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5 Things You’re Not Supposed To Know About Chiropractors

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5 Things You’re Not Supposed To Know About Chiropractors

The Chiro.Org Blog

SOURCE:   PH&W Magazine ~ December 2008

By Dennis Bertoli

PH&W HEALTH: Top Secret

There are a few things that you may not know about D.C.’s, which surprised us, included the mounting research.

1.   Their education is equal to their medical colleagues …
and might be better in some areas.

This might be difficult to accept, but chiropractic students spend markedly more hours in the classroom than medical students, especially in the areas of anatomy, physiology, orthopedics, and x-ray. [2] Of course, their training is different since “Chiros” concentrate on muscles, bones, joints, and nerves. Their education only touches on medication, emergency situations, etc. Many are beginning to think this gives them a better background in physical rehab.

A study of the curriculum of North American chiropractic and medical colleges found “Considerable commonality exists between chiropractic and medical programs. Regarding the basic sciences, these programs are more similar than dissimilar.” [2]

Even more interesting was a test given to both chiropractic and medical students. Chiropractic students scored higher than medical students did on the musculoskeletal (bones, joints, and muscles) portion of the exam, while the medical students faired slightly better in other areas. [1]

In another study, chiropractors and chiropractic students tested “significantly higher” in reading X-Rays when compared with their medical colleagues in a study at the University of California Medical Center. [3]

2.   They do more than crunch backs
and necks

While chiros are known for treating back and neck problems with joint manipulation, most are well versed and board certified to perform physical therapies. They are also licensed to function as primary care physicians. [4] Based on their education many use nutrition as a form of treatment.

3.   It’s safe

Even though ghost stories of adjustments gone wrong are common, the actual risk of injury from chiropractic treatment is rare. [5] Generally, the malpractice insurance that doctors have to pay is based, among other things, on their field. Chiropractors as a group pay the less for malpractice insurance than any other type of physician. Why? Lawsuits claiming injuries or negligence are less common against chiropractors.

In the past there was concern that there was an increased risk of stroke could upper neck manipulation treatments. However a 7-year study organized by The United Nations and the World Health Organization just found that there is no association with chiropractic treatment and stroke. [6]

4.   They took the AMA to court —
and won — twice

For decades chiropractors were campaigned by the AMA (American Medical Association) as not being “real doctors” and met fierce resistance from medical organizations. Chiropractors claimed the AMA was trying to snuff out the competition with fear tactics and bogus research. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with them in 1987… and again in 1990. It was found that the AMA was guilty of illegal antitrust activities against the chiropractic profession, ordered an injunction on their activity, and forcing them to print the courts findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

5.   M.D.’s and D.C.’s are now
working together

It’s becoming more common to find integrated offices, where M.D.’s, D.O.’s, and D.C.’s are working side-by-side. Many medical offices now try to provide multi-specialty approaches to treatment. With natural forms of treatment becoming more popular, drugless forms of treatment have become preferred by many over pain-medication.

One survey of 266 medical students at Georgetown University revealed more than 75% felt that alternative medicine techniques should be included in their curriculum. [7] Chiropractic, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and nutritional supplements were the most desired areas of interest. PH&W

The views expressed in this editorial are solely those of PH&W Magazine and do not reflect the opinion of any contributing parties or advertisers.


In a basic test designed by orthopedic residency professors to test the knowledge of medical residents vs. chiropractic students, 82% of medical school graduates failed the examination. [8] Four years later the test was simplified and, once again, 78% of the examinees failed to demonstrate basic competency in musculoskeletal medicine. [9]

When this same test was given to final quarter chiropractic students, 70% of them passed the same exact exam. [10]


  1. Assessment of Knowledge of Primary Care Activities in a Sample of Medical and Chiropractic Students
    J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2005 (Jun); 28 (5): 336-44

  2. A Comparative Study of Chiropractic and Medical Education
    Altern Ther Health Med. 1998 (Sep); 4 (5): 64 75

  3. Interpretation of Abnormal Lumbosacral Spine Radiographs. A Test Comparing Students, Clinicians, Radiology Residents, and Radiologists in Medicine and Chiropractic
    Spine. 1995 May 15;20(10):1147-53; discussion 1154

