The question doesn’t come up as often as it did in the past but some people still ask, “Is a chiropractor a ‘real’ doctor.” The definitive answer is “yes.” Perhaps the main thing to understand is why anyone would ask that question in the first place.

Why Ask?

If you think about it, asking whether a chiropractor is a doctor is a query that is based on misinformation or just a basic lack of information. In fact, there are many kinds of “doctors,” some medical and some not. Practically anyone in academia who has a PhD is referred to as “Doctor” in the classroom or any university setting.

Those who hold doctorate degrees in philosophy, theology, mathematics, physics, engineering, law and dozens of other subjects are, correctly, referred to as “Doctor” by their students, colleagues and coworkers.

But what about the world of medicine? Here again you’ll find multiple examples of doctors, including but not limited to DOs (doctors of osteopathy), DDMs (doctors of dental medicine), MDs (medical doctors), ODs (doctors of optometry), DVMs (doctors of veterinary medicine) psychiatrists, psychologists, podiatrists and more. These medial specialists don’t all receive the same training or do the same kinds of internships.

The bottom line of the nomenclature is this: there are lots of different kinds of doctors, medical and otherwise. Within the field of medicine, there are more subcategories of doctors, not all of whom treat human beings! Then, of the many doctors who do treat people, as opposed to animals, there are at least a half-dozen other varieties of degrees and vocations.

Chiropractic medicine is one of the few, if not the only medical specialty that can be considered holistic. In other words, chiropractors treat the “whole” person, with a special emphasis on causes rather than symptoms. Just as you dentist, optometrist, osteopath and veterinarian are properly called doctors, so is every licensed chiropractor.

What Chiropractors Do

What do DCs (doctors of chiropractic medicine) do? While there is some overlap with a few functions you might see other kinds of doctors perform, chiropractors tend to focus on disorders and illnesses of the neuro-muscular system. The main way DCs work is with manual manipulation or adjustment of the spine. The typical goal of chiropractic treatment usually includes the lessening or elimination of pain as well as the improvement of the body’s function.

One of the hallmarks of chiropractic medicine is its holistic approach. That means patients with injuries or pain are viewed as entire physical-emotional beings rather than “a patient with an injury.” There’s an emphasis on finding the cause and treating it rather than simply treating symptoms.

Another chief feature of chiropractic treatment is that is uses no drugs or surgery. Because so much of what happens inside the human body emanates from the nervous system’s overall health, chiropractic doctors work to put the spinal column in alignment and enable the body to heal underlying problems that lead to pain, restricted movement and other common problems.

What’s the Difference Between Chiropractors and MDs?

Of course, there’s a long list of differences between MDs and DCs, but there are also a lot of commonalities. For example, both professionals attend a 4-year medical school curriculum. Both do at least one year of internship before going into practice for themselves. Some work for large practices while others operate as solo practitioners.

The list of differences is perhaps longer. It includes not only what these professionals do in their everyday practices but how they operate and how they view the concept of “disease.” Medical doctors often focus on the immediate state of the patient, which can mean treating symptoms now and looking for underlying causes later, if at all. It’s quite common for MDs to see a patient for 15 minutes, ask “What hurts?” and then prescribe a pain medication.

Chiropractors use a more holistic approach to both diagnosis and treatment of patients. It’s important to understand that the chiropractic philosophy of medical treatment is completely different than that of MDs. A patient who visits a chiropractic clinic will not ever undergo surgery or get a prescription for pain medication. In a way, because so many people know this fact about chiropractic medicine, the patient populations are self-selected.

If you want drugs to mask muscle pain, for example, you probably know better than to visit a DCs office and ask for a prescription. You’d be wasting your time. The same goes for surgery. If you want your appendix removed, you’ll go to an MD who specializes in that type of operation. The key point here is that you need to visit the kind of doctor that is suited to what you want as a patient.

There are multiple differences between a typical MD and a typical DC, but the underlying contrast has to do with medical philosophy. Millions of people every year seek out chiropractors in order to discover the root cause of pain and get a treatment plan that will bring about long-term relief.

The Advantages of Regular Chiropractic Visits

There are dozens of unique advantages to seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis. Before looking at the main benefits, consider the fact that about 25 percent of all Americans visit both a chiropractor and an MD as part of their medical routine. While there are people who see either an MD or a DC only, it seems that quite a few adults take advantage of whatever kind of health care they can get.

Sometimes that means chiropractors for back pain, migraines or other problems. In other cases, people visit MDs, osteopaths (DOs), dentists, podiatrists and many of the other “doctors” they have access to, depending on what ails them. So, what are the unique benefits of chiropractic care? A short list includes the following:

  • Migraine headaches
  • Sciatica
  • Back pain
  • Herniated discs
  • Injuries from car accidents
  • Neck pain
  • Many types of chronic pain
  • Spinal maladjustment
  • Various kinds of sports injuries

Seeing a chiropractor regularly can help ward off all sorts of medical problems. A key part of chiropractic treatment is education. We chiropractors always want to give our patients the best information available. That way, you can do what’s necessary to maintain optimal health in between visits to our offices. Taking control of your own health by letting your body heal itself is the goal. Intermittent visits to a chiropractor can help keep just about anyone in top shape, no matter their age.