A minimum of three years pre-medical college studies is required for acceptance into one of the 16 accredited chiropractic colleges in the US. The Doctor of Chiropractic degree (DC) is earned after an additional four years of study. The doctor of chiropractic is educated extensively in anatomy, physiology, pathology and diagnosis. As a primary care physician, the DC is trained to perform a diagnostic evaluation which may include a patient history and examination, clinical laboratory tests, diagnostic imaging, and evaluation of the spine and musculo-skeletal system. In addition to completing the Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) curriculum, all chiropractic physicians must pass parts one, two and three of the National Board Exam and in some cases a state exam. Some chiropractors take additional training and go on to attain chiropractic board certification in various specialties such as radiology, sports medicine, orthopedics and neurology, to name a few. All Chiropractic colleges are regulated and accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education. In the State of Virginia, Doctors of Chiropractic are regulated by the Virginia Board of Medicine. The board contains representatives of various health care professions and includes a DC.
Generally, a visit to a chiropractic physician will include a case history, examination and in some cases, X-ray imaging. Most of the conditions chiropractors see are related to the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine. Research is ongoing as to what other health problems can be helped by chiropractic treatment but preliminary findings suggest a connection to a variety of non musculoskeletal conditions. No drugs or surgery are used.
Chiropractic practices vary in their emphasis. While some emphasize treatment of neck, back and musculoskeletal pain, some specialize in prevention, using periodic chiropractic spinal manipulation to assist in the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. Others may employ nutrition, biomechanical training, exercise, heat, electrical muscle stimulation, traction and other drugless methods.
Some common conditions that chiropractic physicians treat include: Neck pain, headaches, mid back pain, lower back pain, herniated or "slipped disc”, sciatica, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other musculoskeletal conditions.
Virtually all chiropractors use the "adjustment”, also called spinal manipulation, to correct mechanical problems in the spine. There are a variety of methods to manipulate the spine but most involve a short "thrust” to the area of concern to restore mobility and function and bring relief. Sometimes the manipulation is accompanied by a painless "crack” sound as the vertebrae releases.
Chiropractors are licensed in all fifty states. Chiropractic treatment is covered by Medicare, Federal Workers Comp, Auto insurance and most Major Medical Plans. The US Congress as well as many professional sports teams have a doctor of chiropractic on staff. Even the American Medical Association who formerly opposed chiropractic treatment states: "Manipulation has been shown to have a reasonably good degree of efficacy in ameliorating back pain, headache, and similar musculoskeletal complaints”.
Research shows that manipulation is both safe and effective resulting in fewer complications than aspirin. The majority of studies show that for low back pain in particular, manipulation is more effective than other forms of treatment such as medications. Those interested in reading more about chiropractic research may wish to visit the American Chiropractic Association’s research page: click here
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