  4. Chiropractic: A Profession at the Crossroads of Mainstream and Alternative Medicine
    Ann Intern Med 136 (3): 216–27

  5. Safety of Chiropractic Manipulation of the Cervical Spine: A Prospective National Survey
    Spine. 2007 Oct 1;32(21):2375-8; discussion 2379

  6. Bone and Joint Decade Task Force Press Release:
    “Seven-Year Neck Pain Study Sheds Light on Best Care.”
    February 2008

  7. A Large-sample Survey of First- and Second-year Medical Student Attitudes Toward Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the Curriculum and in Practice
    Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC, USA
    Altern Ther Health Med. 2007 Jan-Feb;13(1):30-5

  8. Adequacy of Medical School Education in Musculoskeletal Medicine
    Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 1998 (Oct); 80-A (10): 1421–1427

  9. Educational Deficiencies in Musculoskeletal Medicine
    Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 2002 (Apr); 84–A (4): 604–608

  10. A Comparison of Chiropractic Student Knowledge Versus Medical Residents
    Proceedings of the World Federation of Chiropractic Congress 2001 Pgs. 255

About the Author:

I was introduced to Chiro.Org in early 1996, where my friend Joe Garolis helped me learn HTML, the "mark-up language" for websites. We have been fortunate that journals like JMPT have given us permission to reproduce some early important articles in Full-Text format. Maintaining the Org website has been, and remains, my favorite hobby.


  1. Seth Gross, DC May 23, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Chiropractic is not “Alternative Medicine”. Chiropractic is in no way conjoined to “Medicine” aka “Allopathy”. There is no such nomenclature “Chiropractic Medicine”…just good ole Chiropractic. Chiropractic belongs under the global heading “Holistic Health Care Providers”.

    RESPONSE from Frank


    I couldn’t agree more. When I think of chiropractic, I think “alternative to medicine”, not “variant of”. That’s why I like the term.

  2. Denver chiropractor May 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Personal: I was one of the founding members of the Unites States Sports Chiropractic Federation. I was pretty proud of what we were able to do over the last 5 years regarding the inclusion of chiropractors and professional sports. i was also a regional representative of CEPA (care of elite and professional athletes) just wondering why you chose not to post my last comment regarding chiropractic and pro sports/

  3. Pittsfield Chiropractic May 25, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    I think that article is very good for chiropractic and clearly shows that the educational process is working, and chiropractic students are leaving more prepared than their medical counterparts

  4. […] The rest is here: ChiroOrg Blog – For Chiropractic and Chiropractors. « 5 Things You … […]

  5. Matthew Loop June 14, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    Good post! Love the fact that we pummeled the AMA twice in court 🙂

    RESPONSE from Frank

    Yeah, it was a Karate Kid moment, seeing the “big bully” getting their face pushed into the mud. It’s old news now, but it’s also something our profession should never forget.

  6. Daniel Burkhart June 14, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Thanks for the post! I am happy to see the reference to the study showing that there is no association between the Chiropractic adjustment and the risk of strokes. We need to get this kind of information out in front of many more people!

  7. Nick Karapasas June 16, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks for the post. I do think that chiropractic medicine is an appropriate term for what many of us do. It is a valid identifier despite the intra-professional reaction to the resistance we dealt with in the past from other physicians. When there is “energy medicine”, “natural medicine”, and “oriental medicine”… “chiropractic medicine” is a perfect descriptor for the knowledge and skill set applied by a chiropractic physician to aid patients in their quest for health and optimum function.

    RESPONSE from Frank


    I personally don’t like the term because of the “meaning” of medicine itself, with it’s constant and pervasive association with drugs and surgery. What’s wrong with just calling it what it is…chiropractic?

    My sentiment is not a reaction against what organized medicine did to (try to) destroy our profession…after all, we were just too tough and feisty to kill off. They lost! Twice!

