What is a Chiropractor?

If you have a desire to heal people, but want to do it naturally, a career as a chiropractor may be something you'd like to consider.

A chiropractor, or doctor of chiropractic medicine, is a licensed medical professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous system, especially in the spine.

The main aspect of treatment in chiropractic care is usually physical manipulation of the joints and the spine to bring them back into alignment. A chiropractor may also recommend exercises or offer health and nutritional counseling. A chiropractor does not perform surgery or prescribe medication.

What does a Chiropractor do?

A chiropractor believes that many health problems can stem from the misalignment, or subluxation, of the vertebrae.

A chiropractor explaining the workings of the spine to a patient.

A chiropractor will evaluate and then treat the patient. When seeing a patient for the first time, a chiropractor will take his or her medical history, perform a physical exam and order any necessary tests, such as X-rays or an MRI.

A chiropractor will then develop a treatment plan, which most often will include physical adjustments or manipulations of the musculoskeletal system, but may also include massage, exercises, or other forms of physical therapy. Sometimes a chiropractor will run tests for vitamin and mineral deficiencies and will recommend supplements to correct any identified imbalances.

Initially, the physical manipulation treatments may need to be done quite frequently (perhaps a few times per week). As the body starts to heal, it will need fewer adjustments. Part of the chiropractor's job is to assess the patient's progress and adjust his or her treatment schedule accordingly.

Some chiropractors are more open to using or recommending other forms of medicine or therapies than others. There are basically two schools of thought in modern chiropractic care - 'straight' chiropractic and 'mixer'.

Straight chiropractors believe that all illnesses or diseases in the body stem from subluxations in the spine. Mixer chiropractors, who are the majority of chiropractors practicing today, see that as just one part of the overall picture.

Obviously, mixer chiropractors are the ones that are more likely to recommend other forms of treatment either as a supplement to or even instead of chiropractic care. Some chiropractors even work directly with massage therapists or sports medicine specialists.

Are you suited to be a chiropractor?

Chiropractors have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also social, meaning they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly.

Does this sound like you? Take our free career test to find out if chiropractor is one of your top career matches.

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What is the workplace of a Chiropractor like?

Chiropractors can work independently in their own private practice or as part of a larger group practice. Almost half of all chiropractors in the US are self-employed. Some may work in hospitals or larger clinics, and some go on to teach at chiropractic colleges.

The demand for chiropractors is on the rise, so job security and opportunities look promising for those in the field.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a chiropractor and a physical therapist?

A chiropractor has an expansive diagnostic education, while a physical therapist has a therapeutic, or intervention-based education. Although a chiropractor can provide rehabilitative exercise and modality treatments to the client, his/her main type of treatment is spine manipulation.

A physical therapist may also provide manual therapy-type techniques to their patients, but activity modification, therapeutic exercise and modalities are the foundation and focus of a physical therapy practice.

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What is the difference between a chiropractor and a physiotherapist?

A chiropractor has extensive experience and practice at using manipulation of the spine as a treatment technique. Some chiropractors also use muscle release techniques like A.R.T. (Active Release or Trigenics).

Similar to a chiropractor, a physiotherapist has the ability to manipulate the spine and perform muscle release techniques. In addition, they can also use acupuncture, help the client work on posture and balance, teach core stability exercises, and help prevent the problem from arising again by showing the client rehabilitative exercises they can do at home.

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See Also

What is the difference between a chiropractor and a doctor of osteopathic medicine?

Chiropractors and osteopaths share a common philosophy about the importance of the health of the spine in ensuring good health - the main focus from both is to remove pain and aches from the body.

A chiropractor has certain techniques that he will use for manipulating the spine. An osteopath also has techniques for spine manipulation, but will also include other techniques like stretching, pressure, mobilization, and craniosacral therapy.

One of the main differences between a chiropractor and an osteopath is that an osteopath will not 'click back' a joint the way a chiropractor does. In many countries, an osteopath is trained as a physician and will see and treat patients as ordinary doctors. In the United States, there are about twenty osteopathy hospitals offering a full range of health care, and osteopaths in the US are trained in surgery.

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What do chiropractors treat besides back pain?

There are a variety of reasons why someone will visit a chiropractor:
- headaches
- whiplash
- neck pain
- arthritis
- gait correction
- strains and sprains
- work and sports-related injuries
- general health and well-being
- restricted movement in the shoulders-neck-back or limbs

A chiropractor is a licensed medical professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous system, especially in the spine.

