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Why Do Chiropractors Call Themselves a Doctor
Why Do Chiropractors Call Themselves a Doctor


Why Do Chiropractors Call Themselves a Doctor?

Why Chiropractors Are Considered Doctors

While I’ve experienced the benefit of going to the chiropractor firsthand, I didn’t expect my chiropractor to introduce himself as a doctor. I was curious about why this was, so I decided to do some research.

So, why do chiropractors call themselves a doctor? Chiropractors call themselves doctors because they have D.C. degrees, which stands for Doctor of Chiropractic. This means that chiropractors are doctors.

Everyone who has a doctoral degree has to work hard to earn it, and chiropractors are no exception.

How To Become a Chiropractor

A chiropractor is a professional doctor who has graduated from an accredited chiropractic college and passed a state board examination. In the U.S., they are nationally certified by passing the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE).

The process to become a chiropractor starts with an undergraduate degree. Students will need to study a field like biology or chemistry due to the heavy emphasis on human anatomy and physiology that is involved in chiropractic care, so a major in biology, kinesiology, or a similar subject is recommended.

Once they obtain their undergraduate degrees, students enroll in a chiropractic college where they undergo intensive training at the graduate level to become a doctor, just like students in medical school do.

Why Do Chiropractors Call Themselves a Doctor

Chiropractic College

Usually, it takes about four years to complete chiropractic college, and during that time students will take a significant number of classes on chiropractic philosophy and the human body. Most of this classroom learning occurs during the first two years of school.

During the second two years, students complete clinical rotations in hospitals and private practices so they can gain real-world experience before working independently.

In addition to fulfilling these requirements, aspiring chiropractors have to pass a four-part licensure exam from the NBCE. These exams test candidates on academic subjects such as anatomy, microbiology, and chemistry, chiropractic theory including diagnosis techniques and body mechanics, and case history and management.

Licensing Process

Students take the first two parts of the exam while they’re in chiropractic school and the second two after they graduate. After they pass all four NBCE exams, chiropractors will typically also need to apply for a license from the state where they’ll be practicing. This may require an additional test, a background check, an interview, or a combination of all of these.

Once they have their state licenses, they can usually begin practicing, but they will need to keep on top of their continuing education requirements to maintain their licensures.

Licensed chiropractors can also choose to pursue a specialty such as acupuncture, sports medicine, or clinical nutrition. This will require additional schooling, but it will help you attract more patients and even give you more clout in your professional circles.

What Chiropractors Do

Chiropractors treat patients who have all types of health conditions, focusing on the spine and nervous system. They conduct exams and take case histories to determine what’s causing a patient’s pain or discomfort, perform clinical tests like x-rays and MRIs to find any issues that need further treatment.

They provide chiropractic care like spinal adjustments, massage therapy, and rehabilitative exercises to improve their patients’ mobility and flexibility.

In addition to performing the typical chiropractic treatments, chiropractors might also do less common procedures like applying heat, ice, ultrasound, or electrotherapy and may also recommend nutritional support and supplements.

Patients who experience neck, back, and joint pain, have been in a car accident, or who are recovering from an injury often find chiropractic care beneficial, as do generally healthy people who want to feel and perform their best.

Many chiropractors treat infants and children as well, often helping to relieve growing pains, reduce ear infections, and even soothe colicky babies.

Why Do Chiropractors Call Themselves a Doctor

Patient Education

Chiropractors educate their patients about what they can do on their own to minimize pain and speed up the healing process, like stretching, maintaining proper posture, and avoiding strenuous activities so they can recover more quickly. They also often use corrective devices like braces, prescription orthotics, and shoe inserts to improve patients’ mobility.

Chiropractors often work closely with other healthcare providers such as family doctors, neurologists, orthopedists, sports trainers, physical therapists, and D.O.s (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine). This allows them to maximize their patients’ health and wellness with a multidisciplinary approach, not just by treating them with chiropractic care.

What Chiropractors Don’t Do

Chiropractors are not trained to treat a variety of other conditions that you might expect doctors to take care of, like the flu, broken bones, or cancer. They also don’t prescribe medication and can’t do any type of surgery or act as a primary care physician.