    My sentiment is based on my understanding that WE are the conservative approach to take BEFORE you resort to heroic medicine.

    By adopting the title of *name-your-profession* medicine, we make ourselves appear to be an appendage of medicine, rather than the ALTERNATIVE to it. I hope that makes sense to you. It’s nothing against medicine. It’s just the simple truth.

  8. Nick Karapasas June 18, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Your points do make sense to me, but, as a medical anthropologist, I have a different view. The term “medicine” in this context has become synonymous in our culture with the delivery of health care. It is, by definition, the science of diagnosing, treating, or preventing disease and other damage to the body/mind and the branch of this science encompassing treatment by drugs, diet, exercise, and other nonsurgical means.

    Notice I did not say pharmaceutical drugs (as a primary intervention). We as a profession have been using neutraceuticals and functional medicine (before people came up with those catchy terms) for a very long time.

    We do not make ourselves appear to be an appendage of allopathic / conventional medicine. It describes us for what we actually are. Physicians who use natural and manual medicine first to restore health.

    Using a more clear descriptor that fits the public understanding, as well as the actual service that most of us perform, is the best way forward. Additionally, NOT attaching an accurate descriptor ourselves opens the door to those few who are our detractors to add their own descriptors (chiropractic THERAPY, chiropractic MANIPULATION) which pigeon-holes us into being perceived as one-trick-ponies.
    “Chiropractic” becomes seen as the name for spinal manipulation as done by chiropractors.

    By adapting to the real world and growing in our terminology and technology, WE seize the opportunity to serve more patients. We step into the role of being conservative care physicians.

    The simple truth is at our BEST we are an appendage of medicine/health care (just as our MD/DO/ND/DDS/DPM colleagues are). We are not THE alternative, nor do we exist in a vacuum… We should be the first line of health care, the teachers, guides, and specialists. Supported by our colleagues who are available to perform more aggressive interventions only when needed.

    RESPONSE from Frank


    Beautifully stated. You do make a powerful case.

  9. Mike Johnson - Chiropractor August 19, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Hey I just wanted to thank you for posting this info. Chiropractic medicine has been taking a bit of a beating lately, and it’s good to some positivity around the field being put out there. Also really enjoyed Nick’s response.

  10. Complementary August 27, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    I definately do know for sure that chiropractors are fantastic. They definately study a lot more anatomy, especially since their practice requires them to know a lot about anatomy.

    I’ve personally used a chiropractor for years, and I have to say, it is fantastic since I really love how I feel afterwards.

  11. B. Stevens November 29, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Here is something Ive just been dying to ask: How is it that chiropractors are forever going on and on about the few additional hours of classroom time they claim to have over MD/DO students, but NEVER address the fact that MD/DO students do their classroom hours during the 1st and 2nd years of school, then go on to significantly more hour on clinical rotations during their 3rd and 4th years? How is that that little fact always get left out? Couple that with the fact that MD/DO’s go on to do between 3-5 years of formal postgraduate training, and then wonder why they are held up as better trained/educated than most any chiropractor out their. Chiropractic training hardly compares to MD/DO education by that measure, and you would do well to accept that fact.

    RESPONSE from Frank

    One could also ask why medicine spent decades and tens of millions trying to undermine and destroy our profession? We may sound defensive, but we are still telling the TRUTH.

    This table demonstrates the class hours required to earn a DC vs. MD degree.

    The first thing that jumped out at me was that we take almost twice as many hours in diagnosis and neurology as they do. I understand that they move into hospital rounds while we are heading out to the field, and (in theory at least) this means they should continue to learn…but, IF that is true, why is it that repeated testing over a 10-year period demonstrates that MDs and Orthopedic Residents are incompetent at assessing and managing neuro-musculo-skeletal (NMS) complains?

    One would expect that, during their 5 years of medical training, followed by endless hours of hospital rotations and residency programs, that all these doctors *might have* picked up a little more musculoskeletal knowledge along the way, but this series of articles from the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery suggests otherwise.

