FAQ / Frequently Asked Questions
How large is the chiropractic profession?
Chiropractic is the fastest-growing and second-largest primary health care profession. According to Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards there are approximately 81,000 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). The ratio of DCs to the general population, based on the Bureau of the Census figures is estimated to be one doctor of chiropractic for every 5,100 citizens. This compared dramatically to the ratio of medical providers to the general population as there are well over ten times more MDs than DCs. Thus the MD to general population ratio is approximately one to every 430 citizens.
Are chiropractors educated as well 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.
Do I have to see my medical doctor before I see a chiropractor?
No. 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."
Does a chiropractor have to have a license to practice?
Yes. Doctors of Chiropractic are licensed in all 50 states. DCs have been licensed and recognized for many decades in all states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Is chiropractic recognized by government agencies?
Yes. Chiropractic is recognized by governmental health care programs. Chiropractic is included in Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Employees Health Care Benefits Programs, Veterans Hospitals and Clinics, Some Active Duty Military Clinics, 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.
I've heard that chiropractic really doesn't have a scientific basis. What are the facts?
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.
Is chiropractic care expensive?
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.
Can a person who had back surgery see a chiropractor?
Yes. It's an unfortunate fact that up to half of those who had spinal surgery discover a return of their original symptoms months or years later. They then face the prospect of additional surgery. This too common occurrence is known as "Failed Back Surgery Syndrome." Chiropractic may help prevent repeated back surgeries. In fact, if chiropractic care is initially utilized back surgery can often be avoided in the first place.
Is it OK to see a chiropractor if I'm pregnant?
Anytime is a good time for a better functioning nerve system. Pregnant mothers find that chiropractic adjustments improve their pregnancy and make delivery easier for themselves and their baby. Adjusting methods are always adapted to a patientís size, weight, age, and condition of health.
Can a Chiropractor help with painful bone spurs?
Look for another cause of your pain! Many patients are told that they have "bone spurs" in their back or neck, with the implication that the bone spurs are the cause of their back pain. However, while bone spurs are an indication that there is degeneration of the spine, these bony growths are not usually the actual cause of the pain. The term "bone spurs" is really a bit of a misnomer, as the term "spurs" implies that they are "poking" some part of the spinal anatomy and causing pain. However, this is not at all true. Bone spurs are in fact smooth structures that form over a prolonged period of time. The medical term for bone spurs is osteophytes, and they represent an enlargement of the normal bony structure. Basically, osteophytes are a radiographic marker of spinal degeneration (aging) and are by and large a normal finding as we age. Over the age of 60, bone spurs are actually quite common.
What can the public expect from a doctor of chiropractic?
Do chiropractors treat conditions other than back pain?
Chiropractors provide effective treatment for all types of soft tissue disorders and not just back and neck ailments. This includes conditions of the joints of the extremities like the ankle, knee and shoulder. What you may not be aware of is chiropractic's success in treating a number of non-soft tissue conditions like dysmenorrhea (painful menses), ulcers, migraine headaches, and ear infections in children. While we cannot claim to cure these conditions, we believe that many of these problems can be mimicked, aggravated and some times caused by disruptions in the nervous system as a result of spinal abnormalities. By correcting these spinal abnormalities like the vertebral subluxation, chiropractic has helped thousands of individuals overcome these conditions and regain control of their lives. A number of studies have also supported these findings. In one such study, spinal manipulative therapy was compared with standard medical treatments in the treatment of duodenal ulcers. The researchers Pikalov, MD, and Kharin, MD, found those subjects receiving spinal manipulations took an average of 16 days to heal vs. 26 days to heal in the standard medical treatment group. JMPT 1994;17(5):310-313
I have heard that once I start chiropractic care, I'll have to continue with it for the rest of my life. Is this true?
You may have heard the notion that once you go to a chiropractor you have to keep going back. Before we answer that question, ask yourself how many times you have visited a dentist? Like most people, you've probably gone dozens of times. Why? Quite simply, to prevent your teeth from literally rotting out of your head. Once chiropractic care eliminates your pain and rehabilitates the injured tissues we do recommend that you maintain a schedule of periodic spinal checkups. Like your dentist and like many of the medical experts are now recognizing, prevention is the key to reducing recurrences of existing health conditions and minimizing new injuries in the future. So the answer is yes, we want you to keep coming back, but just periodically. Periodic chiropractic care minimizes spinal and nerve stresses, reduces recurrences of old injuries, prevents new injuries from developing, minimizes degenerative processes, which enhances overall health and wellness.