Most people know that chiropractors provide back and neck pain relief. Many others have found that other painful conditions such as sciatica, shoulder pain and hip pain also respond to safe, gentle chiropractic care. How a chiropractor learns to provide pain relief, however, is somewhat of a mystery to many. This article will discuss what is involved in a chiropractor’s education and training and being able to provide pain relief for many conditions.
In my 35 years of practice, I’ve often had patients ask me how I learned the skills required of my profession. I reply that it is a long, rigorous process. Much like other healthcare providers, such as dentists, MD’s, podiatrists and optometrists, post graduate chiropractic schooling takes place after undergraduate education. In fact, chiropractic college involves a five-year program of intensive study after years at a traditional college or university.
Classes in anatomy (including the dissection of cadavers), physiology, chemistry, pathology and other basic health sciences are part of the curriculum. Clinical studies in pathology, diagnosis, imaging and blood and urine analysis are required. However, most patients and other lay people and even some healthcare providers of other professions are especially curious as to how chiropractors learn the skill of manipulation of the spinal vertebrae for pain relief.
Classes in actual chiropractic training start as soon as incoming students begin school. The first discipline that must be learned is palpation. Palpation is the skill of using one’s hands to feel various parts of the body to determine for normality or abnormality. Chiropractors learn to palpate spinal vertebrae to check for misalignments and improper motion of the spinal joints.
Students of chiropractic also learn to palpate swelling or edema, muscle spasms and abnormalities of fascia, ligaments and tendons. Palpation is an ongoing process throughout chiropractic schooling and takes many years to develop expertise. Chiropractors are the preeminent healthcare specialists in palpation of mechanical alignment problems of the spine.
Next in chiropractic education, is learning “techniques” of correcting spinal pain conditions. Students learn many methods of manual manipulation (also called chiropractic adjustments) and mobilization. Much training involves the use of “hands on” chiropractic techniques. There are hundreds of variations of chiropractic adjustments where students must learn to correct malpositions and abnormal movement of spinal bones of the neck, mid and lower back and pelvis. Chiropractors also learn to help problems of the shoulders, hips, ribs and extremities.
Techniques can also involve use of specialized chiropractic tables and adjusting instruments. Many chiropractors also use forms of deep pressure for muscular trigger points and myofascial strains, sprains and disruptions.
At the beginning of chiropractic technique training a student does not perform an actual “adjustment.” He or she only “sets up” the technique. This is done thousands of times. Only after a student has acquired competency in this phase do they proceed to the chiropractic clinics to provide actual chiropractic adjustments to patients. This is done under the observation and instruction of trained doctors of chiropractic, who are called clinicians.
Clinicians guide a chiropractic intern through this phase of education. At the end of their internships, a degree of doctor of chiropractic (DC) is awarded to the graduate and they are ready to become a licensed in all of the 50 United States and many of the other countries of the world.
Most patients who receive a chiropractic adjustment find it is a safe, pleasant experience because it relieves muscle spasm and tightness of superficial muscles by correcting a deeper spinal misalignment. Of course, chiropractors continue to learn and perfect their skills over their many years of being in practice.
When patients, laypeople and other health professionals learn the amount of training that goes into the skill, art and philosophy of chiropractic they understand why the chiropractic profession is foremost in detecting and correcting problems of the spine and providing back and neck pain relief.