Most people know that chiropractors relieve back and neck pain. Many others have found that other painful conditions such as sciatica, shoulder, and hip pain respond to safe, gentle chiropractic treatment as well. However, how a chiropractor learns to relieve pain remains a mystery to many. This article explains what training a chiropractor involves and how it can provide pain relief for many medical conditions.
In my 35 years of practice, I have been asked many times by patients how I acquired the skills required for my job. I answer that it is a long, rigorous process. Similar to other health service providers such as dentists, doctors, podiatrists and opticians, the postgraduate chiropractic training takes place after the basic studies. In fact, chiropractic college involves five years of intensive study after years at a traditional college or university.
Courses in anatomy (including the dissection of cadavers), physiology, chemistry, pathology, and other basic health sciences are part of the curriculum. Clinical studies in pathology, diagnosis, imaging, and blood and urinalysis are required. However, most patients and other laypeople, and even some healthcare providers in other professions, are particularly curious about how chiropractors learn the ability to manipulate the spine for pain relief.
The actual chiropractic training begins as soon as the incoming students start school. The first discipline to be learned is palpation. Palpation is the ability to use your hands to feel different parts of the body to determine normality or abnormality. Chiropractors learn to palpate spinal vertebrae in order to check for misalignments and incorrect movements of the spinal joints.
Chiropractors also learn to feel swelling or edema, muscle spasms, and abnormalities of fascia, ligaments, and tendons. Palpation is an ongoing process throughout chiropractic training and takes many years to develop expertise. Chiropractors are the preeminent healthcare professionals in palpating mechanical spine alignment problems.
Next, in the chiropractic training, learn “techniques” for correcting spinal pain. The students get to know many methods of manual manipulation (also called chiropractic adjustments) and mobilization. Much training involves the use of hands-on chiropractic techniques. There are hundreds of variations of chiropractic adjustments that require students to learn to correct misalignments and abnormal movements in the spinal bones of the neck, middle and lower back, and pelvis. Chiropractors also learn to help with problems of the shoulders, hips, ribs, and extremities.
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Techniques can also include the use of specialized chiropractic tables and adjustment instruments. Many chiropractors also use forms of deep pressure for muscular trigger points and myofascial stresses, sprains, and disorders.
At the beginning of chiropractic technique training, a student does not actually “adjust”. He or she just “sets up” the technology. This is done a thousand times. Only after a student has acquired skills in this phase does he go to the chiropractic clinics to make actual chiropractic adjustments to the patient. This is done under the supervision and guidance of trained chiropractors known as clinicians.
Clinicians guide chiropractic interns through this phase of training. At the end of their internship, the graduate will be awarded a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree and is ready to be licensed in all 50 United States and many other countries around the world.
Most patients who receive a chiropractic fitting find it a safe and enjoyable experience as it relieves muscle spasms and tension in superficial muscles by correcting a deeper spinal deformity. Of course, chiropractors continue to learn and perfect in their many years of practice.
When patients, laypeople, and other health professionals learn how much training goes into the skills, art, and philosophy of chiropractic, they understand why the chiropractor’s profession is primarily in identifying and correcting spinal problems and providing back relief – and neck pain lies.