Chiropractors serve an important purpose in the lives of their patients. By relieving them of their pain through soft-tissue therapy, adjustments, joint bracing, and exercises, chiropractors can markedly improve the quality of life and physical well-being of the patients they treat. Despite the clear benefits of chiropractic treatment, there are a lot of misconceptions about what doctors of chiropractic are, what it takes to become one, and even whether they’re doctors at all.
What is a Doctor of Chiropractic?
Chiropractors care for their patients holistically, addressing health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. They must receive a Doctor of Chiropractic degree, pass a certification exam, and receive licensure before they can treat patients.
What are the Differences Between a Chiropractor, a Physical Therapist (PT), and Doctor?
- Chiropractors: Chiropractors focus on diagnosing and treating mechanical disorders of the spine and joints. “Chiropractic” means “to be done by hand,” so it isn’t a surprise that chiropractors frequently administer treatment manually, though occasionally chiropractors may use water, heat therapy, and physical supports to help relieve their patients’ pain. Unlike medical doctors, chiropractors do not prescribe medications or do surgery. Generally, treatment happens in an outpatient facility or private practice.
- Physical Therapists: Physical therapists focus on how the body moves. Like chiropractors, they perform hands-on treatment that can include soft tissue work and adjustments. Similar to chiropractors, they also focus on managing pain through nonsurgical treatments. However, while chiropractors mostly focus on back pain, neck pain, and joint pain, physical therapists focus on how the body moves in totality. Physical therapists also help patients move through stretches and exercises that can help them improve their mobility over time. Physical therapists earn a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.
- Medical Doctors: Medical doctors are physicians. Unlike chiropractors or physical therapists, medical doctors must complete a four year medical school program, followed by an internship and residency, and for some doctors, a fellowship in their chosen field. Most medical doctors do not learn the kind of spinal adjustments that chiropractors learn how to administer. They also tend to specialize in a particular field of medicine, such as cardiology, neurology, or surgery. Medical doctors are also more likely to focus on the treatment of disease and use medication or surgical procedures to do so.
What are the Requirements to Become a Doctor of Chiropractic?
Chiropractors are required to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree. Typically, students earn a bachelor’s degree before applying to the chiropractic program of their choice, however many programs simply require a minimum of 90 completed undergraduate credits in order to begin their program. While each school has specific admissions requirements for their program, it is common for schools to require prerequisite courses in physics, anatomy, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biology.
Training and Curriculum
Once a student has entered a Doctor of Chiropractic program, they will be required to take courses in physiology, anatomy, neuroanatomy, biomechanics, pathology, metabolism and nutrition, pharmacology, and more. Chiropractic students also receive clinical experience that train them in adjustment techniques, spinal assessment, and making diagnoses.
In addition to earning a Doctor of Chiropractic, future chiropractors must pass all four parts of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exam. Each state also has a specific license or certification that they require practitioners to acquire in order for chiropractors to legally treat patients.
How Long Does it Take to Earn a Doctor of Chiropractic?
Doctor of Chiropractic programs are typically four years in length. Across eight semesters, students will undertake a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, lab, and clinical experience. Graduates of Doctor of Chiropractic programs should be able to understand the neuro-musculoskeletal system and how it can impact the functioning of other bodily systems, perform physical examinations, interpret diagnostic tests, create pain management plans, and provide pain relief through spinal adjustment. After students complete their studies, they are eligible to sit for their NBCE licensure exam. This test is usually taken within six months of graduation. After chiropractors complete their studies and earn their licensure, they may treat patients in hospitals, wellness centers, private practices, or outpatient care facilities.
Where Can I Start?
If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a chiropractor and have yet to complete a bachelor’s degree, it is recommended that you first take the prerequisite courses in science and math that the Doctor of Chiropractic program of your choice requires. You may also want to research the offerings of various doctorate programs. Some chiropractic schools offer the opportunity to earn concurrent masters degrees in such areas as nutrition and acupuncture, allowing their students to be even more well-rounded healthcare providers.
The culture and learning environment of your future chiropractic school is also important. Find a program that honors diversity and collaboration, encourages patient-centered care, and supports its students in their path towards success. Lastly, look for a program that offers plenty of clinical experience. Working one-on-one with patients is the best way to become an effective practitioner.
Doctors of Chiropractic provide their patients with patient-centered care that can substantially improve their daily life. Find out whether University of Bridgeport’s Doctor of Chiropractic program is right for you by contacting us, here!