Although some chiropractors work in tandem with medical doctors, they’re considered to work in separate disciplines, and their education is very different. Chiropractic doctors focus more on how spinal alignment can affect nerve function throughout the body, while medical doctors focus on treating illnesses with drugs or surgery.

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), chiropractors are limited in their scope of practice and only treat neuromusculoskeletal conditions. They cannot treat potentially serious health problems like aneurysms, appendicitis, asthma attacks, bleeding ulcers, or heart disease.

If you have a serious illness, you should still see your primary care doctor, as these conditions might require surgery, medications, or other treatments that a chiropractor can’t offer. However, you may benefit from receiving chiropractic care on top of those treatments.

To see if you can benefit from chiropractic treatment for health problems unrelated to your spine, it’s best to check with your primary care doctor and then schedule an appointment with a board-certified chiropractor so he or she can determine whether you’re a good candidate for treatment.

Different Chiropractic Specialties

The NBCE currently recognizes over 25 chiropractic specialties, including acupuncture, sports medicine, neurology, clinical nutrition, and pediatric care.

Most of these require additional training which can take a couple of years to complete, but chiropractors who have specialties can better help their patients and will open doors of opportunity in their careers.


With an acupuncture specialization, chiropractors will be able to treat their patients with acupuncture. This is designed to improve the flow of energy throughout the body. Acupuncture can help with a variety of conditions such as digestive disorders, pain management, and even depression. People often use acupuncture as an alternative to surgery or prescription medications.

Sports Medicine

Sports medicine focuses on helping athletes and other active people recover from injuries.

Chiropractors with this training will be able to give their patients customized physical therapy and rehabilitation exercises, as well as provide them with referrals for corrective devices like braces and orthotics. They can also help athletes feel and perform their best while minimizing their risk of injuring themselves in the first place.


Chiropractors who want to focus on neurological conditions have to complete an additional year of training in clinical neurology. Once they complete this training though, they can help their patients manage multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and other types of nerve pain.

Why Do Chiropractors Call Themselves a Doctor

Clinical Nutrition

This specialization focuses on how food and supplement choices affect the body, and chiropractors with this training will be able to recommend supplements like vitamins and probiotics to their patients.

They can also suggest healthy diet changes, and this, combined with the supplements, is intended to help patients address nutritional deficiencies, recover from disease, and support their immune systems.


As pediatric chiropractic specialists, chiropractors can treat acute and chronic conditions in children. Some of the issues they may address include colic, ear infections, scoliosis, asthma, and sleep disorders.

When a young patient has a condition that could benefit from chiropractic care, pediatricians often refer their patients to chiropractors who specialize in that area.

Why People Go to the Chiropractor

Chiropractors are health care professionals who understand the body’s need to be in balance. When something is wrong with a patient’s skeletal structure, muscles, or nervous system, it can affect their movement and posture.

To combat this, chiropractors use gentle traction to adjust the spine and joints which can help patients feel better, improve their circulation, and even reduce their pain.

Chiropractors also use manual therapy and other techniques to help patients recover from injuries. If a patient is recovering from whiplash, for example, they may be prescribed low-impact exercises and massage therapy in addition to chiropractic adjustments.

Chiropractors work with patients from infancy to old age. Many children have problems with ear infections and colic, which chiropractors can help with, and they also treat teenagers who want to enhance their performance on the field or in the gym.

Many people also visit the chiropractor if they have a health concern or condition they need help managing or if they simply want to learn how to become healthier overall.

Related Questions

What can chiropractors treat? Chiropractors can treat a wide range of conditions, from serious injuries to digestive problems to chronic health concerns. Most commonly, they treat neuromusculoskeletal problems, which include lower back pain, neck pain, tension headaches, shoulder pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, and plantar fasciitis.

When should I visit the chiropractor? If you have chronic aches and pains, have suffered whiplash in a car accident, or are trying to recover from another type of injury, you should consider visiting the chiropractor. You can also meet with one if you’re looking for an alternative to traditional medicine, want to improve your overall health, are pregnant, experiencing digestive problems, or are trying to manage an ongoing medical condition.

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