Time to Define
As more and more individuals seek alternatives to potentially harmful drugs or surgery, chiropractic has been gaining a lot of momentum. It is true that chiropractors do not prescribe medication, as this is not part of our model of health. The chiropractic wellness model is all about nervous system health. When the brain and spine have no communication barriers, no subluxations, then the body is working at its optimum level and many health issues can be eliminated or prevented.
Words Defined: Doctor of Chiropractic
Chiropractic is the science, art and philosophy which utilizes the inherent recuperative abilities of the body and deals with the relationship between the spinal column and the nervous system and the role of this relationship in the restoration and maintenance of health.
The same is true concerning surgery. Chiropractors do not perform surgery as this is considered a last resort within our proactive model of healthcare. So, in this respect, a doctor of chiropractic is not a physician that works within the reactive “sickness” model, but chooses to help patients within a “wellness” model or paradigm.
Both a medical doctor (MD) and a doctor of chiropractic (DC) are indeed well educated with degrees from government accredited schools. The difference is in the way we look at health and healing.
Doctors of Chiropractic deal with people, not diseases. We work to help each patient experience greater levels of health, vitality and improved bodily functions through maintaining or correcting nervous system integrity. Medical doctors have a completely different model and, therefore, have a completely different education to complement that model.
Both of these models have a place in our society. The medical doctor model is one of emergency and reactive situations. If you have a broken bone, are experiencing a heart attack, or are bleeding, then a medical doctor is the professional for you. However, if you are suffering from many types of chronic health issues or non-emergency aches or pains, then the chiropractic model may work best for you.
Here is chiropractic in a nutshell.
- Your body is a self-regulating, self-maintaining and self-restoring organism.
- Your brain and spinal cord, “the central nervous system,” controls, communicates to and coordinates every organ, tissue and cell of your body.
- Anything that interferes with this communication such as vertebral subluxation causes dysfunction leading to disease and then symptoms.
- Anything that removes this interference, such as a chiropractic adjustment, restores proper communication and allows the body to function efficiently and heal itself.
So, a chiropractor is a doctor that can locate the vertebral subluxations and remove them through the use of specific adjustment techniques.
Through the Years
Chiropractic as a profession started in Davenport, Iowa in
September of 1895 by a man named DD Palmer. DD Palmer had been taught a new way of healing called magnetic healing and opened an office.
Shortly after opening his practice, he met the janitor that worked in his building and found out that he was nearly deaf. The janitor, Harvey Lillard, explained that he had lost his hearing one day when he had bent over for a long period of time and then straightened up. When he straightened, he heard a pop in his upper back and hadn’t been able to hear since.
Dr. Palmer examined his back and noticed that there was a bump on the spine that appeared to be an out of place vertebrae. Harvey explained that he began to notice that bump about the time he lost his hearing. DD Palmer put two and two together and believed that the two incidences were related. He convinced Harvey to allow him to push the bone back in place. Once in place, Harvey could hear again.
From then on, DD Palmer no longer practiced magnetic healing, but began to help replace bones in the spine that were out of alignment. This was the birth of chiropractic. He was also the one to develop the philosophy of chiropractic that the body is meant to heal itself. Within two years Dr. Palmer opened the first school of chiropractic.
DD Palmer once said, “I am not the first person to replace subluxated vertebrae, but I do claim to be the first person to replace displaced vertebrae by using the spinous and transverse processes as levers…and to develop the philosophy and science of chiropractic adjustments.”
What Dr. Palmer meant was that he was not the first one to understand the relationship between health and the spine. Hippocrates, the man known for the oath that medical doctors take, advised, “Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases.”
Herodotus, who lived during the same period of time as Hippocrates, became famous for curing diseases by correcting spinal abnormalities. He did so through exercises and manipulation.
Aristotle was not impressed. In fact, he would fit right in with many medical doctors of today. “He [Herodotus] made old men young and thus prolonged their lives too greatly.”
But until Dr. Palmer, the treatment of the spine was not well understood.
As word spread about the healing of Harvey’s deafness, patients began to come to Dr. Palmer for a variety of illnesses. DD Palmer found that spinal adjustments helped such things as:
- Migraine headaches
- Stomach complaints
- Heart trouble
He began to understand that fixing the spinal misalignments, subluxations, got rid of nerve interference.
Once the interference was gone, the patients’ complaints were resolved.
