Chiropractors are educated as primary-contact health care providers, with an emphasis on diagnosis and treatment of conditions related to the musculoskeletal system (the muscles, ligaments and joints of the spine and extremities) and the nerves that supply them. Chiropractic treatment is a first line intervention used in management and treatment of acute and chronic pain syndromes.
Educational requirements for Doctors of Chiropractic are among the most stringent of any of the health care professions. The typical applicant for Chiropractic school has already acquired four years of pre-medical undergraduate education, including courses in biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, psychology and related lab work. Once accepted into an accredited Chiropractic school, the requirements become even more demanding — four to five academic years of professional graduate study are the standard. Chiropractors are educated in orthopedics, pharmacology, neurology, physiology, human anatomy, clinical diagnosis including laboratory procedures, diagnostic imaging, exercise, nutrition, rehabilitation and manual medicine manipulative procedures. Because Chiropractic care includes highly skilled manipulation/adjusting techniques, a significant portion of time is spent in clinical technique training to master these important manual manipulative procedures. In total, the Chiropractic School curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience.
The most common treatment procedure performed by a Chiropractor is known as Spinal/Joint Manipulation or Chiropractic Adjustment. The purpose of this manipulation is to restore joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force into the joints that have become hypomobile – or restricted in their range of movement – as a result of tissue injury. Tissue injury can be caused by a single traumatic event, such as improper lifting of a heavy object, or through repetitive stresses, such as sitting in an awkward position with poor posture for an extended period of time. In either case, injured tissues undergo physical and chemical changes that cause inflammation, pain and altered function for the patient. Manipulation or adjustment of the affected joint and tissues restores mobility, thereby alleviating pain and muscle tightness which allows the tissues to heal. Adjunctive and supportive treatments may include acupuncture, rehabilitation, physical fitness/exercise promotion, corrective foot orthotics, corrective therapeutic exercise, ergonomic or postural advice, health and lifestyle strategies, health and lifestyle counseling and/or relaxation.