I hear comments such as “Is a chiropractor a doctor?”, “chiropractors aren’t real doctors”, and “chiropractors are quacks” often. Some may be founded in prejudice, old ways of thinking, or perhaps you’re just curious. I hope this article makes clear the many qualifications of chiropractors and you can make your own decision as to whether a chiropractor is a doctor.
Is a chiropractor a Doctor?- Definitions
According to google a doctor is “a qualified practitioner of medicine; a physician” or “a person who holds a doctorate”. Perhaps better written is the informal definition, “a person who gives advice or makes improvements”. Lets take a look at each of these and how they pertain to a chiropractor.
Is a chiropractor a qualified practitioner of medicine?
This answer may surprise you, but what qualifies you as a practitioner of medicine actually depends on where you live. That’s right! Each country, state, and often province/county has its own rules and regulations that any healthcare professional needs to practice. Often these rules are met or acknowledged but not followed by chiropractors and their medical colleagues as well. Its true, we have rules, too many often, and some less than scrupulous practitioners cut corners at times.
In certain parts of the world, anyone practicing chiropractic is arrested for practicing medicine without a license because there are no laws defining chiropractic. In Florida (my home state), a chiropractor is defined by state statute. That statute tells me what qualified things I am allowed to do to my patients. The scope is broad and often specifically excludes things like prescribing prescription drugs and performing surgeries.
In short, your chiropractor is a doctor by definition if they meet the qualifications set out by your state or country. In fact, in Florida, I receive a Chiropractic Physician License awarded by the Department of Health after I meet those qualifications.
The qualifications include having a bachelors degree, having a doctor of chiropractic degree earned at an accredited chiropractic school(accreditation is ultimately from the US Department of education), passing national board exams ($1000’s of dollars and four parts) (some states require higher scores than others), proving insurance coverage, etc.
I always liked the idea of requiring very high scores on the national board exams because lets face it, I would be scared to have a surgeon who barely passed medical school with straight C’s and someone who earns straight A’s might not make a good doctor either.
You may be interested in comparing the number of hours of education a doctor of chiropractic has versus a medical doctor or osteopath.
The fact is, if your chiropractor is licensed, then he is considered from a legal standpoint, to be a qualified practitioner of medicine in your state, aka, a doctor.
Is a chiropractor “a person who holds a doctorate”?
Just as there are places in the world where unqualified people can go to get a medical doctorate, there are some chiropractic colleges that will award degrees which might say doctorate, but don’t hold up.
If the degree came from an accredited College, then the coursework was rigorous enough for the true awarding of a doctorate. If the college loses accreditation, their “doctorates” are meaningless pieces of paper. Life University lost its accreditation from 2002-2003 and coursework during that period was meaningless.
There is no legal path for a person with a degree from a non-accredited college to earn a license, so if your chiropractor is licensed, he is a “person who holds a doctorate” and thus, a doctor.
Is a chiropractor “a person who gives advice or makes improvements”?
Under this definition, my mom would qualify as a doctor, but it does speak to what I feel makes a true doctor. Some describe it as “bedside manner”, but how a doctor treats you makes a big difference to whether you consider a person a doctor or not. I would argue that I’ve met just as many poor medical doctors, dentists, veterinarians, and chiropractors whom I would not regard as “doctors” in this sense.
A chiropractor who is a doctor would have to address your whole health and not just see you as the next payment for his Bentley. I took care of patients by giving them advice on how to stay away from my office in the future and making sure they were clear about my recommendations. Any doctor who does this for you, is surely one that you will want to see for as long as possible.
This definition eliminates many otherwise “qualified” doctors IMHO. Is a chiropractor a doctor in this sense? That is going to be up to you to decide after you meet them.
Personal Experience & Conclusion
I feel the primary reason chiropractors are not often considered doctors is because there is not a lot of evidence for what chiropractors do. Few patients have a miracle cure, but a chiropractor who is a real doctor will work with you by not only adjusting you, but by giving you advice and improvements to fix whats wrong and prevent it from happening again.
Often the problems chiropractors are trying to fix are from years of misuse or overuse and difficult to fix alone, thus you may feel as though a chiropractor did nothing for you. If you want an instant fix, then go get a prescription medication to cover up years of abuse to your body. If you want to fix the problem and how it got there, find a real doctor.
Are chiropractors real doctors? Are doctors real doctors? Some of them are. Who is going to take care of you and keep you informed?