We have many patients inquire about what type of training that is required to be a Chiropractic Physician. Despite some common misconceptions, Chiropractors are Doctors, and undergo a base of academic and clinical training similar to that to their Medical Doctor counterparts. Below are some of classes that a Chiropractor would need to take in order to earn their degree (D.C.). They are as follows:
- Gross Anatomy
- Spinal Anatomy
- Cellular Physiology
- Radiological Diagnosis
- Radiological Physics
- Radiology Patient Positioning
- Laboratory and Imaging Interpretation
- Obstetrics and Pediatrics
- Physical Examination and Diagnosis
- Neuromusculoskeletal Examination and Diagnosis
- Advanced Biochemistry
- Chiropractic Spinal Manipulation
- Chiropractic Extremity Manipulation
- Chiropractic Soft Tissue Therapies
- Emergency Procedures
- Public Health
- Exercise Prescription and Rehab
- Clinical Patient Care
- Evidence Based Practice and Research
The required Doctor of Chiropractic curriculum provides 4800 clock hours of classroom and clinical training. This is all after an aspiring student obtains a bachelor's degree or at least 90 hours in premedical coursework. The Doctor of Chiropractic program is 5 academic years in length, but can be completed in a more intense accelerated program in 3.5 years, provided classes are taken year round. In addition to earning their degree, chiropractors must also pass 5 national board examinations before they are even eligible to apply for licensure. If the Doctor of Chiropractic wishes to practice acupuncture (in Missouri), then additional training is required plus a sixth board examination must be passed.
Some individuals are surprised to learn all that a Chiropractic Physician must learn prior to practicing. The reason for the in-depth training is that chiropractors are "real" doctors. Since patients come into a chiropractor's office off the street without a referral from another medical provider, chiropractors must be competently trained in recognizing problems that are more serious than what they seem. A patient may think that their back pain is just from a "back problem", but your Doctor of Chiropractic is trained to know if it is indeed, from the back, or from something more serious.
Secondly, Some people are additionally surprised to find out that chiropractors do not prescribe medication or perform surgery. Some take this to mean that a chiropractor's training is a "step below" that of a medical doctors, or that their training is in some way "inferior". Nothing could be further from the truth. Chiropractic is based on the scientific fact that your body will always heal itself if there is not interference to healing present. Chiropractors pride themselves on removing the root cause that is interfering with an individual's ability to heal. Medicine seeks to relieve the symptoms associated with an illness, but often does nothing to correct the underlying condition. To say it simply, chiropractors choose not to prescribe medication because they do not believe it to be appropriate to cover up a health problem. Chiropractic is about correcting the cause of your pain and health issues.
The Doctor of Chiropractic degree, or "D.C. degree", is a first professional degree and is equivalent in this way to an MD or DO degree. If an MD wants to become a chiropractor, they will have to go through the complete chiropractic curriculum at an accredited chiropractic college. Likewise, if a chiropractor wants to become an MD, then will they need to go through the complete medical curriculum at a medical school. The two degrees are equal, but distinct.
Some patients have the impression that a chiropractor is a step below a D.O. or osteopath as well by stating that, "Isn't it great that a D.O. can do what you do, and do what an M.D. does". This is also another common misconception. While historically osteopaths were very similar to chiropractors, today the vast majority are indistinguishable from their M.D. counterparts. They were pressured by the AMA to practice the way they wanted them to or they would be slandered and boycotted.
Very few D.O.'s offer manipulation nowadays, and it is usually only an elective in their schools (if it is offered at all). Chiropractors (D.C.'s) are required to learn safe, specific manipulation ("spinal adjusting") and receive far more training in this clinical skill than any other profession. There are many great D.O.'s out there, but far too many of them are too busy providing primary care to have the time it takes to treat patients manually.
The chiropractic approach is a unique patient-centered approach that has existed for over one-hundred twenty-five years. Doctors of Chiropractic are trained with a specific skill set that allows them to provide natural health care choices to their patients.
Hopefully, this information has shed some light on the educational background of Chiropractic Physicians.