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Wednesday, March 1, 2017 | By: NUHS Team

Chiropractors: What Do They Do, and How Much Do They Make?

Chiropractic Medicine

Victoria Martinez grew up going to a chiropractic doctor. After her mother was in a car accident and experienced a smooth recovery with the help of her chiropractor, she took the entire family as well.

It was through this care that Martinez realized that being a health care practitioner is one of the best ways to help people. Like her mother, so many others have experienced life-changing results thanks to chiropractic care. 

Martinez also wanted to be able to treat her patients naturally and have the skills required to practice as a primary care physician, which is why she chose to pursue the chiropractic medicine program at National University of Health Sciences (NUHS). If you share her desire to help people through a health care career, here is what you need to know about chiropractic physicians and what they can do.

What is a Chiropractic Physician?

A Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) is much more than a "back doctor." In fact, DCs study the same basic sciences as Doctors of Medicine (MDs). They are trained to use a wide variety of medical diagnostic tools and effective treatment options to manage a spectrum of health conditions.

As noted by Dr. Christopher Arick:

Unlike MDs, chiropractic doctors specialize in non-invasive health care methods and focus on whole health healing. By considering a wide range of factors that may impact a patient’s health, such as biomechanical dysfunction, genetics, trauma, emotions, hygiene, microorganisms, nutrition, exercise, posture, environment and stress levels, they are able to determine the most effective natural treatment plan.”

What Chiropractic Physicians Do

Chiropractic physicians help their patients explore natural, drug-free and surgery-free approaches that can help improve their health and minimize any painful symptoms they may be experiencing. They also provide preventive health care—in fact, thousands of back surgeries every year are prevented through natural and conservative care from DCs.

A DC most often performs adjustments or physical manipulation of the spine and other joints. However, depending on their training, they may also be able to practice acupuncture, functional and nutritional medicine, and physical rehabilitation therapy. They are also able to provide supplements including vitamins and natural botanical medicines. 

Additionally, chiropractic doctors may be able to prescribe diagnostic tests like X-rays and ultrasounds and check blood pressure, as well as order and interpret blood, urine, and other medical lab tests. 

As a chiropractic doctor, you would be able to:

  • Practice as a primary-care physician in most states
  • Become licensed in all 50 U.S. states 
  • Own your own general or specialized practice or work as an associate in a group practice
  • Specialize in fields such as sports medicine, acupuncture, pediatrics, women’s health, neurology, etc.
  • Work in hospitals or wellness institutions
  • Practice in veteran care, multi-disciplinary and integrative clinics
  • Conduct research or teach at DC medical colleges

What Does a Chiropractor Treat?

Dr. Arick notes that "DCs are able to care for patients of all ages, with a variety of health conditions. They’re especially well known for their expertise in caring for patients with back pain, neck pain, and headaches." 

A chiropractic doctor can also treat a wide range of injuries and disorders of the musculoskeletal system involving the muscles, ligaments, and joints, such as repetitive injuries, migraines, sports injuries, auto accident injuries, and pain from arthritis. 

If you are wondering “how much do chiropractors make?” you are not alone. It is a growing area of interest that is studied by other industries as well. The 2018 salary and expense survey from Chiropractic Economics shows that the average Doctor of Chiropractic salary in 2018 is $107,310, which is a significant increase from $76,542 in 2016. This differs from their total compensation, which will be discussed later.

The survey also indicates that significantly more chiropractic professionals are choosing to work in multi-disciplinary and integrated settings. Depending on the settings in which chiropractic doctors work, they may receive significantly more compensation than average.

According to the study:

“Multidisciplinary and integrated practices are achieving new levels of success, and increased salaries and reimbursement rates have followed. Chiropractors who have been in the industry longer are earning the larger paychecks that come with more experience, showing that hard work and dedication do pay off.”

Chiropractic Settings: Multidisciplinary and Integrated vs Solo

As defined in the Chiropractic Economics survey, multidisciplinary and integrative settings differ from solo chiropractic medicine practices because they employ other health practitioners to help provide more comprehensive treatments of their patients. Multidisciplinary clinics staff at least one other complementary or alternative medicine practitioner. This can include massage therapists, acupuncturists and other kinds of specialists. Integrated clinics have both DCs and medical doctors on staff.

In the Chiropractic Economics report, 30 percent of the DCs surveyed reported that they operated in a multidisciplinary clinic, compared to 25 percent last year. Eight percent responded that they work in an integrated practice—a decrease from 11 percent the previous year.

DC Integrated Health Care Graphic.jpg

The reasons for this growing shift becomes more clear in other parts of the survey. DCs that worked in these non-solo settings reported various benefits.

DCs in integrative settings earn more money on average.

So, just how much do chiropractors make per year? The survey found that chiropractic doctors working in integrated practices or multidisciplinary clinics make better total compensation on average per year than their solo practice counterparts.

  • Chiropractic professionals in multidisciplinary clinics make $134,000 per year
  • Solo DCs average $131,400 per year
  • Chiropractic physicians in integrated practices averaged $197,000 per year

DC Competitive Compensation Graphic.jpg

These significant differences in compensation may be attracting more DCs to these kinds of practices.