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What is some good advice for chiropractic students?

Before committing to becoming a chiropractor, it is advisable to read some chiropractic literature, books, and magazines to see if the natural healing philosophy is right for you.

If you decide to become a chiropractor, know that the first few years in school are going to be tough. Just put your nose to the grindstone and before you know it you’ll be in clinic. What you learn in school is extremely important, but your real education begins after you graduate.

Seek out a practicing chiropractor that you wish to emulate. Ask if they can mentor you, and shadow them if possible - ask questions that will help you build clarity as to what you'd like to do.

Don't forget to take some courses in marketing, advertising, and business, as you will need to know the business side of things as well.

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What is it like being a chiropractor?

Chiropractors get a lot of satisfaction from treating people who have given up on the medical system and are looking for a drug-free way to a healthy and pain-free life.

It is up to the individual chiropractor to choose the scope and focus of his/her practice. They may choose to offer only chiropractic services to their patients, or may choose to add other natural healing methods, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, and nutritional supplementation.

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Are Chiropractors happy?

One of the main reasons to choose a chiropractic career is to make a difference in people's lives by offering gentle, drug-free treatments that alleviate a variety of conditions.

Chiropractors see patients of all ages, and in recent years, more parents have sought out chiropractic care for their children. It’s very gratifying for a chiropractor when patients come to see them in pain and they are able to get them out of it, especially when individuals have already tried many other approaches that haven’t worked.

Should I become a Chiropractor?

Individuals wanting to become a chiropractor really need to want to go into this field because they are passionate about providing healing care for patients above all else, and not for the prestige of being called a doctor (or for the money).

When considering the chiropractic profession, it is recommended that individuals ask questions and communicate directly with a chiropractor, and not base their decision only on information reviewed on the Internet.

Even a visit to a chiropractic office will provide a much more realistic insight into the profession. Career handbooks and literature often come from chiropractic organizations themselves, and tend to only speak favourably about the profession. Encountering no negative information creates an unrealistic view of what it’s like to be a chiropractic student and graduate.

The following are a few pros and cons to consider if you are thinking of becoming a chiropractor:


One of the most significant concerns for a prospective chiropractic student is the amount of money it will cost to pursue the necessary training and education. In the United States, the average tuition cost for four years at a chiropractic school is approximately $120,000.

Beyond that tuition, students must also pay for other expenses, such as room and board, transportation, personal living expenses, books, lab fees, equipment, activity fees, insurance for clinical work experience, and technology fees. Many graduates end up with a debt burden that may exceed $200,000.

Chiropractors undergo four to five years of postgraduate education in order to obtain a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), and qualify to become licensed to practice in the United States.

Completion of three years of undergraduate education is the minimum requirement needed to apply to chiropractic school, which means graduates are expected to have completed at least seven years of education before earning the proper credentials of a chiropractor.

Physical Limitations
One of the toughest parts of being a chiropractor is one’s physical limitations when seeing a lot of patients. It's a big burden to the body - especially for the lower back, shoulders and wrists. The more patients chiropractors see, the more money they make, however it could have a negative impact on their body.


Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle
Being a chiropractor is really about improving health in general so patients can lead the type of active lives they want to lead instead of being limited by what their bodies allow.

The knowledge gained during school regarding lifestyle and the ways to eat, move and think is invaluable not only to the patients that are treated but on a personal level for the chiropractor as well.

A Rewarding Career
Chiropractic work can be very rewarding, and seeing a patient experience improved quality of life is worth all the difficulty in becoming a chiropractor.

Having the ability to help patients sometimes avoid surgery or seeing them come off of addictive pain medication is very gratifying. There is a lot of satisfaction if you can help reduce or eliminate someone’s pain, or help patients lead a healthier and more active lifestyle.

Becoming a Business Owner
Some chiropractors work for others, but a large percentage will open their own practice. Chiropractors have the opportunity to live and work in any U.S. state and in many foreign countries.

While owning a business can be hard at times, the lure of being your own boss is what draws many to the profession. You can set your own hours of service, and control every aspect of your practice.

There are a wide range of possibilities in chiropractic practice; specialty areas include sports, pediatric, or animal chiropractic. Other chiropractors focus on chiropractic research or radiology, and some complement their practice with acupuncture or nutrition.

Chiropractors are also known as:
Chiropractic Doctor Chiropractic Physician Doctor of Chiropractic