Are chiropractors "doctors"? Yes and No. They are doctors similar to non-medical "doctors" in other allied health care professions like optometry, podiatry, dentistry and psychology. Chiropractors usually have the academic degree of "Doctor of Chiropractic", which is awarded after an average of 8 years of university training.
However, medical doctors are allowed to prescribe medication while chiropractors are not (except in a few states, usually nutritional and homeopathic items). The scope of what medical treatment and procedures chiropractors are allowed to perform varies by state.
A doctor of chiropractic is a professional that is engaged in the diagnosis of conditions throughout the body and focuses on the treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, whereas a medical doctor is a medical professional involved in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries of the whole body. There are different types of medical doctors, such as psychiatrists pediatricians, neurologists, cardiologists, and so on, depending upon further studies in different areas of specialization. There are also different types of doctors of chiropractic, such as radiologists, orthopedists, sports medicine specialists, pediatricians, and so on, who require further studies and the passing of national examinations.
edit Differences in Medical Education and Training
The academic degree for chiropractors is called the "Doctor of Chiropractic", referred to as "DC". The World Health Organization (WHO) also lists other potential paths for pursuing this full time: B.Sc (Chiro) a 5-year integrated bachelor program and a 2-3 Masters program (M.Sc. Chiro) following a bachelor’s degree. Candidates can apply to a DC program after completing a four-year undergraduate degree. The DC Program is a four or five-year full time program. Post-graduate residency is available in specialized spheres of chiropractic like orthopaedics, radiology and neurology. Although chiropractic is the third largest doctor level health care profession, it suffers from having less credibility than other medical professions due to some chiropractic practitioners' rejection of evidence-based medicine.
American physicians are awarded the Doctor of Medicine degree (MD) or the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree (DO). Both of these degrees are awarded after four years of medical school. Candidates are required to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), and complete a four year undergraduate program in order to be eligible for a medical school program. Before graduating, students are required to take the COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination) and/or the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) Parts 1 and 2. Also a minimum of one year of internship (PGY-1) and USMLE Step 3/COMLEX Level 3 examinations are required before practicing in the United States. Further specialization requires 3-8 years of training and residency.
edit Differences in Treatment techniques and Specialization
There are at least 20 types of techniques used by doctors of chiropractic. These include manipulation of the spine and other joints--referred to as "extremity adjusting", Activator techniques (which uses a hand held device), Cox Flexion-Distraction (which targets compressed spine and relieves back pain), Thompson technique (method of adjustment in which the length of legs in analyzed to determine the type of misalignment and uses a “drop table”), Gonstead (looks at misalignment of spine causing pinched nerve), Sacro-Occipital technique (addresses the dysfunction of the base of the spine), which aims to correct vertebral and pelvic misalignments. Other modes for relieving pain are exercises, physiotherapeutic modalities like ultrasound, electrical stimulation, laser, cryotherapy (ice packs), nutritional and dietary recommendations, stress-relieving and relaxation techniques, disease prevention advice, and many chiropractors also use acupuncture.
Medical physicians can specialize in various areas and treatments that vary depending on the type of disease and age group. Specialists such as paediatricians treat children, internists specialize in internal medicine for adults, dermatologists treat disease and conditions pertaining to the skin, oncologists specialize in diagnosing and treating cancer, and so on. Treatments include, but are not limited to, diagnosing and prescribing drugs, surgical treatments, and other therapies that are beyond the scope of this article.
edit Board certification for a medical doctor vs doctor of chiropractic
In the United states, Canada and Australia, licensing or registration is done at the state level before practicing. Chiropractic schools are accredited through the Council for Chiropractic Education (CCE) and regional accreditation agencies.