DCs at integrative settings bring more in billings.

This growing shift and the increased total compensation may be due to the higher amount in billings these settings see on average.

In the Chiropractic Economics survey, integrated health care practices reported an average of more than $880,000 more in billings compared to solo-DC practices. Meanwhile, multidisciplinary practices reported about $118,000 more on average than solo-DC practices. As a result, integrative practices saw the highest collections of $1,092,940 compared to $441,780 for multidisciplinary and $422,480 for DC-only practices, according to the survey.

Integrative settings bring in more new patients.

Patients may be beginning to see the benefits of integrated or multidisciplinary settings.

The survey reports that integrated settings saw an average of 13.1 new patients a week compared to the 6.9 new patients seen per week at solo practices. Multidisciplinary clinics also saw more new patients, with an average of 10.1 per week.

While the differences are small each week, added up over the year these minor differences can be significant. They may also be indicative of new trends in chiropractic care and the type of modalities of interest to patients.

Chiropractic medicine remains the most popular treatment at DC practices, but patients are also seeking other treatment modalities. According to the survey, the most popular treatment methods, aside from chiropractic medicine, are:

  • Massage therapy
  • Nutrition
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise programs

Like their patients, DCs seem to be making the shift toward more integrative care. As the chiropractic field continues to grow (12 percent by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), this is one of many ways DCs can continue to bring in more earnings and also stay relevant to their patient’s health needs.

Specialization in Specific Fields Allow DCs to Stand Out.

What does it take to become a chiropractor who specializes in a specific area? Becoming a chiropractic physician with specialization and advanced training in a given field is another way certain physicians can justify more in earnings.

NUHS has an exceptional postgraduate department where students are welcome and encouraged to take additional courses that provide specialized skills for future practice. including the following popular areas of specialization which Dr. Arick highlighted in his discussion with the NUHS Team.

Sports Medicine 

Many Doctor of Chiropractic students get specialization in sports medicine and exercise science, such as Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician (CCSP), offered through NUHS’ postgraduate department. This certification allows DCs to treat sports injuries, enhance athletic performance, and promote physical fitness. Today, NFL and MLB teams have chiropractors on staff. Olympic athletes and teams seek chiropractic treatments during tournaments.

The National University’s faculty includes experts like Carlo Guadagno, DC, CCSP®, ICCSP, FICC, who was named the American Chiropractic Association Sports Council's (ACASC’s) 2016 Sports Chiropractor of the Year. His success in the field of sports chiropractic has allowed him to treat Olympic athletes at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Chosen from hundreds of applicants, Dr. Guadagno was part of an international team of just 16 DCs in the Olympic Village Polyclinic.

Women’s Health

National University’s broad-scope curriculum gives students a solid foundation as a physician as well as a chiropractic medicine expert. The postgraduate department offers continuing education courses in women's prenatal and postpartum health for chiropractic physicians. Courses include a variety of topics such as:

  • Healthy fertility and conception
  • Manual treatment of pregnant patients
  • Postpartum pelvic floor evaluation
  • Rehabilitation

Internal Medicine 

Chiropractic physicians use functional medicine to treat a variety of internal conditions such as small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This condition is a hot topic in the medical community. It involves an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine, which can be the cause of several common diseases including:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Diabetes
  • Scleroderma
  • Crohn's disease

Other chiropractic medicine specialties include:

  • Nutrition
  • Pediatric care
  • Orthopedics
  • Acupuncture
  • Rehabilitation
  • Occupational health

DCs with Multiple Degrees Offer More Treatment Options.

As a solo-practice chiropractic physician, one option to increase offerings to patients is to expand your credentials. Many chiropractic professionals earn additional degrees in complementary areas to expand their career options and increase income earning potential.

National University of Health Sciences offers programs for Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, Master of Science in Acupuncture, Master of Science in Oriental Medicine and a Certificate in Massage Therapy. Students at National University also have the unique advantage of earning several health care degrees all on one campus, saving both time and money as opposed to pursuing the degrees at separate times or at separate institutions.

At NUHS, we believe in bringing together professionals from a broad range of medical specialties for the benefit of patients and the healthcare industry as a whole. With a growing trend toward integrated settings, National University offers a campus dedicated to integrative medicine to better prepare students for the future of health care.

How You Can Become a Chiropractic Doctor

There has never been a better time to pursue a degree in chiropractic medicine! In fact, The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 12 percent growth in chiropractic careers through 2026. 

You can begin a rewarding career as a chiropractic doctor by attending an accredited university such as NUHS. The university’s Doctor of Chiropractic Degree program will train you to think like a physician, with an innovative curriculum that gives you a comprehensive base in human biology and anatomy, plus extensive hands-on experience in diagnosis and treatment. 

To practice as a DC in the U.S., students must pass the national board examinations conducted by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE). They must also apply for licensure in the specific state in which they plan to practice. Individuals interested in practicing in the U.S., Canada, or internationally should visit the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB) for more information. 

There are many valuable reasons to choose NUHS for your chiropractic education. To learn more, request additional information about our accredited and highly regarded DC program so you can start your application!

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