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Five Surprising Things About Chiropractic

The Chiropractic profession is known for its personalized approach to health care and its mission to find and address the underlying causes of musculoskeletal problems, especially those concerning the spine. Like other professions, chiropractic comes with its own set of attributes that some patients and members of the general public may find surprising. Though chiropractic is now well-established as a healthcare practice in many countries around the world, there are still a few things about the chiropractic profession that are not well known.

1. Chiropractic is the Largest CAM Profession

Chiropractic is now the largest complementary alternative medicine (CAM) profession (and the third largest doctoral-level profession, after medicine and dentistry) in the United States. Other CAM professions include naturopathy, acupuncture, massage therapy, ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and clinical hypnotherapy. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), there are over 60,000 active chiropractic licenses in the United States.(1) In 2002 a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine stated that chiropractic is the most regulated and best recognized CAM profession.(2) A 2005 report in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine notes that approximately 7.4 percent of the population in the United States receives chiropractic care – a higher percentage than acupuncture, massage, yoga, and diet-centered therapies.(3)


2. Chiropractors Treat Non-Spinal Conditions

Many chiropractic patients know that chiropractors treat “extra-spinal” conditions or conditions that affect the joints, muscles and tissues outside of the spine, but this may come as a surprise to new patients. Though spine care is what chiropractic is best known for, many chiropractors successfully treat problems in other parts of the body, including the wrists, shoulders, hips, knees and feet. According to the ACA, chiropractors historically have treated conditions such as osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and sprains, strains and tendinitis throughout the body.(4) The ACA also notes that chiropractors are trained to treat certain non-musculoskeletal conditions, too, including allergies, asthma, digestive problems and ear infections (otitis media). In some states, chiropractors with advanced training can even perform minor surgery and obstetrical procedures.

3. Chiropractic Education is Similar to Medical School

Chiropractors undergo a rigorous, four-year course of study that covers much of the same material that medical students study in medical school, including the basic sciences and some areas of the clinical sciences. According to a study published in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, the two programs are similar both for the subjects studied and the time allotted to each subject.(5) The principal difference between a medical school education and the education chiropractic students receive in chiropractic college concerns clinical practice. The treatment approaches medical and chiropractic students learn are quite distinct, as are the settings in which students receive their training. Despite these differences in treatment styles (and philosophical approach), medical doctors and chiropractors are now collaborating more than ever on patient care.

4. Some Chiropractors Work in Hospitals

Though most chiropractic care is performed in private chiropractic clinics, some chiropractors in the United States and Canada work in hospital settings. According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, chiropractic care can be successfully integrated into hospital systems for the benefit of patients.(6) St. Michael’s in Toronto, Ontario is one example of a hospital that has begun offering chiropractic services, including spinal and other joint manipulation, soft tissue treatments, physical therapy modalities, functional exercises, and other active rehabilitation techniques.(7) Back pain, neck pain, headaches, and extremity pain are common conditions treated by chiropractors in a hospital setting.

5. Chiropractic Has Been Around For Over 100 Years

Some people are surprised to learn that chiropractic care has been around for over 100 years! D.D. Palmer founded chiropractic in 1895, and though much about the profession has changed in the years since then, the fundamental treatment approach used by chiropractors to treat musculoskeletal problems (that is, spinal joint manipulation) has remained the same. Chiropractic is an established healthcare approach that continues to grow and evolve as new and unique treatment methods are combined with more traditional chiropractic therapies.

1. American Chiropractic Association. General Information About Chiropractic Care.

2. Meeker WC, Haldeman S. Chiropractic: a profession at the crossroads of mainstream and alternative medicine. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2002; 136(3): 216-227.

3. Tindle HA, et. al. Trends in use of complementary and alternative medicine by US adults: 1997-2002. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 2005. Jan; 11(1): 42-29.

4. American Chiropractic Association. History of Chiropractic Care.
5. Coulter I, et. al. A comparative study of chiropractic and medical education. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 1998. Sep; 4(5): 64-75.

6. Branson RA. Hospital-based chiropractic integration within a large private hospital system in Minnesota: a 10-year example. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 2009. Nov; 32(9): 740-748.

7. St. Michael’s Hospital. Chiropractic Services.

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