Unfortunately, the question of whether or not chiropractors are legitimate doctors is one that still has to be answered today.
In the world of medicine, chiropractic care, or the practice of treating musculoskeletal injuries, seems to hover in somewhat of a grey area.
It lingers somewhere between standard health care and alternative medicine.
Standard health care being care received from physicians, and surgeons, and alternative medicine coming from acupuncturists and massage therapists.
Because it does sit in that gray area, and because it is considered holistic, some people still think that it's no better than sniffing essential oils.
We're here to debunk that myth today.
We'll start with the basics by defining what a chiropractor is.
Simply put, a chiropractor is a healthcare professional that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of neuromuscular disorders.
Chiropractors put an emphasis on treatment through manual adjustment and manipulation of the spine.
Most chiropractors seek to reduce pain and improve the functionality of the injured areas, as well as treat the person as a whole.
They tend to educate their patients on how they can take responsibility for their health through exercise, diet, ergonomics, and other therapies.
Chiropractors specialize in the intimate relationship between the spine and their nervous system.
Chiropractors believe that biomechanical and structural derangement of the spine can affect the nervous system.
They also believe that for many conditions, chiropractic treatment can restore the structural integrity of the spine and reduce pressure on the sensitive neurological tissue.
This, in turn, will improve the health of their patient.
If people question whether or not chiropractors are legitimate, they must also think they don't have to be educated.
That's simply not the case.
Chiropractors will typically complete about eight years of higher education before they receive their license.
Most chiropractors have four years of undergraduate education, usually with a pre-med major after taking courses in the sciences, such as biology, chemistry, psychology, and physics.
After that, they attend a chiropractic graduate program.
On average, those programs involve four years of additional education totaling up 4,200 instructional hours.
To give you a better idea of what chiropractors learn during their time in the graduate programs, it might be helpful to see what they are tasked with during each school year.
A year-by-year breakdown of chiropractic graduate school studies:
- Year 1: The students will take courses in general anatomy, chiropractic principals, biochemistry, and spinal anatomy.
- Year 2: Chiropractic procedures, pathology, clinical orthopedics, imaging interpretation, and research method courses are taken in the second year.
- Year 3: In the third year they have courses in clinical internships, integrated chiropractic, pediatrics, dermatology, practice management, and ethics and jurisprudence.
- Year 4: In the final year they have a clinical internship where they study under a chiropractor and completes rotations in a hospital.
Their curriculum isn't limited to just the courses listed above. They will also take classes in addition to the primary curriculum.
They often receive training and certification in a wide variety of specialties, such as sports medicine and rehabilitation.
According to the American Chiropractic Association, the average chiropractic program involves as many classroom hours as a program that trains medical doctors.
Once they've completed the program, they will sit for their state licensing board.
It's only once they have been licensed by their state that they become a doctor of chiropractic.
Chiropractors use a variety of noninvasive treatments to treat a variety of conditions.
Conditions treated most often by Chiropractors:
- Lower back pain
- Leg pain Sciatica
- Neck pain
- Repetitive strains
- Sports injuries
- Car accident injuries
- Arthritic pain
Chiropractors primarily focus on treating neuromusculoskeletal disorders, but they are not limited to problems with the nervous or musculoskeletal systems.
When it's appropriate, chiropractors refer patients to medical doctors or other health care practitioners for conditions they're unable to treat.
It's because of this that a chiropractor can also serve as your general practitioner.
This is probably the most important question to ask; is getting treated by a chiropractor safe?
Because chiropractors only use noninvasive and nonsurgical procedures, it is often safer than standard health care.
Chiropractors also don't prescribe painkillers with a long list of side effects.
Although uncommon, you can experience some side effects after your chiropractic treatments.
Those side effects include:
- Discomfort in areas treated
The majority of the time, most discomfort and soreness subsides within 24 hours of your spinal manipulation.
A review published in 2018 included 17 years of studies involving spinal manipulation and mobilization.
The studies investigated the effects of the treatments on chronic lower back pain, and it was concluded that the chiropractic methods were viable options for pain management.
A review in 2017 examined the effectiveness of spinal manipulation in treating lower back pain.
The authors of this review concluded that treatment improved both function and pain for up to six weeks.
Researchers generally agree that more studies are needed.
It's important to determine the ideal length and frequency of chiropractic sessions and to identify what injuries may benefit from specific treatments.
The studies that we do have do point to chiropractic care being a legitimate form of treatment.
Their schooling alone should be enough to convince you that chiropractors are legitimate doctors.
This isn't a profession that all you need to do is take a couple of online courses and then you get a certificate emailed to you.
Your chiropractor is often in school as long as your general practitioner and must spend thousands of hours studying before obtaining a license.
Chiropractic care is drug-free and non-invasive, and it treats several musculoskeletal problems.
Chiropractic care may not benefit everyone, but it is generally considered safe, and legitimate for most people.
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