A Day in the Life of a Chiropractor

Chiropractic is a holistic health care discipline that focuses on promoting correct physical alignment to maintain health. Chiropractors believe that structural problems can cause dysfunction in the nervous system, leading to a host of aches, pains, and other conditions. Their objective is to realign the body in a way that restores and preserves health, and to accomplish this without drugs or surgery. Much of a day in the life of a chiropractor is spent seeing patients and completing the accompanying paperwork. Doctors check the functioning of the neuromusculoskeletal system and analyze the spine using the unique system of chiropractic diagnosis. Chiropractors use “manipulations”to correct spinal alignment, and they treat their patients with massage, heat therapy, and ultrasound to restore balance to the system. They may prescribe changes in diet, exercises, or supports to aid the process. “Compassion is the greatest asset a chiropractor can have,” noted one practitioner. Good listening skills help chiropractors detect hidden factors that contribute to their patients’ maladies. Strong communication skills also help establish rapport with patients; this in turn helps build the practice. Chiropractors need to continue educating people about the field as the public becomes more interested in holistic health.

Paying Your Dues

To be admitted to pursue a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree, applicants must have at least two years of college with courses in organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, and physics as well as a grounding in the social sciences and humanities. There are 21 chiropractic colleges accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE). A handful of these grant baccalaureate degrees in conjunction with liberal arts colleges. This reciprocal agreement allows candidates to combine their courses of study and achieve the DC degree a year earlier than usual. The last year of school is spent seeing patients under the supervision of a clinic director. The DC hopeful must see a certain number of patients to graduate. New graduates must pass the National Board exams. There are also board exams required to practice in some states. In addition, most states require a certain amount of continuing education per year to maintain a chiropractic license.

Present and Future

The profession of chiropractic was founded in 1895 by D. D. Palmer, a magnetic healer. The janitor in his employ, Harvey Lillard, was deaf. Palmer was convinced it was due to the strange lump on his shoulder. After one manipulation, Palmer enabled Lillard to hear and began to study the relationship between the musculoskeletal system and other bodily functions. But it was his son, B. J. Palmer, who really developed the discipline. He lectured on the science of chiropractic a great deal and eventually founded the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. Chiropractic is gaining much greater acceptance as American society becomes interested in alternative medicine. Chiropractic is now covered by almost every HMO and PPO in the country, and in the past five years, hospitals have started admitting chiropractors on their staff. As a result, the field is becoming increasingly competitive. Though officially only two years of college are required to apply to study for a doctor of chiropractic, most candidates nowadays have bachelor degrees. Colleges report that their applicant pool is getting better every year. The Council on Chiropractic Education is in the process of developing the CCAT, a standardized test for admission to chiropractic college. Fortunately, the growing interest in chiropractic means an increased demand for chiropractors and good job prospects. Technology has also had a dramatic impact on the field of chiropractic. Chiropractors now regularly use CAT scans, MRIs, and thermography as diagnostic tools. Treatment has changed with technological advancements: Ultrasound and electromuscular stimulation are commonplace now. These new practices use expensive machinery, however, which significantly increases the cost of setting up a practice. As a result, there will probably be a trend toward larger practices in the future.

Quality of Life

PRESENT AND FUTURE

In the beginning of their career, chiropractors generally work for someone else. They could become an associate in a small or midsize practice or assist at a large clinic. Either way, this gives them the mentorship of experienced professionals and helps them begin to build a client base.

FIVE YEARS OUT

At this stage of their career, chiropractors often decide whether they will buy into the practice in which they work and become a partner or open their own practice as a sole proprietor. Many chiropractors also go back to school at this point to train in advanced techniques and develop a specialty. Some of them pursue a PhD in their specialty, which will allow them to teach.

TEN YEARS OUT

By this time a chiropractor has built his or her practice to the point of it becoming self-generating; some of them may be considering opening a second office. After a decade of practice, many chiropractors teach part-time and have become active in the politics of the profession. They may be involved with groups that want to educate the public about the field of chiropractic, such as their school alumni or other regional or national organizations.

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