Today, there are over 70,000 practicing chiropractors in the US. But for a long time, people had their suspicions about chiropractors.

Are chiropractors real doctors? Do they crack your back? Are their treatments even effective?

The answers to these questions are yes, no, and yes! Chiropractors are real doctors who provide legitimate treatments to reduce pain. And the demand for chiropractic care has grown because their treatments help. 

Chiropractors go through ample training and can help treat a variety of conditions. But what does it all entail? Keep reading to find out.

The word “doctor” often goes hand-in-hand with the word “physician”. But even though chiropractors don’t hold medical degrees, they go through extensive training. Like physicians, chiropractors attend school well beyond the completion of their undergraduate degrees.

After graduating, chiropractors earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. This makes them eligible to earn a license and begin practicing.

They interact with patients every day to treat a wide range of health issues. Like physicians, they have to develop a good bedside manner and know how to assess the best course of treatment for their patients.

So, though they are not medical doctors, chiropractors are doctors in their own right. They hold advanced doctorate degrees. And they work with patients to ease pain and promote wellness.

Certification, Training, and Requirements to Become a Chiropractor

At a glance, most chiropractors have gone through the following training: 

  • four-year undergraduate degree
  • four-year chiropractic program
  • one-year internship
  • a two-year or three-year residency
  • complete any continuing education
  • pass all licensing and certification assessments

Every chiropractor has to hold a valid license. To do so means significant work and study on their part. And if they want to specialize in one treatment method, that could add extra years of training, too. 

How Much Schooling Do Chiropractors Receive?

To start, chiropractors complete a four-year undergraduate degree. Typically, this degree will concentrate on the sciences. You’ll often find chiropractors with undergraduate degrees in biology or anatomy and physiology.

From there, chiropractors attend a four-year chiropractic program. These combine hands-on practice with theory and classroom learning. Each program should be at a college accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education.

Program Specifics Divided by Year

Most chiropractic programs are four years long, though some are five. Nevertheless, each year of chiropractic school covers different topics. At the end of the program, chiropractic students can apply for their licensure exam and start their residency.

First Year

The first year is a big one for future chiropractors. This is where they start diving into the fundamentals.

They’ll take advanced courses in anatomy and physiology. These courses will focus on the structure and function of the spine in particular. They may also take courses like biochemistry, ethics, and genetics. 

Second Year

In the second year of the program, students learn the essentials of chiropractic care. They’ll study pathology, chiropractic procedures and treatments, and how to conduct research. 

They’ll also dive into clinical orthopedics, diagnostic imaging, and imaging interpretation. Typically, the second year is the final year of full-time classroom study. After that, students get to practice their techniques hands-on.  

Third Year

In the third year, students begin their clinical training. At the same time, they continue their coursework.

They may study dermatology, pediatrics, and management. They may also prepare for their clinical internship or look for a chiropractic coach.

Fourth Year

The fourth year is typically taken up by a clinical internship. There, students shadow a working chiropractor and study under them. They complete rotations either in a hospital or chiropractic office. 

Students will start to get a grasp of which, if any, specialization they’d like to pursue. They may choose to specialize in pediatrics or to focus on one treatment style over another.

What Treatments Chiropractor Can Provide? 

Chiropractors focus on treating issues with the neck, spine, and hips. They can also treat issues that affect muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Chiropractors are usually concerned with holistic health. That means, if you have an issue with your shoulder, they’ll look into how that is affecting other parts of your body. Then they’ll work to treat the full issue.

Most often, people visit the chiropractor because of pain that stems from their back. It could be felt in their shoulders or neck. They may have pain in their hips, legs, or arms.

Chiropractors treat ailments through adjustments. These are manual or mechanical manipulations of the bones in your spine.

When bones are out of alignment, they can put pressure on the nerves that lead out from the spine. This can impact the neck, hips, shoulders, and limbs.

Essentially, chiropractors aim to move your bones back into proper alignment. In doing so, they can alleviate pain and discomfort.

Chiropractors can also suggest exercises to improve alignment and posture. These could be stretches and other gentle movements. Or they may use light weights to help promote proper posture.

Can Chiropractors “Cure” Common Issues?

