Which Would you Choose, Osteopath, Medical Doctor, or a Chiropractor?

Medical Doctor, Doctor of Osteopathy, or Chiropractor?

I recommend to patients that have neck pain, back pain, etc to always try a conservative approach first.  Doctor prescribed drugs for arthritis pain alone result in approximately 16,500 deaths and 107,000 hospitalizations per year.  Many of these same drugs also speed up destruction of your joints.  Surgery for muscle and joint problems are generally no more effective than placebo or conservative treatment.

Studies have shown that a large majority of medical graduates are incompetent in basic musculoskeletal diagnosis(muscle and joint problems like neck pain, back pain, etc).  Most studies demonstrate that 70-80% of medical graduates fail to pass a basic knowledge exam.  Chiropractic students in their senior year failed approximately 40% of the time.  All chiropractic doctors passed the basic exam.

The following statement is an opinion, but with so little risk involved and often at a significantly lower cost, I don’t understand why more people wouldn’t try a chiropractor first.  I suppose taking a pill or having a surgery is faster and easier and perhaps that is part of it.

Differences in treatment

Osteopaths, Medical Doctors, and Chiropractors are all able to take care of their patients in any way they please.  However, money is to often a motivation factor.  For this reason, surgeons cut, medical doctors prescribe, and chiropractors adjust.  It is what each doctor makes the most money doing so they are going to try to recommend that course of care.

Spending 30 minutes counseling you on diet, nutrition, and exercise just won’t keep the doors to their office open and their staff employed.  Writing a prescription for Lipitor takes less than 2 minutes and they can see the next patient.

This is a generalization but if you go to a medical doctor you will likely receive a prescription medication to cover up a symptom such as pain.  Osteopaths are a little more likely in my experience to offer conservative, i.e., diet, exercise, and nutritional type advice than medical doctors.

Going further with my generalization, most chiropractors are willing to spend time with you or put on free health talks that can actually get you back on a path to health.

There are also bad chiropractors that only want you money, bad osteopaths, and good medical doctors.  You have to be smart about your choice.

Drugs and Surgery vs Conservative Care

Another thought is about the risks versus benefits of treatment.  Chiropractic risks are very low compared to some of the serious side effects of drugs and surgery.

Many studies show that 5 years down the road, those who had surgery versus those who did not report the same pain levels.  The difference is that one of the patients learned how to manage their pain and didn’t spend tens of thousands of healthcare dollars on a surgery that could have left them with severe complications require more drugs, surgery, and healthcare dollars.

Doctor versus Chiropractor Education

Often chiropractors are belittled as “Not real doctors” or people believe we went to a technical school of sorts to earn our degree.  Chiropractors are “portal of entry” providers which means that we must be able to diagnose anything that walks into the reception room.  Here is a table that compares the number of hours in certain areas spent by medical versus chiropractic students.

Chiropractic College Medical School
456 Anatomy/Embryology. 215
243 Physiology 174
296 Pathology 507
161 Chemistry/Biochemistry 100
145 Microbiology 145
408 Diagnosis 113
149 Neurology 171
56 Psychology/Psychiatry 323
66 Obstetrics & Gynecology 284
271 X-ray 13
168 Orthopedics 2
2,419 Total Hours for Degree 2,047

As you can see from the above, chiropractors are well trained and in many areas excel.  One such area is in diagnosis of disorders of the muscles and joints.

Musculoskeletal (Muscle and Joint) Conditions

Here are some common conditions that chiropractors excel at identifying and treating every day:

Doctor, Osteopath, or Chiropractor

Photo used under Creative Commons from Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

  • Pain/tingling
  • Headaches
  • Sprains/Strains
  • Arthritis
  • Disc Herniation, bulge
  • Neck Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Spondylolisithesis
  • Stenosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Postural Syndrome/Imbalance
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
  • Impingement/Pinched Nerves
  • Tendinopathies

Please do not take the above article as malice towards Medical doctors or osteopaths.  Chiropractors, medical doctors, and chiropractors, have their challenges and limitations and we only know what we have been taught.

Both professions are constantly baraged with “educational” material that is designed to profit drug, medical equipment companies, etc.  Rest assured, if I have a broken bone, infection, etc, you can bet I would want one of the 20-30% of medical doctors who passed their basic musculoskeletal exam to take care of me. ~Dr. Allen Ruppert, D.C.


Vasquez, Alex – Integrative Chiropractic Management of High Blood Pressure and Chronic Hypertension – Updated and Expanded Second Edition – OptimalHealthResearch.com
Singh G. Recent considerations in non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug gastropathy. AM J Med 1998;105(1B):31S-38S
Humphreys BK, Sulkowski A, McIntyre K, Kasiban M, Patrick AN.  An examination of musculoskeletal cognitive competency in chiropractic interns. J Manipulative Physiol Ther.  2007 Jan;30(1):44-9
Stockard AR, Allen RW.  Competence levels in musculoskeletal medicine: comparison of osteopathic and allopathic medical graduates. J AM Osteopath Assoc.  2006 Jun; 106(6):350-5
Schmale GA.  More evidence of educationinadequacies in musculoskeletal medicine.  Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2005 Aug;(437):251-9
Additional References available in Dr. Vasquez’s Book

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