Chiropractic is the fastest-growing and second-largest primary health are profession. There are approximately 60,000 doctors of chiropractic (DCs) in active practice in the United States spread from rural areas to inner cities. More than 10,000 students are currently enrolled in chiropractic educational programs accredited by a federally-recognized body (CCE).
Chiropractic services are in high demand. Tens of millions of Americans routinely opt for chiropractic services and this number is rapidly growing. In 1993, more than 30 million consumers made chiropractic a regular part of their health care program. Doctors of Chiropractic receive extensive, demanding professional education on par with medical doctors (MDs) and osteopaths (DOs). To receive the doctor of chiropractic degree, candidates must complete extensive undergraduate prerequisites and four years of graduate-level instruction and internship at an accredited chiropractic institution.
Comprehensive knowledge of all systems of the body and diagnostic procedures enable the DC to thoroughly evaluate a patient, address disorders relating to the spine and determine the need for referral to another health care provider. Doctors of Chiropractic are primary health care providers. According to the Center for Studies in Health Policy, “The DC can provide all three levels of primary care interventions and therefore is a primary care provider, as are MDs and DOs. The doctor of chiropractic is a gatekeeper to the health care system and an independent practitioner who provides primary care services. The DC’s office is a direct access portal of entry to the full scope of service.”
Doctors of Chiropractic are licensed in all 50 states in the US. DCs have been licensed and recognized for many decades in all states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Chiropractic is recognized by governmental health care programs. Chiropractic is included in Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Employees Health Care Benefits Programs, Federal Workers’ Compensation and all state workers’ compensation programs. Chiropractic students are qualified to receive federal student loan assistance and DCs are authorized to be commissioned as health care officers in the U.S. Armed Forces.
The practice of chiropractic is based on sound scientific principles. The existence of the nervous system as the primary control mechanism of the body is an undisputed scientific fact. Its relationship with the spine is the focus of the practice of chiropractic. The spine develops in utero to provide two primary functions: (1) allow for freedom of movement and (2) house and protect the spinal cord. When the vertebrae of the spine become misaligned through trauma or repetitive injury, two major consequences will result: (1) the range of motion becomes limited and (2) spinal nerves emerging from the spinal cord are compromised. DCs use the term “subluxation” to describe such disruptions. Interruption of nerve flow can eventually lead to pain, disability, and an overall decrease in the quality of life. Conversely, the removal of that interference has been shown to have significant, lasting health benefits. Through the adjustment of the subluxation, the doctor of chiropractic endeavors to restore normal nerve expression. The body is then able to respond appropriately to any imbalance in the system, thus relieving symptoms and restoring health.
Doctors of chiropractic provide effective, low-cost health care for a wide range of conditions. Studies conducted according to the highest scientific standards and published by organizations not affiliated in any way with chiropractic institutions or associations continue to show the clinical appropriateness and effectiveness of chiropractic care. One of the most recent, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health, stated emphatically that:
“On the evidence, particularly the most scientifically valid clinical studies, spinal manipulation applied by chiropractors is shown to be more effective than alternative treatments for low back pain…There would be highly significant cost savings if more management of low back pain was transferred from physician to chiropractors.”
The doctor of chiropractic is an effective source of preventative and wellness care. The anatomical focus of the DC on the human spine has created the perception of the DC as just a “back doctor.” Although this perception is not entirely incorrect, it is very much incomplete. Doctors of chiropractic are a highly appropriate resource in matters of work-place safety, stress management, injury prevention, postural correction and nutritional counseling.”
The process of chiropractic adjustment is a safe, efficient procedure which is performed nearly one million times every working day in the United States. There is a singular lack of actuarial data that would justify concluding that chiropractic care is in any way harmful or dangerous. Chiropractic care is non-invasive, therefore, the body’s response to chiropractic care is far more predictable than its reactions to drug treatments or surgical procedures. Of the nearly one million adjustments given every day in this country, complications are exceedingly rare. Perhaps the best summary statement on the subject of safety was published in 1979 by the Government of New Zealand which established a special commission to study chiropractic. They found:
“The conspicuous lack of evidence that chiropractors cause harm or allow harm to occur through neglect of medical referral can be taken to mean only one thing: that chiropractors have on the whole an impressive safety record.”