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How To Become A Chiropractor

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How To Become A Chiropractor

Chiropractic medicine has existed for over 120 years, and the practice is increasing in popularity. About half of the US adult population has seen a chiropractor, and the majority feel that chiropractic treatment is effective for back and neck pain.

Chiropractic medicine is the third-largest healthcare profession in the US, topped only by medicine and dentistry.

The chiropractic field and practice are expected to grow over the next ten years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment in chiropractic medicine will increase by 10% between 2021 and 2031; this represents a faster-than-average growth compared to other occupations.

Keep reading to learn about chiropractic medicine, the route to becoming a chiropractor, career options, and salaries.

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What is a Chiropractor?

Chiropractic medicine is "a licensed health care profession that emphasizes the body's ability to heal itself." A Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine (DC) specializes in a whole-person approach to patient care using non-invasive modalities, like spinal and joint manipulation, as part of a treatment plan.

Chiropractors evaluate and treat nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Specifically, chiropractors use their hands to modify the body's alignment, eliminate pain, restore joint function, and prevent further injury.

What Do Chiropractors Treat?

DCs, similar to MDs/DOs, begin a patient assessment with a review of their medical history, an interview to understand the patient's concerns, and a physical exam. The physical exam performed by a DC addresses posture, spinal alignment, and reflexes.

A treatment plan can then be developed, encompassing:

  • Application of heat or cold to the injured area
  • Spinal and joint adjustment
  • Soft tissue therapy
  • Joint taping
  • Specific exercises to be performed at home by the patient
  • Education on lifestyle habits like nutrition or smoking
  • Laboratory testing to rule out inflammation, hormone imbalances, and toxic exposures that may be contributing to ongoing pain
  • Referral of patients to other healthcare professionals as needed

Chiropractors most commonly treat pain concerns, especially:

Chiropractors sometimes use adjuncts to spinal or joint manipulation to address inflammatory arthritis, swelling, and stiffness. These adjunctive modalities include ultrasound, electrotherapy, cold lasers, and infrared saunas. Over the last few decades more and more Chiropractors have also become certified in Functional Medicine, in order to prescribe a more root cause approach to their treatment plans.

How to Become a Chiropractor

Chiropractic schools are accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education and recognized by the US Department of Education.

Entrance into a DC school requires candidates to complete at least three years of undergraduate science education.  Similar to MDs and DOs, an entrance exam is required for admission to some chiropractic schools.

It takes four to five years to complete a DC degree, similar to the time that MDs and DOs spend in medical or osteopathic school.

Upon graduation from chiropractic school, students must pass the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NCBE) exam to become licensed practitioners. The Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB) determines each state's specific chiropractor education requirements for licensure.

What Courses are Involved in Chiropractic Education?

The prerequisite courses for a chiropractic training program are usually biology, chemistry, physics, and psychology.

Chiropractic school covers, but is not limited to:

  • Orthopedics
  • Neurology
  • Physiology
  • Human Anatomy
  • Exercise
  • Nutrition
  • Clinical diagnosis (including understanding lab tests)
  • Imaging (like x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs)

How Long Does it Take to Become a Chiropractor?

The typical length of education and training to become a DC is eight to nine years. This includes the prerequisite training (usually a four-year undergraduate degree) and the chiropractic education itself (usually four to five years).

Some chiropractic school graduates choose to pursue advanced training in a residency program, usually for one to three years.

Where Do Chiropractors Work?

Chiropractors are employed in various healthcare settings like "solo practice, multi-chiropractor offices, multi-disciplinary settings, family health teams, and hospitals," with most choosing to start their own practice or a group chiropractic practice.

DCs are also qualified to participate in academic research, teaching, and regulatory positions.

Can Chiropractors Be Primary Care Health Professionals?

Chiropractors commonly practice as primary care health professionals, but regulations vary by state.  

Many chiropractors take insurance, but it's best to reach out to your specific chiropractor or insurance provider to see if they are in-network and what ICD codes are covered.

What is The Average Salary for a Chiropractor?

The median annual salary for chiropractors is $75,000. About 2,100 new yearly openings for chiropractors are projected over the next decade.

Summary

A doctor of chiropractic medicine focuses on whole-person health with a specific emphasis on spinal and joint manipulations. Chiropractors address the relationship between the body's alignment and optimal function. Many pain conditions are effectively treated with chiropractic care.

Chiropractors are integral to the primary healthcare system and practice in hospitals, integrative medical centers, and private clinics.

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