What is Chiropractic?
At face value, this seems like it could be an obvious question: What is chiropractic? or What does a chiropractor do? I have found, when I talk to my patients and the clients that I coach in the gym, each person has a slightly different definition or picture for what a Chiropractor is. Some equate them with massage therapy, others as a “back cracker”, I have heard interesting stories of “he was the guy that did that crazy thing that fixed my back pain forever”. Occasionally I also hear the accounts of a chiropractor being “that guy who put me in this odd position, without warning, jumped on top of me and my back was sore for weeks”.
The Chiropractic profession has been around for a long time. The profession has changed dramatically over this time as well. There are many styles of adjusting, chiropractic procedures, and each state in the United States allows chiropractors to do more or less medical procedures as well. It is no wonder why so many people have different opinions on what it is and if it is actually helpful. If that wasn’t differing or confusing enough, internationally, chiropractors can have different roles too! The comfort and trust of a base line definition may be found however.
At the base, chiropractors in the United States are doctors with a four-year graduate level degree. The official title is termed “Doctor of Chiropractic”. With this level of schooling to be a practicing clinician with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, the person must pass both a series of Board Exams at both the federal and individual state levels. This is likened to having a medical or other graduate degree and taking medical boards to become a fully licensed and practicing MD, PT, NP, ect. Chiropractors are licensed to be able to diagnose, treat, or refer patients for various procedures that fall into the neuro-musculoskeletal (NMSK) category. This category, put simply, means conditions that are related to the nerves, skeleton, or the muscles. Think of the role of a Chiropractor to be a specialist that another doctor or clinician might refer to. Although in some states, there is a larger push for chiropractors to take on a primary care physician (PCP) role. In this role, a chiropractor would diagnose a variety of conditions, even outside the NMSK realm, and either treat or refer to another specialist for care.
So, if this is what a chiropractor is, then why are there so many different opinions on whether “it works”? If you “believe” in it? or Why one chiropractor is so different from the other? This, in my opinion, is because all people are different. No matter how we view different medical professions, the people who hold that degree in hand are exactly that, people. Just like you the patient, that person with the Dr. title is an individual with opinions, has a background of experience (good or bad), and holds beliefs in the techniques he/she chooses to use. It is so easy to stand on the outside and to think that one profession is better than the other. I have heard so many times “I love my medical doctor and I would never go see a chiropractor” or vice versa “I go to my chiropractor for everything, he/she is the best”. I would say both statements are 100% true for 100% the wrong reasons. Each person on each side of the fence is right to love the doctor they trust, but not because of the particular piece of paper in their hand. They are right to trust them because of what they do in the treatment room. You should trust and listen to your doctor for the knowledge they show you and the results you get from them, not from the degree they hold. Back in school we had a saying “C’s get degrees”. This couldn’t be more true. Having a degree and license to practice is a must to be in any rights a doctor, but a doctor’s quality does not depend on whether he/she has a degree or not, that is the standard. The difference between a good doctor and a bad one is the same as any other profession: does he/she get results? Is he/she trustworthy? Does he/she educate you about your condition? How much time does he/she spend with you in the treatment room?
In conclusion, I realize this may be offensive to some with strong opinions about different medical professions. All I ask is that you take a deep breath, try to look past the differences in letters after a doctor’s name, and look at them as an individual. Any doctor worth his salt is going to try his/her best to help you with your condition in the best way they know how. Just know it may not always be the most effective or right way for you as an individual, especially if you are simply trusting the degree and not the person who holds it.
Bottom line find a clinician from whatever profession that has a passion for knowledge and is willing to educate you about your condition.
“Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”