How Much Training Do Chiropractors Have?

I was surprised recently when I remarked to a group of friends that I’d just been to the chiropractor, and my often-aching back was feeling sensational. “Why would you go to a chiropractor?” one of my friends asked. “Why not see a real doctor?” 

It’s a common misperception that doctors of chiropractic (DCs) have less training or experience than Doctors of Medicine (MDs). While the focus of chiropractic training is slightly different, DCs and MDs undergo very similar training, and DCs typically have more education in areas such as anatomy, physiology and rehabilitation than most medical doctors or physical therapists.

The educational requirements for DCs are among the most stringent of any of the health care professions.

The typical applicant at a chiropractic college, has already acquired four years of pre-medical college education, including courses in biology, chemistry, physics, psychology and related lab work. Once accepted into a college, the typical chiropractor-in-training takes four to five academic years to complete his or her studies. Because of the hands on nature of chiropractic and the intricate adjustment techniques, a significant portion of time is spent in clinical training. 

DCs are licensed to practice in all US states, the District of Columbia, and in many nations worldwide. Like other primary health care doctors, would-be chiropractors spent a lot of time studying clinical subjects related to evaluating and caring for patients. Typically, they must complete a minimum of one year in a clinic-based program treating actual patients. In total, the curriculum to become a DC includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience. 

Before they can open a practice, DCs must pass national board examinations and become licensed in their particular state. Many chiropractic colleges also offer post-graduate diploma programs, so chiropractors can add advanced skill in fields ranging from neurology to nutrition. DCs in all states are also required to complete continuing education each year, ranging from 20-40 course hours depending on the state in which they’re licensed. This extensive education and hands-on training prepares DCs to diagnose health care problems, treat problems that fall within their scope of practice, and refer patients to other health care practitioners where appropriate.

So if someone ever tells you that your chiropractor isn’t a “real” doctor, clue them in - perhaps they could benefit from some of the training and experience of their local doctor of chiropractic.

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