Are Chiropractors Doctors?  Safety, Risks, and Training Requirements

  • Chiropractors are considered doctors, but they don’t go to medical school like an MD or DO.
  • Chiropractors complete a 3 to 5 year training course and can safely treat musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Unlike doctors, however, chiropractors cannot prescribe medication or perform surgery.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference Library for more advice.

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Over 85% of people will experience back or neck pain at some point in their life. Because these conditions can be debilitating and make daily tasks difficult, many seek help from chiropractors.

Chiropractors are healthcare professionals who specialize in problems related to muscles, bones, tissues, and joints. They treat musculoskeletal disorders such as back, neck or joint pain as well as migraines and, depending on the condition, also diseases of the nervous system such as headaches and migraines.

Some people are nervous or skeptical about chiropractic because chiropractors don’t have a medical degree like an MD or DO. Therefore, chiropractors aren’t doctors or physicians, says Julia Louisa Iafrate, DO, an exercise and dance medicine doctor at Columbia University Medical Center. Instead, licensed chiropractors have a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree.

Here’s What You Need To Know About Chiropractic Education, And If Chiropractic Is Safe.

Although chiropractors are not physicians, they go through considerable training to gain licensing, usually 3 to 5 years, including a bachelor’s degree.

Important: An important difference between doctors and chiropractors is that chiropractors cannot perform surgery or prescribe medications such as prescription pain relievers.

According to Paul Quarneri, DC, a state-certified chiropractic neurologist and founder of Neurolink Chiropractic private practice, chiropractors who earn their DC must:

  • Get a bachelor’s degree with pre-medical courses like exercise science and kinesiology
  • Enroll in a 3 to 4 year graduate program that includes up to a year of residency at an accredited chiropractic university
  • Pass four national board exams
  • Passing ethics or legal reviews required in some states
  • Complete certain coursework and / or training each year to qualify for license renewal as required by your state

Additionally, Quarneri says chiropractors can choose to earn post-graduate diploma certificates through the American Chiropractic Association in subspecialties such as:

  • neurology
  • Orthopedics
  • radiology
  • nourishment
  • Pediatrics
  • sports medicine

Here’s what to expect when you first visit a chiropractor, according to Quarneri:

  1. The chiropractor will ask for a detailed medical history and will examine your spine and / or the areas where you are in pain by assessing factors such as range of motion, muscle strength, and reflexes.
  2. Some doctors may require x-rays of your spine to check if you have any underlying health conditions, such as arthritis.
  3. The chiropractor will diagnose your condition and create a treatment plan. Examples of conditions that chiropractors diagnose and treat include whiplash, tendonitis, and tennis elbow.

In general, a visit to the chiropractor can take 30 to 60 minutes. Initially, you may need to see your chiropractor two to three times a week for several weeks. As you feel better, the frequency can be reduced to once a week.

What does this cost? The cost of a visit to chiropractic can vary significantly, Quarneri says. In general, he says that the bill for a new patient exam can be anywhere from $ 250 to $ 700, while an adjustment can cost $ 40 to $ 80.

Some of the treatments a chiropractor can offer you include:

  • Adjustmentsthat realign the joints and improve freedom of movement.
  • Soft tissue therapythat relieves muscle tension and reduces cramps.
  • Kinesio taping, in which tense joints and muscles are taped to support them until they heal.
  • Stretches and exercisesthat improve flexibility, mobility and freedom of movement.

Chiropractors treat patients with their hands or with special instruments. For example, a chiropractor may apply a sudden, controlled force to your joints, pushing them beyond their normal range of motion. This can cause the joints to crack or audibly snap back into place. Chiropractic treatments are usually not painful and often provide immediate symptom relief.

Chiropractors are safe as long as they are licensed practitioners. The likelihood of side effects or complications is higher if you are treated by someone who is not trained and licensed, e.g. B. an assistant or a technician in a chiropractic practice.

“Chiropractors have excellent knowledge of the musculoskeletal system and can provide relief to patients – sometimes short-term, sometimes longer,” says Iafrate.

A small 2018 study of U.S. military personnel with back pain found that those who received chiropractic treatment in addition to medical care for six weeks compared to those who received medical care only reported:

  • Less pain intensity
  • Greater mobility improvement and less disability
  • Less use of medication
  • Greater satisfaction with the treatment

However, some may experience minor side effects such as muscle stiffness or pain after a visit to chiropractic. These symptoms should go away within a few days as your muscles adjust to the corrected alignment.

However, some people experience serious complications from chiropractic care. Although extremely rare, complications include:

According to a 2017 study, other pre-existing conditions increase the risk of developing complications from chiropractic care. Therefore, you should not be fitted by a chiropractor if you:

  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Spinal cancer or myeloma
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Bone abnormalities in the upper neck area
  • Loss of strength, tingling, or numbness in one arm or leg

Chiropractors specialize in treating muscles, joints, bones, and tissues.

Although not doctors, licensed chiropractors go through extensive training that can last nearly a decade. Therefore, the average healthy adult can safely be treated by a chiropractor for back, neck and joint pain.

However, if you suspect that your pain is due to an underlying condition such as osteoporosis or bone abnormalities, see a doctor or health care professional first.