I am not a part of] employs a variety of treatment methodology to rid the body of these subluxations, including the use of magnets to treat dysfunctional energy systems in the body [what ever that means], the usage of healing crystals, the burning of herbs, the balancing of auras, and the belief that all disease and injury may be corrected by manipulating (cracking) one single bone in every patient: the Atlas, which is the upper most spinal vertebra (these doctors are called HIO, which is short for hole in one).
Modern more scientific-based chiropractors (often called “mixed” or “CAM” doctors) are a more medically orientated group of doctors [which I am a member of] who readily refer the patient to other health care professionals such as orthopedists, physiatrists, massage therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and/or acupuncturists. This system of patient management is called "multidisciplinary care," which research suggests is the most effective way to treat human pain syndromes.(3) Although primary chiropractic treatment methodology varies, typically this group of doctors manipulate the spine in regions that have become dysfunctional--fixated--as indicated by motion palpation results. In layspeak, the bones of the spine have become stuck and need to be "manipulated" back into a normal motion patterns. Often times, once motion is restored to dysfunctional spinal articulations, muscle spasm stops and pain disappears. As a conjunct to manipulation, many modern chiropractors employ physiotherapy in the form of ultrasound, electromuscle stimulation, ice, heat, and--importantly--exercise.
MY 2 CENTS:
Personally, I regret not going to medical or osteopathic school--as my physician father advised--for the chiropractic degree is just too limited. I want to be able to do injective procedures, prescribe medication, and even perform surgery. Furthermore, chiropractic is a physical profession that requires strength, speed, and stamina; such physical demands often claim doctors' backs, wrists, elbows and/or shoulders with the passage of time. I think the life-span of an M.D. or D.O., is much greater than that of a D.C. Moreover, over the last 10 years, the insurance industry has put the proverbial "squeeze" on chiropractors--especially in Workers' Compensation--by slashing or completely eliminated chiropractic benefits. In fact, one of the largest chiropractic Insurers only pays $24.00 per visits and pays nothing for physiotherapy. To make matters even worse, this same company only allow 4-6 chiropractic treatments per year. Many California chiropractors have went out of business secondary to these insurance company practices, and the future looks even worse.
So, my advice to any potential chiropractic student is this: go to osteopathic school (or medical school if you can get in). Although you will have to spend an extra two or three years seeing patients (which you will get paid for), you will emerge from your residence as a "real doctor" and have a much broader scope of practice, which includes manipulation of the spine.
Please feel free to e-mail me any questions or comments [Dr. Gillard, DC].