Q: How well educated is a chiropractor? I was always told they are “unscientific quacks”, but I did not understand how they could be considered a doctor if that were the case.
A: Doctors of chiropractic go through a rigorous education. The typical applicant to a chiropractic college has already gone through four years of undergraduate pre-med college education. That would include courses in biology, chemistry, physics, psychology and related lab work. The course of study at a chiropractic college is four to five academic years. Because of the hands-on nature of the work, chiropractic students spend considerable time in a clinical setting and generally spend a minimum of one year in a clinical program dealing with actual patient care. In total, the curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical work. Of that total, some 555 hours are devoted to learning techniques for adjusting and analyzing problems of the spine alone. And this all occurs after they have an undergraduate degree.
Our medical colleagues put in similar amounts of time with their education. Of course there is a larger emphasis for them to be able to properly use pharmaceuticals in their daily practices and that takes a considerable amount of their educational time. Typically, then, the medical professional specializes nowadays and that requires more time.
Many DCs have a large curriculum interest in the philosophical aspects of health. My favorite time was spent in the rigorous anatomy lab working with human cadavers. I think that is where most learning can occur outside of working with patients. It is in the anatomy lab that many DCs get an exceptional understanding of the interworkings of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints that make them exceptional at identifying the cause of pain. Few professionals put as much emphasis on this detailed understanding of human anatomy.
The accrediting agency that approves the chiropractic curriculum is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Chiropractic colleges also offer continuing education in areas of specialty, like sports injuries, neurology, and occupational health. All 50 states have licensing requirements for chiropractors.
It is not by mistake that there has been an ongoing misconception about the validity of a chiropractor’s education. In the book, “Chiropractic Speaks Out…Wilks vs the AMA”, the story is well outlined. It is to be made into a documentary in the coming months and will be called “Medical Inc.”. The idea is that all non-drug prescribing physicians, chiropractors being the most popular, were put down as not educated enough to treat patients safely (because they do not have a background in prescribing pharmaceuticals). This would include your psychologist, naturopath, and optometrist. This was later found not to be the case as the topic made it to the US Supreme court in the late 90’s. It took nearly 60 years for this plan to be exposed as illegal, so the public perception was already developed by that time and that leads to your hearing that a chiropractor is unscientific or a quack.
In the end, there are good and bad providers of all services that a person could use – from teachers to mailmen to healthcare providers. You need to be an educated consumer and make sure the doctor you choose fits your needs. Talk with your chiropractor about his or her experience in learning.
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