The world of healthcare is vast and varied, with many different specialties and practitioners. One area that is often overlooked is chiropractic care. But what exactly is a chiropractor, and what do they do?
This blog will dive into the world of chiropractic care and explore the various aspects, from the basics of what a chiropractor does and what a chiropractic adjustment is to the conditions chiropractors can help with and their safety record. After learning these ten surprising facts, you'll better understand the role of chiropractors in the healthcare field and whether chiropractic care may be right for you.
A chiropractor, or Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), is a licensed doctor who focuses on the diagnosis and natural treatment of nerve, muscle, and joint disorders, with an emphasis on manual manipulation or “adjustments” to the spine.
A spinal adjustment, also known as chiropractic spinal manipulation, is a procedure used by chiropractors to help alleviate pain and improve muscle and joint function. Spinal adjustments rely upon the use of the chiropractor's hands, or a small instrument, to gently apply a controlled, sudden force to a joint. Sometimes a unique table is used to assist with the adjustment.
Spinal adjustments improve the range of motion, reduce muscle spasms, and decrease pain. Adjustments are most frequently done to the spine but can also be performed to other joints, such as the hips, shoulders, and knees.
In addition to spinal adjustments, chiropractic treatment may include various other techniques and therapies. Chiropractic treatments can consist of:
Soft tissue therapy: Techniques such as massage and stretching to help loosen tight muscles and improve flexibility.
Therapy modalities: Physical modalities like hot, cold, ultrasound, e-stim, laser, vibration, and traction to ease discomfort and facilitate manual therapy.
Rehabilitation exercises: Specific exercises and stretches to help strengthen and stabilize the muscles and joints and improve overall function.
Lifestyle counseling: Guiding how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including proper posture and ergonomics, stress management, and other lifestyle changes that can help prevent pain and injury.
Nutritional counseling: Advice on the best diet and supplements to support recovery and overall health.
The short answer to “is a chiropractor a doctor” is YES. The education required to be a chiropractor includes a four-year doctoral program at a chiropractic college, including the same basic sciences as other physicians, plus extensive training in diagnosing and treating muscle, nerve, and joint conditions. After completing their education, chiropractors must pass a rigorous examination and be licensed by a state board in order to practice.
Chiropractic care relies upon conservative natural treatments, and most chiropractors do not prescribe drugs or perform surgery. However, chiropractors practice in conjunction with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care to patients.
Analysis from a large chiropractic network dataset shows that patients who receive chiropractic care typically see significant improvement in their condition within one month of starting treatment. (123,124)
Many people who seek chiropractic treatment are looking for relief from chronic pain conditions, such as lower back pain or neck pain. But chiropractic treatment can also help you prevent injuries and resolve painful conditions from your head (like headaches) to your feet (like plantar fasciitis.)
Over 100 research studies have shown that manual therapy, including chiropractic manipulation, is effective for various nerve, muscle, and joint disorders. (1-122)
Millions of patients trust chiropractic for neck pain, headaches, back pain, sciatica, and many other common muscle and joint issues. Abundant research, including several authoritative medical “practice guidelines,” endorse chiropractic care for life’s most painful problems.
For most patients with acute, subacute, or chronic low back pain, clinicians and patients should initially select non-pharmacologic treatment, specifically including spinal manipulation. (125)
Source: American College of Physicians/ Annals of Internal Medicine
"Our findings suggest receiving chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy compared with other care for newly diagnosed lumbar disc herniation and lumbosacral radiculopathy [i.e., sciatica] is associated with significantly reduced odds of [disc surgery] over 2-year follow-up." (126)
Source: British Medical Journal analysis of 101 million patient records
“Spinal manipulation may be an effective therapeutic technique to reduce migraine [headache] days and pain/intensity.” (127)
Source: The American Headache Society/ Journal of Head & Face Pain
In addition to practical solutions, chiropractic benefits also include high patient satisfaction. One recent survey of more than 630,000 presentations found that a staggering 99% of chiropractic patients rate their care as either excellent or good. (123) This is a solid testament to the dedication and skill of chiropractors in providing safe and effective treatment for a wide range of conditions.
Not surprisingly, the same study found that chiropractic patients are highly likely to refer, with a 96.7% likelihood to recommend their chiropractor to friends and family. (123) This confirms that chiropractic patients not only feel better after receiving care but also have a strong trust and belief in the effectiveness of their treatment.
Chiropractic care, including neck adjusting, has been extensively studied and found to be a safe treatment option. (128-133) The risk of serious complications from chiropractic care is very low, and chiropractors are highly trained to use a variety of conservative techniques to ensure the safety of their patients. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently reported:
“…spinal manipulative therapy was associated with improvements in pain and function with only transient minor musculoskeletal harms [i.e., soreness]” (134)
Significant research has shown that chiropractic care is an exceptionally affordable form of healthcare.
Many insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover chiropractic care, and out-of-pocket patient costs are often relatively low. Additionally, many chiropractors offer flexible payment plans to make care more accessible.
Many patients find that the cost of chiropractic care is outweighed by the benefits, as it can help to reduce the need for more expensive forms of care such as surgery or long-term use of medication, including opioids.
This overview of the world of chiropractic care uncovered several important facts:
Chiropractors are licensed doctors focusing on the natural treatment of nerve, muscle, and joint disorders.
Chiropractors use spinal adjustments, or spinal manipulation, along with other tools like soft tissue massage, therapy modalities, and rehabilitation exercises to help alleviate pain and improve function.
Research supports the effectiveness and safety of chiropractic care in treating a wide range of conditions.
Patients are overwhelmingly satisfied with the care they receive from chiropractors.
Check out this Natural Solutions video to learn more about chiropractic care.
Overall, chiropractic care can be a powerful tool in the quest for optimal health and wellness. It's a natural and non-invasive way to help reduce pain and improve overall function.
It’s not surprising that authorities like the American College of Physicians, the FDA, and the CDC have recognized the value of non-pharmacologic therapies, including chiropractic care. (125,138,139)
So, if you're looking for a safe, natural, and drug-free way to address your health, chiropractic treatment may be worth considering.
By Dr. Hunter A. Mollin, DC
February 16, 2023