Chiropractic Facts

Chiropractic is the fastest-growing and second-largest primary health care profession.

There are approximately 60,000 doctors of chiropractic (DCs) in active practice in the United States spread from rural areas to inner cities. More than 10,000 students are currently enrolled in chiropractic educational programs accredited by a federally-recognized body (CCE).

Chiropractic services are in high demand.

Tens of millions of Americans routinely opt for chiropractic services and this number is rapidly growing. In 1993, more than 30 million consumers made chiropractic a regular part of their health care program.

Doctors of Chiropractic receive extensive, demanding professional education on par with medical doctors (MDs) and osteopaths (DOs).
To receive the doctor of chiropractic degree, candidates must complete extensive undergraduate prerequisites and four years of graduate-level instruction and internship at an accredited chiropractic institution. Comprehensive knowledge of all systems of the body and diagnostic procedures enable the DC to thoroughly evaluate a patient, address disorders relating to the spine and determine the need for referral to another health care provider.

Doctors of Chiropractic are primary health care providers.

According to the Center for Studies in Health Policy, "The DC can provide all three levels of primary care interventions and therefore is a primary care provider, as are MDs and DOs. The doctor of chiropractic is a gatekeeper to the health care system and an independent practitioner who provides primary care services. The DC's office is a direct access portal of entry to the full scope of service."

Doctors of Chiropractic are licensed in all 50 states in the US.

DCs have been licensed and recognized for many decades in all states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Chiropractic is recognized by governmental health care programs.
Chiropractic is included in Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Employees Health Care Benefits Programs, Federal Workers' Compensation and all state workers' compensation programs. Chiropractic students are qualified to receive federal student loan assistance and DCs are authorized to be commissioned as health care officers in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The practice of chiropractic is based on sound scientific principles.

The existence of the nervous system as the primary control mechanism of the body is an undisputed scientific fact. Its relationship with the spine is the focus of the practice of chiropractic. The spine develops in utero to provide two primary functions: (1) allow for freedom of movement and (2) house and protect the spinal cord. When the vertebrae of the spine become misaligned through trauma or repetitive injury, two major consequences will result: (1) the range of motion becomes limited and (2) spinal nerves emerging from the spinal cord are compromised. DCs use the term "subluxation" to describe such disruptions. Interruption of nerve flow can eventually lead to pain, disability, and an overall decrease in the quality of life. Conversely, the removal of that interference has been shown to have significant, lasting health benefits. Through the adjustment of the subluxation, the doctor of chiropractic endeavors to restore normal nerve expression. The body is then able to respond appropriately to any imbalance in the system, thus relieving symptoms and restoring health.

Doctors of chiropractic provide effective, low-cost health care for a wide range of conditions.
Studies conducted according to the highest scientific standards and published by organizations not affiliated in any way with chiropractic institutions or associations continue to show the clinical appropriateness and effectiveness of chiropractic care. One of the most recent, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health, stated emphatically that:

"On the evidence, particularly the most scientifically valid clinical studies, spinal manipulation applied by chiropractors is shown to be more effective than alternative treatments for low back pain... There would be highly significant cost savings if more management of low back pain was transferred from physician to chiropractors."

The doctor of chiropractic is an effective source of preventative and wellness care.
The anatomical focus of the DC on the human spine has created the perception of the DC as just a "back doctor." Although this perception is not entirely incorrect, it is very much incomplete. Doctors of chiropractic are a highly appropriate resource in matters of work-place safety, stress management, injury prevention, postural correction and nutritional counseling."

The process of chiropractic adjustment is a safe, efficient procedure which is performed nearly one million times every working day in the United States.
There is a singular lack of actuarial data that would justify concluding that chiropractic care is in any way harmful or dangerous. Chiropractic care is non-invasive, therefore, the body's response to chiropractic care is far more predictable than its reactions to drug treatments or surgical procedures. Of the nearly one million adjustments given every day in this country, complications are exceedingly rare. Perhaps the best summary statement on the subject of safety was published in 1979 by the Government of New Zealand which established a special commission to study chiropractic. They found:

"The conspicuous lack of evidence that chiropractors cause harm or allow harm to occur through neglect of medical referral can be taken to mean only one thing: that chiropractors have on the whole an impressive safety record."

Chiropractic Myths & Facts

As successful as chiropractic has become, there are a lot of myths circulating among the general public. Times have definitely changed for the better, but the fact is that many people still do not understand what chiropractors do. Let's talk about a few of the more common myths about chiropractic.

Myth #1 - Chiropractors are not real doctors.