    You might feel challenged “that chiropractors are forever going on and on about the(ir) few additional hours of classroom time“, but there is no arguing with these facts:

      —Chiropractors specialize in spine related diagnosis and management

      —Chiropractors are MUCH better trained in NMS diagnosis and management, and

      —Chiropractors get much better results at a lower cost

    This is a huge problem because “conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system are the primary reason patients seek medical care from physicians, accounting for nearly 100 million office visits per year. [1] Furthermore, musculoskeletal conditions are the most common cause of long-term pain and physical disability. [2] [3]

    One only needs to review the recent reports (as reported on our Blog) to see that medicine would serve humanity better if they stuck to their specialties and left all the NMS complaints to us.


    1. Musculoskeletal conditions in the United States. Rosemont, IL, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 1999

    2. Burden of major musculoskeletal conditions
    Bull World Health Organ 2003; 81 (9): 646-656

    3. Musculoskeletal Curricula in Medical Education
    Physician and Sportsmedicine 2004 (Nov); 32 (11)

  12. Hometown Family Wellness Center December 21, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    These are facts people need to know. I talk to MD’s I work with all the time and they just don’t understand the physiology of the body, mechanics, chemical interactions and more.
    Steven B mentions clinical time? All they are learning is to push meds to cover symptoms in most cases… yet don’t understand the side effects and that they’re actually not curing anything.
    I recently had an MD call my office about a mutual patient and he kept saying the child has a thyroid condition.. .even though the blood tests were negative. I told him it’s an adrenal dysfunction that is mimicking what he thinks is a thyroid condition. When I told him how it works.. he said, wow that makes sense, lets get her on drugs. I said.. how bout lets change her diet, get her off all the caffeine she’s drinking and consumption of refined carbs and put her on an adrenal support vitamin. His response.. but how would you know it’s working… we need her on drugs. Most MD’s answer is drugs drugs drugs… and that’s why we have a health care crisis in this country.

  13. Dr. Peter Osborne December 21, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Fantastic post and follow up conversation!
    I would like to add that although medical doctors have a longer “formal” hospital based training, most chiropractors graduate and work under another chiropractor for 2-3 years before going into solo practice. Just because the training isn’t formally recognized doesn’t make it less valid or educational.

    All the beset,

  14. Maine Chiropractor December 23, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Perhaps it is time for us to find a way to have that associateship time recognized? I believe that some type of certification program for offices that wish to take on this responsibility is in order. This would serve two purposes, first, it would provide a type of residency for chiropractic. Second, the certification process would expose the unscrupulous DCs out there who abuse their associates, making the playing field a little more level in that respect.

  15. […] ChiroOrg Blog « 5 Things You’re Not Supposed To Know About Chiropractors…. […]

  16. Chiropractor Boulder CO April 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Great Article!
    Chiropractic care is starting to become more mainstream because the care the we provide actually help countless patients. The results are REAL!

  17. Douglas Kennedy April 26, 2011 at 9:14 am

    This may be old news, but it is still timely. The insurance industry is pushing hard to restrain/contain our profession, and we all need to add our voices and push back. I urge everybody to join a National Chiro organization (your choice) to get some power and lobbying behind us.

  18. Denver Chiropractor May 29, 2011 at 1:59 am

    Great article! I like the fact that M.D.’s, D.O.’s, and D.C.’s are working side-by-side more and more. I think each profession has it’s own healing gifts to share for the good of the patient.

  19. Chiropractor Denver CO February 27, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Yes we more than “crunch” backs and necks!!! Thanks for an outstanding post.

  20. Encinitas Chiropractor November 1, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    So much more than just a back cruncher! Good article!

  21. Sharon Seibert, D.C. November 8, 2014 at 11:21 am

    Great article I will be sharing with others.

  22. Durban Chiropractor November 18, 2014 at 7:08 am

    A great summary of some of the everyday biases we face.

    I still have patients that report being told by their GP’s not to see a chiropractor due to the risk involved.

    With regards the AMA cases, those are still a big part of our History of Chiropractic subject here in South African chiropractic schools.

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