Chiropractors can treat common issues. In some cases, they can cure them, too. But overall, a chiropractor is looking to ease your pain and improve your quality of life. 

This means getting you to a point where your pain is lower or gone completely. It means improving your posture or range of motion. And it means easing the pressure put on your nerves. 


One common issue that patients bring to a chiropractor is sciatica. This typically presents as a sharp pain that shoots from the lower back to the legs.

The sciatic nerve is the longest one in the body. If pressure is put on this nerve, it can trigger that kind of shooting pain.

Chiropractors will get to the root of any sciatic pain. They’ll look for spinal discs that are out of alignment and seek to return them to a better position.

With treatment, patients can expect tingling and burning sensations to go away. They can expect less pain and a returned range of motion in their legs. 


Arthritis is often caused by inflammation. As a rule, chiropractors will not manually adjust inflamed joints. Doing so could cause the problem to worsen. 

But chiropractors have other ways of helping the symptoms that come with arthritis. Ultrasounds, for one, can massage the tissues surrounding the injured joints. Electrotherapy can help similarly.

Your chiropractor may be able to treat you with laser or infrared procedures.

Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common complaints patient’s bring to their chiropractor. Many issues can cause back pain. Your chiropractor will work with you to determine which is causing yours. 

Muscle tension could be causing your back pain. In that case, stretching and exercises may help.

Or, it could be a structural issue. Your chiropractor will be able to discuss the best course of action in that case. 

Chiropractic adjustments have been known to help ease back pain considerably. And they work well for neck pain, too.

Neck Pain

Similar to back pain, neck pain can have several causes. If you’ve been in an accident, you mustn’t let your neck pain go untreated for too long.

Your chiropractor will x-ray your neck to see if you have any structural injuries. From there, they’ll discuss treatment and any adjustments that need to be made.


Tinnitus is a condition where your ears ring. It’s often a symptom of an injury to your cervical spine. In this case, chiropractors can help realign your bones. 

When the head sits properly over the neck, it can reduce tinnitus. For some, it may get rid of their tinnitus altogether.


Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. In mild cases, chiropractors can help keep a person’s scoliosis from getting worse. They can also keep people from developing scoliosis in the first place. 

But with moderate to severe cases, chiropractors may not be able to reverse the damage. They will be able to help ease pain through adjustments and improve a patient’s mobility. They can also suggest exercises to strengthen their patient’s muscles and joints.

Pinched Nerve

Pinched nerves are painful indications that something is out of alignment. With regular adjustments, your chiropractor should be able to relieve your pinched nerve. Your pain may go away entirely.

Can Chiropractors Prescribe Medication?

A common question people have is, “can chiropractors prescribe medication?” Unlike physicians or psychiatrists, chiropractors cannot prescribe medication. They also cannot perform surgery.

But chiropractors can refer you to other physicians. They’ll do so if they believe medication may help treat your particular issue.

Science Supporting Chiropractic Treatment

Many people used to consider chiropractic care as an “alternative medicine”. But evidence-based research is being done to prove the effectiveness of the treatments.

Science has helped show that chiropractic adjustments do not “crack” or harm the spine. They are gentle, subtle movements that help correct out-of-place bones. 

More and more people are trusting chiropractors with their health and they’re seeing results. That should be one of your top reasons for visiting a chiropractor.

The Differences in Chiropractic Care – What Sets One Apart From Another?

Chiropractors use different adjustment techniques, but that’s not all. They also incorporate non-adjustment-based techniques that can help ease pain and tension, too.

Specialties and Services

The activator technique, for example, uses a handheld instrument. The instrument sends light impulses into targeted segments of vertebrae. Some techniques, like flexion distraction, require the use of an adjusting table. This moves with the chiropractor to help guide your bones back into alignment.

You may also have access to heat and cold treatments through your chiropractor. They may offer physical therapy or massage treatments.  

Always look into the techniques used before setting up your initial appointment. If you have questions, ask the chiropractor for more information.

Finding a Chiropractor

Chiropractors are highly qualified doctors. After years of training, they’re equipped to handle any spinal issue that comes their way. To find a local chiropractor, try searching for “chiropractors near me”. Check out their reviews or give them a call to see if their practice will offer the care you’re looking for.

Research for this article was done by Fargo Chiropractor.