Since its inception, chiropractic has been the subject of many myths. Even now, with a growing body of research proving its effectiveness, the profession is often misunderstood by the general public.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that chiropractic schools don’t deliver the same level of education as medical schools. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Below are five common myths about chiropractic education—and the truth behind them.
Just like other licensed doctors, chiropractors are legitimate medical professionals. Chiropractic schools grant a doctorate of chiropractic (D.C.), which qualifies graduates to serve as health care providers in every U.S. state as well as dozens of countries around the world. Chiropractors are also governed by a licensing board, which gives them the right to legally practice chiropractic techniques.
The main difference between chiropractors and other types of doctors is in how they approach treatment. While medical doctors are trained primarily to administer pharmaceutical drugs and perform surgery, chiropractors treat patients using non-drug and non-surgical interventions—although in some states they’re also permitted to perform minor surgery.
Myth #2: Doctors of chiropractic aren’t as educated rigorously as medical doctors.
The educational requirements for a D.C. degree “are often misunderstood and disrespected,” says Dr. Martin Rutherford, D.C. People often believe a chiropractic education isn’t as rigorous as getting a medical degree, but in many ways the two are similar.
Like medical school, chiropractic school curriculum is rigorous, demanding and long. Most students take 4-5 years to finish their degree. And aspiring chiropractors study many of the same subjects as medical students, such as:
A typical chiropractic education averages 4,822 hours, including 1,975 hours in clinical sciences and 1,405 hours of clinical clerkship. The average medical student, on the other hand, spends 4,248 hours in class. And, just like medical doctors, most chiropractors complete an internship during school as well as a residency upon graduation.
“Is one education better than the other? Depends on what condition you are suffering from and which one is better for you,” Rutherford says. “That is the point.”
Myth #3: Chiropractors only know about the spine.
Chiropractors are trained to do many things besides give spinal adjustments. They’re also trained in clinical examination and diagnosis of the entire human body. Chiropractors can diagnose problems unrelated to the spine as well as offer nutritional advice and prescribe therapeutic exercises.
A doctor of chiropractic can even branch out into specialty areas such as:
- Physical and therapeutic rehabilitation
- Diagnosis and internal disorders
- Diagnostic imaging
- Occupational health
- Sports physician
Myth #4: Getting a chiropractic license is easy.
Like medical students, aspiring chiropractors still have work to do once they’ve finished chiropractic school. After graduating with a D.C. degree, they must then pass a difficult four-part national board exam to obtain a chiropractic license.
Even after licensure, a chiropractor’s education never ends. To keep their license current, practitioners must attend regular postgraduate instruction on the latest research and adjustment techniques.
Myth #5: Chiropractors aren’t qualified to provide primary care.
A doctor of chiropractic is formally trained to do many of the things primary care physicians do: examine patients, analyze lab results, diagnose and treat medical conditions, refer patients to other practitioners when necessary, and advise patients on preventative care. The main difference is that chiropractors don’t prescribe medications, while medical doctors don’t perform spinal adjustments.
In fact, chiropractors are regarded as physicians under federal law. They’ve also been recognized as one of three types of doctors (along with medical doctors and osteopaths) that “focus on health care interventions for the well-being of the whole person” by the Department of Health and Human Services.
These are just a few of the myths surrounding chiropractic care. In the early days of the profession, chiropractors had to fight to be considered legitimate medical professionals. The legal battle has been won, but we’ve still got a way to go before public perception catches up.