Health Care Careers - Chiropractor

Chiropractors are well known for treating patients who are experiencing back and neck problems. In general, they address ailments of the muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems. They handle problems with these bodily systems through the manipulation and adjustment of certain areas of the body, particularly the spinal column. While chiropractic (derived from the Greek word "cheir" meaning "hand," and "prakticos" meaning "skillful use of") is considered an alternative medicine, it is the fourth largest health profession in the United States.

Daniel David Palmer (1845-1913) founded the practice of chiropractic in the 1890s. He believed that disease is the result of interference with the normal function of the nervous system. He determined the interference is caused by subluxation, or the slight dislocation of two vertebrae in the spinal column. The subluxation impairs nerve function that in turn upsets the functions of other parts of the body influenced by those nerves. According to chiropractors, this leaves the body more open to disease. Chiropractic addresses subluxation by manually realigning the spinal column. Once the vertebrae are realigned, nerve function should improve and allow the body's natural healing process to work better.

When treating a patient, a chiropractor takes into account the patient's history, current lifestyle, and response to treatment. Therefore, communication between chiropractor and patient is an important factor. A chiropractor will ask patients about their exercise, dietary, and sleep habits, their genetics, and their living and work conditions. Chiropractic treatment works to improve the patient's overall well-being.

As well as manipulating and adjusting the spinal column with their hands, chiropractors may use other forms of treatment such as massage, ultrasound, and water, heat, light or electric therapies. They may also counsel their patients in proper nutrition and healthy living. They do not perform surgery or prescribe drugs for their patients. An interesting fact is that chiropractors are trained in obstetrics (the branch of medicine relating to the care of women during pregnancy and childbirth) and gynecology (the branch of medicine relating to treatment of the female reproductive system) and have the ability to deliver babies, however, most chiropractors never use this training. Also, some chiropractics can lawfully perform minor surgery in certain states.

Training to Be a Chiropractor

To study chiropractic care, a person may attend a chiropractic college. Palmer founded the first school of chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, in 1897. To qualify for admittance to a chiropractic college, a person must have a minimum of two years of college course work that includes classes in biology and chemistry. Some states do require chiropractors to have a bachelor's degree (a four-year college degree), and in the future, chiropractic colleges will probably require bachelor degrees to qualify for admittance. The chiropractic programs are full-time for four years. Upon satisfactory completion of a chiropractic program, students earn the doctor of chiropractic degree and the initials D.C. may follow their names.


There are two major categories of chiropractors: the "straights" and the "mixers." The straights generally perform chiropractic in the traditional manner, focusing on the manipulation and adjustment of the spinal column. The mixers, on the other hand, employ a variety of therapies in their chiropractic work, including acupressure, massage, nutritional counseling, or physical therapy. Thus they "mix" straight chiropractic with other therapies. Only about 15% of practicing chiropractors graduating today are considered "straights."

In order to practice after graduation, a chiropractor must pass a state board examination to become licensed. Continuing education is required for chiropractors to maintain their licenses. Areas of specialty do exist for chiropractors. These include neurology, orthopedics, nutrition, sports injuries, or internal disorders. Chiropractors typically work in solo or group practices or for other chiropractors. Some work in hospitals or clinics; others teach or conduct research.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:


The Content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of Content found on the Website.