Although the success was phenomenal, chiropractic was not accepted. The news media called Dr. Palmer a charlatan. The medical community criticized his methods and accused him of practicing without a license. He was even put into jail once for practicing chiropractic.
Dr. Palmer was not alone, however, in his enthusiasm about chiropractic. His son, Bartlett Joshua (BJ), continued his father’s work. He took what his father had done and helped to define it and explain it as a health care system. He also was influential in getting chiropractic recognized as a licensed profession.
Today there are over 60,000 licensed Doctors of Chiropractic in the United States and thousands more throughout the rest of the world. Millions of people each year seek chiropractic care and benefit from the treatments. In fact, chiropractic is one of the largest nonmedical forms of health care today.
Even though chiropractic has advanced tremendously in the last century, the philosophy is still the same. The body can heal itself without drugs and surgery if the subluxations are removed.
Thousands of Hours of Proof
A chiropractor is well educated, with an educational emphasis on science. In fact, the requirements to become a chiropractor are extremely rigorous and are as or more intense than many other healthcare professions.
Being accepted to chiropractic school is no easy feat. To do so, a prospective chiropractor must have completed two to four years of undergraduate classes with an emphasis in science. This depends on the chiropractic college and the state where the student wishes to practice. This is similar to the requirements of medical students before entering medical school. Once accepted to the school, another four years of schooling is required and the focus on science continues.
The first two years of chiropractic school consists of courses similar to the following:
- Public health
The later years are more specialized including such courses as:
- Chiropractic philosophy and practice
- Chiropractic diagnosis
- Adjusting methods
As well as deeper training in anatomy, physiology, rehabilitation, nutrition, diagnosis, x-ray and a variety of therapeutic techniques that aren’t taught in other health care fields.
Words Defined: Vertebral Subluxation
An interference of the nervous system due to a misalignment and or abnormal motion of spinal vertebra which causes improper communication with associated organs, muscles and tissues of the body.
The purpose of the chiropractic education is to teach students to recognize and care for patients that are experiencing the effects of vertebral subluxations and disorders that are related to the neuromusculoskeletal system of the body. Students also learn how to adjust the spine so that the nervous system functions at its optimal level.
Chiropractic promotes the wellness model of health. The essence of chiropractic is that the body has the innate ability to heal itself and resist disease processes as long as it is functioning properly with no interference. Therefore, in addition to adjustment techniques, students learn a variety of other wellness ideals such as diet, exercise and nutrition.
It is true that the coursework is rigorous, but the student’s education does not end in the classroom. Students must spend hundreds of hours as an intern under professional supervision. The purpose of an internship is to ensure that those graduating with a doctor of chiropractic degree will have all the experience needed to provide safe and effective care to their patients.
Although some of the classes are different, DCs and MDs spend nearly the same number of hours in the classroom. Both MDs and DCs cannot practice without passing a licensing exam. And finally, to continue to practice, a chiropractor must take clinical continuing education classes.
Let’s Talk About Accreditation
In the United States, there are 18 chiropractic colleges:
- Cleveland Chiropractic College
- Life Chiropractic College West
- Palmer College of Chiropractic West
- Southern California University of Health Sciences
- University of Bridgeport, College of Chiropractic
- Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida
- Life University, College of Chiropractic, College of Arts and Sciences
- National University of Health Sciences
- Palmer Chiropractic University Iowa
- Northwestern Health Sciences University
- Cleveland Chiropractic College
- Logan College of Chiropractic
- D’Youville College, Chiropractic Program
- New York Chiropractic College
- Western States Chiropractic College
- Sherman College for Straight Chiropractic
- Parker College of Chiropractic
- Texas Chiropractic College
More than 14,000 students attend these colleges each year.
Having 18 schools with a great enrollment does not, however, say anything about the quality of the education found inside the walls of the colleges.
That is where accreditation comes in.
Words Defined: Accreditation
The type of recognition held by an educational institution. There are a number of nationally recognized accrediting agencies and associations that are reliable authorities on the quality of training offered by educational institutions. For chiropractic, it is the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE).
The Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE), a nonprofit organization and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the accrediting agency for chiropractic, has been setting the standards since 1974. The CCE sets standards not only for curriculum, but also for faculty, facilities, patient care and research. Additionally, admissions requirements of chiropractic colleges as well as licensing board requirements are highly influenced by the CCE standards.
- Undergraduate courses must include biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, psychology, English and the humanities. All science courses must also have associated labs.
- More and more states require a Bachelor’s degree in addition to a DC to practice.
