Chiropractors focus on providing correct physical alignment to maintain health. They treat health problems associated with the body's muscular, nervous and skeletal systems - especially the spine. According to chiropractic medicine, if the spine is not aligned, or if the muscular or nervous systems become compromised by an accident, a person may experience pain, discomfort or other health concerns. Car accident victims often seek the care of a chiropractor immediately after an accident. Many prefer chiropractic care for whiplash type injuries effecting the neck and spine to other types of treatment.
Chiropractors are often used in the field of personal injury. Soft tissue injuries such as strain and sprain of the ligaments and muscles surrounding the neck, back and spine can be quite debilitating and could take many months to resolve. Chiropractic treatment can be a first line of evaluation and treatment for these types of injuries. Radiographs ordered by a chiropractor can provide important information concerning whether there has been a serious compromise to any of the disks within the bone structure of the spine. If so, chiropractors will refer the patient out to an orthopedic surgeon for further evaluation and treatment.
Chiropractors, unlike orthopedic surgeons, are considered "holistic practitioners", which means they look at the whole body in diagnosing and treating a patient. They also try to help patients avoid disease through preventive care. Chiropractors are not medical doctors and therefore are not licensed to prescribe drugs or perform surgery. However, they do perform diagnostic work as well as treatment. In this regard, they are not unlike physical therapists that work under the instruction of an orthopedic physician.
In order to practice, a chiropractor must earn a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.). Chiropractors must have completed two years of undergraduate study. Increasingly, many are four-year college graduates by the time they enter chiropractic training.
Chiropractic training typically lasts for four years and is accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education. The first two years emphasize classroom study and lab work in basic science classes, such as anatomy, physiology, public health and biochemistry. The final two years are spent in more specialized study, such as spinal manipulation and spinal adjustments, and provide for extensive clinical experience.
In the United States, each state is responsible for providing and overseeing chiropractic licensure. Chiropractors must be licensed by a state in order to practice there. Licensing requirements vary from state to state. Some states have arrangements that permit chiropractors licensed in another state to also practice in theirs. As part of their licensing requirements, many states accept all or part of the tests administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, although some states may have additional requirements.
In order to maintain their licenses, chiropractors must take continuing education courses each year.
Chiropractors have the option of earning "diplomate" certification that involves more specialized training. Areas of study include orthopedics, neurology, sports injuries, occupational and industrial health, internal disorders, nutrition and other specialty areas.
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