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Why Are Chiropractors Not Considered Real Doctors?

By Sara Butler

Chiropractors Are Real Doctors

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to chiropractic care and about chiropractors specifically. No doubt you may have heard a naysayer say something along the lines of, “Chiropractors aren’t real doctors!” And even George Costanza snidely refers to his chiropractor as “doctor” on Seinfeld.

The truth is that the answer to the question of whether a chiropractor is a real doctor is both straightforward and complicated to answer. It’s important for anyone who is considering seeing a chiropractor to understand what a chiropractor is, how they’re trained, and what they treat. Today, The Joint Chiropractic is here to set the record straight and give you the information you need to make the best choices for your health and treatment.

What Education Do Chiropractors Receive?

Let’s just cut straight to the chase -- chiropractors are not considered “real doctors” by many because they do not have Medical Doctor (MD) credentials.. However, that does not mean they aren’t highly trained in their specialty with the education and certification to provide you with excellent care, similar to other doctorate level providers like dentists and physical therapists

Chiropractic education requires students to complete a considerable amount of training to become Doctors of Chiropractic (and they get the designation DC instead of MD, like medical doctors do). Most obtain an undergraduate degree, typically in a science such as biology, kinesiology, chemistry, psychology, or physics, before they attend a chiropractic graduate degree program in chiropractic. As a part of that chiropractic graduate program, many complete clinical internships in a variety of areas, including rotations in veterans clinics and hospitals, if their school offers them. On average, a chiropractor has more than 4,000 instructional hours under their belt before they become a licensed chiropractor and begin to treat patients.

In the United States, chiropractors also must take state license exams and become certified through national board exams. So, while they may not attend medical school, that doesn’t mean a licensed chiropractor isn’t highly trained and qualified in their specialty. It also doesn’t mean that they’re oblivious to medical matters that are outside of the spine; after all, the central nervous system protected by the spine is responsible for every bodily function.

What Do Chiropractors Treat?

Chiropractic treatment focuses on hands-on spinal manipulation techniques. While their focus is mainly on the spine, they also understand how the structures of the spine relate to the rest of the body through the peripheral nervous system, the network of nerves that branch off from the central nervous system within the spine.

Hands-on chiropractic adjustments seek to treat back pain, of course, but these adjustments also allow the central nervous system to communicate unimpeded with the rest of the body and help the entire body function optimally.

Chiropractors diagnose and treat neck pain, headaches, conditions related to whiplash and the musculoskeletal system, chronic pain, promote exercise and proper nutrition, and help treat injuries to other joints of the body.

Is Your Health In Good Hands with a Chiropractor?

Chiropractors view treating their patients as a whole person and not simply focusing on treating the symptoms, but getting to the root cause of their patient’s medical concerns. They work with their patients to create a treatment plan to address each patient’s concerns, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all treatment. That’s why many people trust their chiropractors with their health and wellness.

Studies have also shown that chiropractic care is effective and safe. Of course, the caveat is that you always want to make sure you’re seeing a chiropractor who is appropriately trained and licensed, which is the same standard you should have for any healthcare professional you see.

As well, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of chiropractors referring patients to medical doctors for previously unnoticed maladies. The whole point is to get cured, right?

Is Pharmacology Behind the Bias Against Chiropractors?

There is no doubt that a bias exists against chiropractors, but why is that? It’s not a simple question to answer. The truth is that the spinal manipulation therapy performed by chiropractors is as effective as many medical therapies, as well as safe without side effects. So what gives?

Part of the bias that exists may stem from the fact that chiropractic is a natural remedy. Chiropractors don’t use drugs or invasive procedures to treat their patients; instead, they focus on the power the body innately has to heal itself when given the proper support. They have no skin in the game when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry or other medical-adjacent industries that sell products to help patients deal with symptoms they experience.

The chiropractic approach of natural, hands-on therapy is in stark contrast to many other treatments, which is why people may be skeptical about it. Other industries may not want people to see chiropractors because it cuts into their bottom lines. And a chiropractic adjustment doesn’t take much time at all -- that was one of the complaints of George Costanza. Only you can decide what the right treatment is for you, but understand that what you may hear about chiropractic is likely biased and not grounded in reality.

The bottom line answer may depend on what your definition of a doctor is. If you mean Medical Doctors, then it’s true -- they aren’t doctors. But if you mean a person who has studied for years and earned a degree in the advanced study of chiropractic and the musculoskeletal system, then they are doctors. So, the next time someone asks this question, you know how to explain the differences!

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