A License to Practice
Once a student finishes chiropractic college, they still have to get licensed to practice. Every state in the United States, along with 30 countries, license and regulate chiropractic.
State licensing boards do more than simply proctor the state licensure test. Among other things, they also regulate:
- Moral character
- Protect health, safety and welfare
Over the state licensing boards is the National Board of
Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE), which was established in 1963. Similar to the National Board of Medical Examiners, the NBCE makes sure that state licensing boards are fair and consistent.
Words Defined: NBCE
The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE), a not-for-profit organization, is the principal testing agency for the chiropractic profession. Established in 1963, the NBCE develops and administers standardized national examinations according to established guidelines.
Additionally, the NBCE is in charge of the national board examination, which has to be passed in order to practice.
Let’s take a quick look at the exam. It is divided into four main sections:
- Part I covers six basic science subjects – general anatomy, spinal anatomy, physiology, chemistry, pathology and microbiology.
- Part II covers six clinical subjects – general diagnosis, neuromusculoskeletal diagnosis, diagnostic imaging, principles of chiropractic, chiropractic practice and associated clinical sciences.
- Part III covers case history, physical examination, neuromusculoskeletal examination, roentgenologic examination, clinical laboratory and special studies examination, diagnosis or clinical impression, chiropractic techniques, supportive techniques and case management.
- Part IV covers x-ray interpretation and diagnosis, chiropractic technique and case management skills.
After passing the NBCE exam a “Certificate of Attainment” is given, but chiropractors must still meet individual state or international requirements.
It Never Ends
A chiropractor’s education never ends. Once licensed, a chiropractor must take continuing education courses to keep up with the latest techniques. Such courses also help us keep our diagnostic skills sharp. Without these courses, a chiropractor would lose their license.
In addition to the mandated coursework, many doctors of chiropractic choose to complete postgraduate work. These programs last one to three years and include such areas of study as:
As you can see, doctors of chiropractic are highly educated. You can feel confident that when you choose to see a chiropractor, you are seeing someone who has been through intensive training and can understand your body through a model that is focused on correcting causes to ill health rather than just treating effects.
We’ve talked some about subluxations. And from the information about the nervous system, you have seen that a subluxation causes a breakdown in the body.
To enjoy wellness, your nervous system must be functioning at its optimal level. To do so, it must be free of subluxations. Therefore, the goal of chiropractic is to remove subluxations so that the body can return to its highest level of health. Only chiropractic care can achieve this level of wellness, because only chiropractors are trained to detect, locate and correct subluxations.
So, how and why do subluxations occur? There are many different reasons, but they all fall into three main categories.
- Physical: These subluxations are due to trauma or repetitive movements. For instance, a fall, bad posture, typing or lifting something incorrectly can cause a physical subluxation.
- Emotional: These subluxations are due to emotional stress. When you are feeling grief, anger or fear, your muscles contract in ways that are not normal. If you are under repeated stress, these muscle contractions can cause unusual posture and lead to subluxations.
- Chemical: Chemicals that are harmful to the body cause the nervous system to become overwhelmed. This causes nerve function to be imbalanced. When the nerve is a motor nerve, a nerve controlling a muscle, the muscles will contract harder on one side than on the other. This will cause a subluxation. Chemical causes include certain foods, alcohol, prescription or recreational drugs, and pollution.
Most people have subluxations and don’t know it because they occur before the pain or any warning signs. In many ways, subluxations are a silent killer – they begin to deteriorate your body without giving you any symptoms.
Therefore, how you feel is a poor indicator of how healthy you actually are. For example, do we know what undetected cancer or heart disease feel like? Of course not, they are undetected, but the body is in a state of disease where outward symptoms have just not developed yet.
The only way to identify subluxations is through a chiropractic exam. Such an exam will show the locations of any subluxations as well as let you know how severe the subluxations are. So, even if you aren’t experiencing pain, having a check-up on a regular basis will help you remove subluxations early and keep your body running smoothly.
Although you may not have any symptoms at first, eventually subluxations will cause problems that you can see and feel. Some of the most common signs and symptoms include:
- Pain, tenderness, soreness or stiffness of the neck
- Pain, tenderness, soreness or stiffness of the back
- Feeling dizzy
- Muscle spasms in the spine
- Tightness or weakness of spinal muscles
- Loss of range of motion in the neck and back
- Pain, numbness or tingling in the arms or legs
- Pain or stiffness in the joints
- Lack of energy
- Inability to heal quickly
- Poor overall health