FYI, "doctors" of chiropractic medicine are not doctors, at least not the kind of doctor that works in a hospital or medical clinic. Chiropractors are not like your family physician, orthopaedic surgeon, neurosurgeon, or emergency doctor. These are all MDs (medical doctors). Chiropractors are simply "doctors of chiropractic medicine", just like some physical therapists are "doctors of physical therapy". Basically, these days anyone can label themselves a "doctor" if they go to some sort of school after college. So in actuality, the term doctor now references many professionals, from doctor of philosophy (PhD) to doctor of junk (JD).
To become a chiropractor one must attend 4 years of school from 1 of 16 chiropractic colleges accredited by the Council of Chiropractic Education (CCE). When finished, they must pass a board exam and aquire state licensure in order to practice legally. Chiropractic's original focus seemed to be on back pain, neck pain, and a thing called malallignment. These days, there are actually chiropractors out there who believe that chiropractic care is the only care and that people should obtain all their medical care from chiropractors. I won't waste time in saying that these people are complete idiots.
To become a medical doctor one must attend 4 years of medical school and pass a series of 3 national board exams. After medical school, they are technically MDs; however, are unable to go practice medicine right away. Instead, MDs who just graduated medical shool must now attend residency. Residency is where a physician learns thier selected specialty. Residencies, such as Family Medicine, Pediatrics, and Emergency Medicine are 3 years long, while surgical specialties last from 5-7 years after medical shool. Plus, after residency, they now have to pass another board exam, sometimes a written and oral exam. So, by the time a medical doctor enters the community and starts practicing medicine, that person has gone through at least 7 years of medical training.
Here's the real difference between the two. In 4 long years of medical school, students learn a lot, but not nearly enough to practice medicine on their own. It is their time in residency that truly makes them a doctor. It is the daily act of seeing patients, learning how to elicit a good history from those patients, think about a differential diagnosis for what may be the problem, and formulate a plan to diagnose the problem. All this is done under the direct supervision of an attending physician, or mentor MD.
A few thoughts:
- In no way can a chiropractor come out of 4 years of school, start working in the community, and be prepared for what may walk through their doors. So many things can cause back pain (some deadly), which I highly doubt they know anything about, i.e. kidney stones, urinary infections, ectopic pregnancy (deadly), ovarian cysts, pancreatitis, numerous forms of cancer (deadly), aortic aneurysms (deadly), ischemic bowel (deadly), aortic dissections (deadly), autoimmune disorders, fractures, trauma, spinal stenosis, ruptured spinal disc, and the list goes on and on. And I didn't even go into things causing neck pain! All of these potentially dangerous conditions can present with simple back pain. A bit scary huh? In no way should anyone with any of these problems go to a chiropractor for help. If a chiropractor says they can treat and fix any of these problems, walk away, because that chiropractor is now more deadly than any disorder I just mentioned.
- I support chiropractic medicine...for those patients with chronic back or neck pain that have not found any relief by medical means. Truthfully, if you have pain and no specific medical diagnosis was found to be causing such pain, chiropractics is for you. Many patients, from fibromyalgia to cancer, have chronic pain. I support any means to help these people, whether it's a chiropractor, masseuse, or accupunturist. But, the big bad medical causes of such pain should be sought FIRST. Once the bad is ruled out, you can then relax and try finding better means to deal with it.
- I think that any MD who says there is no place for chiropractic care in our society is wrong. The reverse of this is also true and potentially deadly.
- Many people seek medical care and are diagnosed, treated, and do not have to deal with that particular problem again secondary to medication, therapy, or surgery. Yes, the medical bills are expensive (a whole other topic of frustration), but the problem is solved. Now, who knows anyone that has visited a chiropractor and never had to go back for continuing care? It doesn't happen. That's the trick, the visit doesn't cost that much, so you keep coming back for more because they really never fix the problem in the first place. What a nice system for them. Patients just keep returning for more and never realize that the problem isn't solved. Hey, whatever works right?
- Concerning X-rays? MDs barely get enough training in 4 years of medical shool to diagnose problems on imaging studies. They'd probably be lucky to put the X-ray up in the correct orientation. MDs even require overreads from trained radiologists (other MDs trained in imaging modalities). How can chiropractors be able to diagnose all problems seen on X-rays, which may show extra problems that they aren't even looking for? Their not. This is a very dangerous game they are playing.
- IMPORTANT NOTE OF INTEREST: Medical practice is scutinized closely and held to a "standard of care" for any patient problem. This means that if a medical doctor deviates from that "standard of care" and there is a bad outcome, you are liable for litigation (will get sued). Chiropractic medicine does not have this kind of scrutiny and there is no standard of care. So, they are fairly protected from litigation since there is no standard to hold them to. Plus, who then corrects their mistakes or holds them accountable when mistakes are made?