A chiropractic college grants a D.C. or Doctorate of Chiropractic degree. Chiropractors are licensed as health care providers in every U.S. state and dozens of countries around the world. While the competition for acceptance in chiropractic school is not as fierce as medical school, the chiropractic and medical school curricula are extremely rigorous and virtually identical. In fact, chiropractors have more hours of classroom education than their medical counterparts. As part of their education, chiropractic students also complete a residency working with real patients in a clinical setting, supervised by licensed doctors of chiropractic. Once chiropractic students graduate, they have to pass four sets of national board exams as well as state board exams in the states where they want to practice.

Just like medical doctors, chiropractors are professionals that are subject to the same type of testing procedures, licensing and monitoring by state and national peer-reviewed boards. Federal and state programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Workers' Compensations programs cover chiropractic care, and all federal agencies accept sick-leave certificates signed by doctors of chiropractic. Chiropractors are also commissioned as officers in the military.

The biggest difference between chiropractors and medical doctors lies not in their level of education, but in their preferred method of caring for people. Medical doctors are trained in the use of medicines (chemicals that affect your internal biochemistry) and surgery. Consequently, if you have a chemical problem, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, or an infection, medical doctors can be very helpful. However, if your problem is that your spine is mis-aligned or you have soft tissue damage causing pain, there is no chemical in existence that can fix it. You need a physical solution to correct a physical problem. That is where chiropractic really shines. Chiropractors provide physical solutions -- adjustments, exercises, stretches, muscle therapy -- to help the body heal from conditions that are physical in origin, such as back pain, muscle spasms, headaches, and poor posture. Another distinction is the fact that it is completely appropriate to receive chiropractic care even if you do not have symptoms. Unlike standard medical doctors, whom you visit when you have a symptom to be treated, chiropractors offer adjustments to improve spinal alignment and overall well-being before symptoms develop.

Myth #2 - Medical doctors don't like chiropractors.

The American Medical Association's opposition to chiropractic was at its strongest in the 1940s under the leadership of Morris Fishbein. Fishbein called chiropractors "rabid dogs" and referred to them as "playful and cute, but killers" He tried to portray chiropractors as members of an unscientific cult who cared about nothing but taking their patients' money. Up to the late 1970s and early 1980s, the medical establishment purposely conspired to try to destroy the profession of chiropractic. In fact, a landmark lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Illinois in the 1980s found that the American Medical Association was guilty of conspiracy and was ordered to pay restitution to the chiropractic profession.

In the 20 years since, the opinion of most medical doctors has changed: several major studies have shown the superiority of chiropractic in helping people with a host of conditions, and medical doctors developed a better understanding as to what chiropractors actually do. Many people have returned to their medical doctors and told them about the great results they experienced at their chiropractors office. Hospitals across the country now have chiropractors on staff, and many chiropractic offices have medical doctors on staff. Chiropractors and medical doctors are now much more comfortable working together in cases where medical care is necessary as an adjunct to chiropractic care.

Myth #3 - Once you start going to a chiropractor, you have to keep going for the rest of your life.

This statement comes up frequently when the topic of chiropractic is discussed. It is only partially true. You only have to continue going to the chiropractor as long as you wish to maintain the health of your neuromusculoskeletal system. Going to a chiropractor is much like going to the dentist, exercising at a gym, or eating a healthy diet: As long as you keep it up, you continue to enjoy the benefits.

Many years ago, dentists convinced everyone that the best time to go to the dentist is before your teeth hurt, that routine dental care will help your teeth remain healthy for a long time. The same is true of chiropractic care for your spine. It is important to remember that, just like your teeth, your spine experiences normal wear and tear as you walk, drive, sit, lift, sleep, and bend. Routine chiropractic care can help you feel better, move with more freedom, and stay healthier throughout your lifetime. Although you can enjoy the benefits of chiropractic care even if you receive care for a short time, the real benefits come into play when you make chiropractic care a part of your wellness lifestyle.

Chiropractic vs. MD

Educational Requirements for Admission to Medical and Chiropractic College, and for the MD Degree (Doctor of Medicine) and DC degree (Doctor of Chiropractic) Summary: The educational requirements for the MD degree (doctor of medicine) are often exaggerated, and that of the DC degree (doctor of chiropractic) underestimated. Here, actual requirements for each degree are compared.

Presenting information that contradicts a human's well-entrenched false beliefs is not a particularly effective way to alter one's beliefs. With the mass media including television, newsprint, etc., singing the praises of medical physicians with shows like ER, Emergency and the hundreds of medical breakthroughs read in every newspaper around the world, it is no wonder most people have no earthly idea of the comprehensive schooling and in-depth training chiropractic physicians have.

As you'll see below, it clearly shows that compared to medical colleges, chiropractic colleges require more courses for admission and more classroom hours for graduation. The documentation (see below) is a matter of public record that anyone can easily verify.

