Chiropractic medicine is a form of integrative medicine that focuses on natural, non-invasive, evidence-informed practices of disease prevention and health promotion. Chiropractic services effectively treat a wide range of conditions and improve overall health through a broad scope of assessment and treatment modalities such as:
- Skeletal and spinal manipulation
- Functional medicine
- Physical rehabilitation therapy
- Targeted nutritional and botanical treatment
- Diet/lifestyle management
Over the last few decades, chiropractic therapy has become more widely accepted by the conventional medical community. Unfortunately, there are still some pervasive myths that affect the public’s view and understanding of chiropractic care.
This article aims to separate myths from facts to help you gain a better understanding of what chiropractic medicine entails.
Setting the Record Straight
Chiropractic Myth 1: Chiropractic Physicians are Mistrusted by Other Doctors
Misconceptions about how other medical doctors view chiropractic physicians were formed mostly in the mid-20th century and are no longer prevalent. A number of conservative physicians belonging to the American Medical Association (AMA) during the 1940s publicly scorned chiropractic medicine and tried to eliminate the profession by portraying chiropractic physicians as uneducated and unscientific charlatans. Their efforts led to misconceptions about chiropractic professionals that persisted until a 1980s lawsuit found the AMA guilty of conspiracy against chiropractic services.
Today, support for chiropractic medicine within the medical community continues to grow. Academic studies showing the effectiveness of chiropractic care have been published in major medical journals, including a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In February 2017. The American College of Physicians also updated their guidelines to suggest those with low back pain use various conservative, non-invasive therapies such as spinal manipulation before resorting to pharmaceuticals.
Today, the effectiveness of chiropractic therapy is largely accepted by medical doctors, and many hospitals have chiropractic physicians on staff.
Chiropractic Myth #2: Chiropractic Adjustments Are Dangerous
Are chiropractors safe, and do chiropractors really help to improve your physical condition? The answer to both questions is yes! In fact, chiropractic services are less invasive than many other forms of medicine, and numerous studies have proven their safety and effectiveness for patients of all ages.
Chiropractic medicine is a natural and safe alternative to other treatments, including conventional pain management such as steroids, anti-inflammatory medication and surgery, which are associated with risks, side effects and complications. All doctors, including chiropractic physicians, are required to pay for malpractice insurance — however, chiropractic doctors pay much less for this insurance than medical doctors because injuries resulting from chiropractic care are so uncommon.
According to NCMIC, a major malpractice insurance company for the chiropractic field, medical doctors pay annual premiums as high as $18,000 compared to about $3,750 paid by chiropractic physicians.
Chiropractic Myth #3: Chiropractic Physicians Are Less Educated Than “Real” Doctors
Due to the holistic nature of chiropractic medicine compared to more conventional approaches, many people who are unfamiliar with the profession regard chiropractic physicians as less rigorously trained than other doctors. This, however, is simply false. Chiropractic physicians are required to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree (DC) and a state license to practice in the United States.
According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA):
“Chiropractors are educated in nationally accredited, four-year doctoral graduate school programs through a curriculum that includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical internship, with the average DC program equivalent in classroom hours to allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medical schools.”
Obtaining a DC degree at National University of Health Sciences (NUHS), for example, requires five academic years of education after earning an undergraduate degree. Similar to the training undergone by medical students, DC students gain a solid foundation in the basic sciences with coursework in anatomy, physiology, neurology, pathology and pharmacology, before undergoing clinical science training. A year of clinical internships and rotations completes their medical training.
Furthermore, for an individual to become a chiropractic physician, they must pass four sets of national board exams to obtain a license to operate within the U.S. To maintain their license, they must complete continuing education to ensure they are current on the latest natural medicine practice innovations and research.
Chiropractic Myth #4: Chiropractic Physicians Only Treat Back Pain
Though most widely known for treating spinal disorders, chiropractic services are used to resolve or manage a variety of health conditions for more than 35 million Americans (adults and children alike) annually, according to the ACA. Such ailments can include acute and chronic pain, fatigue, chronic gastrointestinal infections, autoimmune disorders, diabetes and headaches. Chiropractic therapy is also often used by women to treat pregnancy-related pain and conditions at any stage of planning.
At National University, students are trained to become primary care physicians and thorough diagnosticians. No matter what the illness, students are taught to focus on the complete health and function of the patient — not merely treating specific issues or symptoms. They are taught to consider a wide range of factors that may impact health, such as:
- Biomechanical dysfunction
- Nutritional status
Students graduate with many tools in their tool belt, and can draw upon various treatment modalities and innovations to help their patients.
Chiropractic Myth #5: Chiropractic Medicine is Only for Adults
Some parents fear that chiropractic medicine is unsafe or unnecessary for children. However, chiropractic care for children dates from as early as 1910. As a natural and non-invasive form of medicine, chiropractic services are a safe and effective first line of treatment for a number of child-related ailments.
At National University, chiropractic students are trained as first-contact physicians and, when necessary, will work integratively with other health care providers to find the best treatments possible for their young patients.
Chiropractic physicians also provide preventative care to help establish healthy habits in children at all stages of their lives. For example, posture analysis can help identify posture habits that can greatly impact overall health, including energy levels, breathing, stress and sleep. Additionally, chiropractic services encourage neuroplasticity, helping to prevent neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD and Sensory Integration Disorder.
Understanding the Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine Program at NUHS
For students interested in a career in chiropractic medicine, National University’s nationally recognized Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine program can be completed in as few as 10 trimesters. Students benefit from NUHS’ top-notch facilities, which include laboratories, a public Health Clinic, and the Training and Assessment Center — studying the latest, most innovative research, manipulation techniques and physiological tools to help every patient, while gaining experience in one of the most rapidly rising fields of integrative medicine.
As leaders in the chiropractic field, we hope that this article cleared up some of the chiropractic myths that have circulated over the years.
If you are considering becoming a chiropractic physician, check out our career resource below to learn about the field, job outlook and the admission process.
Are you considering becoming a chiropractic physician? If so, check out our career resource below to learn about the industry, job outlook, and the admission process.
About the Author
Dr. Christopher Arick