Despite the facts presented most people will tenaciously hold to their false beliefs about chiropractic education, Nonetheless, truths are more likely to be accepted, eventually, if broadcast persistently. So, with this in mind, I present the documentation.

Comparison of the Education of DCs and MDs

Both chiropractic and medical schools require certain course work for admission. These vary from school to school. Very few schools of either type require a bachelor's degree, although some specify that they prefer the applicant have such a degree.

Chiropractic colleges do not require the MCAT. Some medical schools do. Contrary to common belief, some medical schools (including high profile institutions) require the bare minimum of undergraduate requirements.

We took the admission requirements for medical schools from the publication titled: Medical School Admission Requirements, 1997-1998: United States and Canada, 47th edition (published by The Association of American Medical Colleges). Admission requirements for accredited chiropractic schools are dictated by the Council on Chiropractic Colleges (the agency appointed by the U.S. Dept. of Education to accredit chiropractic colleges).

The Parker College study reported that on average, chiropractic college involves 372 more classroom hours than medical school. Chiropractic students also have more hours of training in anatomy, physiology, diagnosis, and orthopedics (the musculoskeletal system).

It should be apparent from looking at the data below that in general, the chiropractic student has a more extensive classroom education and practical training in these areas, particularly in diagnosis, than the medical student.

Requirements for Admission to Chiropractic and Medical Schools

College Courses
Parker Chiropractic College
Harvard Medical School
Stanford University
Biological Science (with lab) 1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
General or Inorganic Chemistry 1 Year
1 Year
 1 Year
Organic Chemistry (with lab)  1 Year 1 Year
 1 Year
Physics (with lab)  1 Year 1 Year
 1 Year
English or Communicative Skills 1 Year
Psychology 1/2 Year
Humanities or Social Sciences 22.5 quarter hours
Electives 6 to 18 quarter hours

Degree Requirements

These basic educational requirements for graduates of both chiropractic and medical schools show that although each has its own specialties, the hours of classroom instruction are about the same. (The class hours for basic science comparisons were compiled and averaged following a review of curricula of 18 chiropractic colleges and 22 medical schools.)

Minimum Required Hours

Chiropractic College
Medical School
456 Anatomy/Embryology215
Diagnosis    113
Psychology/Psychiatry 323
 66  Obstetrics & Gynecology 284
 271 X-ray 13
 2,419  2,047

College Faculty

The U.S. Department of Education, through the separate accrediting agencies for chiropractic and medical schools, dictates the credentials of faculty members. In both chiropractic and medical schools, the classes for the first two academic years are usually basic sciences.

Faculty members in the basic sciences divisions are either Ph.D.s in each subject taught (such as microbiology or biochemistry), or D.C.s, M.D.s, or D.O.s who also have bachelors, masters, or Ph.D. degrees in the basic science subjects being taught. Classes in the clinical sciences division are usually taught by D.C.s, M.D.s, or D.O.s.

In many chiropractic colleges, M.D.s or D.O.s are permitted to teach certain courses, such as laboratory diagnosis. However, D.C.s must teach courses in which M.D.s or D.O.s don't have sufficient education or practical clinical experience.

Some chiropractic colleges have active research departments in which researchers conduct both basic science and clinical studies. The subjects of study range from biomechanics to biochemistry.

Traditionally, chiropractic colleges had only minuscule research funding compared to medical schools. I recall political medicine using this fact as evidence that chiropractic wasn't legitimate.

However, the medical critics failed confess that the minimal funding or lack of it was a result of political medicine doing everything in its power to block funding of studies in chiropractic college.

Obviously, political medicine used a circular and disingenuous argument to deceive the public. Today, chiropractic colleges are receiving more funding for research.

Some medical schools have D.C.s as full-time faculty members. The University of Colorado School of Medicine, for example, has a full-time chiropractic radiologist as a faculty member.

Dr. James P. Barassi, a chiropractor, is Research Fellow in Medicine at Harvard Medical School. D.C.s occasionally teach part-time or special classes through medical schools.

It's not unusual for D.C.s and M.D.s to co-teach both medical and chiropractic audiences. Most often, chiropractic physicians and medical neurologists or neurosurgeons co-teach.

Licensing and Postgraduate Education

The chiropractic physician must pass four levels of national board exams and a physical therapy exam to be eligible to sit for state board examinations. State board exams involve both written examination and oral practical exams involving clinical practice and x-ray interpretation.

After graduation, the DC may undergo postgraduate training to become board certified as a chiropractic radiologist, neurologist, orthopedist, internist, family practitioner, sports physician, rehabilitation specialists, clinical nutritionist, or pain management specialist. Medical physicians also may become board certified.

Options such as surgery are open to medical and osteopathic physicians. Board certification is not necessary for either type of physician to become licensed and to practice. Chiropractic physicians are required to obtain continuing education units each year for license renewal.