Myth #1 – Chiropractors are not real doctors.
Chiropractors in Australia receive their title of ‘Dr’ through national registration with their professional body, similar to other health care professionals. Just like medical doctors, chiropractors are professionals that are subject to the same type of testing procedures, licensing and monitoring by national peer-reviewed boards.
Chiropractors receive their registration through The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). This is the same body that registers other mainstream health care providers such as GPs, physiotherapists, dentists, podiatrists and psychologists.
Federal and state programs, such as Medicare, DVA and Workers’ Compensations programs cover chiropractic care, and sick-leave certificates signed by chiropractic doctors are accepted everywhere.
Chiropractors undergo five years of university-based education, and have treated several hundred patients in their final year of studies under the supervision of registered chiropractic doctors before they graduate. Their studies are very similar to those of medical schools, with rigorous curricula including anatomy, physiology, cell biology, pathophysiology, chemistry and biochemistry, immunology, physical examination, diagnostic skills, physical therapies and rehabilitation.
As primary health practitioners, chiropractors are sometimes the first health care contact for a patient and are trained to identify a situation in which the patient may need medical or other care.
Chiropractors are licensed as health care providers in many countries around the world, including but not limited to the USA, UK, Canada, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand.
The biggest difference between chiropractors and medical doctors lies not in their level of education, but in their preferred method of caring for people. Medical doctors are trained in the use of medicines (chemicals that affect your internal biochemistry) and surgery. Consequently, if you have a chemical problem, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, or an infection, medical doctors can be very helpful.
However, if your problem is that joint movement is restricted somewhere in your body – especially in your spine, or that you have soft tissue damage causing pain, there is no chemical in existence that can fix it. You may be able to cover it up temporarily with pain killers, however these do not resolve the underlying cause.
You need a physical solution to correct a physical problem. That is where chiropractic really shines. Chiropractors provide physical solutions — adjustments, exercises, stretches, muscle therapy — to help the body heal from conditions that are physical in origin, such as back pain, muscle spasms, headaches, and poor posture.
Myth #2 – Medical doctors don’t like chiropractors.
Historically, vocal opponents of chiropractic have been shown to have had hidden agendas.
The American Medical Association’s opposition to chiropractic was at its strongest in the 1940s under the leadership of Morris Fishbein. Fishbein called chiropractors “rabid dogs” and referred to them as “playful and cute, but killers”. He tried to portray chiropractors as members of an unscientific cult who cared about nothing but taking their patients’ money.
Up to the late 1970s and early 1980s, the medical establishment purposely conspired to try to destroy the profession of chiropractic. In fact, a landmark lawsuit in the Supreme Court of Illinois in the 1980s found that the American Medical Association was guilty of conspiracy and was ordered to pay restitution to the chiropractic profession.
Closer to home, commissioned by the New Zealand Government in 1978, The New Zealand Report developed into the most comprehensive and detailed independent examination, at that time, of chiropractic ever undertaken in any country. The focus of the investigation was to consider whether health and accident benefits should be made for chiropractic services. When the Report was commissioned, it was believed it would take a month or two at the most to resolve the issues. However, it took nearly two years, generating over 3600 pages of testimony under Oath from numerous witnesses and thousands of pages documents submitted from organizations and private parties from around the world. Much of the so called evidence by self-appointed consumer rights’ advocates and very vocal medical experts was found to be “fraudulent”, “pure propaganda” and the expert statements were labelled “highly unreliable” by the Royal Commission.
The investigators also travelled to Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia in their quest for information. The lengthy report was presented in September 1979, with favourable findings to chiropractic and manipulation. Similar results were later published in the Rand Study, Meade studies, British Medical Journal, Magna Report, ACHPR report on back pain, and subsequent numerous journal research studies.
In the 30+ years since, the opinion of many medical doctors has changed: several major studies have shown the efficacy of chiropractic in helping people with a host of conditions, and medical doctors developed a better understanding as to what chiropractors actually do. Many people have returned to their medical doctors and told them about the great results they experienced at their chiropractors office. Many hospitals in the US now have chiropractors on staff, and some chiropractic offices have medical doctors on staff. Chiropractic students in Australia are occasionally taught by academic staff with medical or dual qualification. Chiropractors and medical doctors are now much more comfortable working together in cases where medical and chiropractic care complement each other in the best interest of the patient.
Myth #3 – Once you start going to a chiropractor, you have to keep going for the rest of your life.
This statement comes up frequently when the topic of chiropractic is discussed. It is only partially true. You only have to continue going to the chiropractor as long as you wish to maintain the health of your neuromusculoskeletal system. Going to a chiropractor is much like going to the dentist, exercising at a gym, or eating a healthy diet: As long as you keep it up, you continue to enjoy the benefits.
Many years ago, dentists convinced everyone that the best time to go to the dentist is before your teeth hurt, that routine dental care will help your teeth remain healthy for a long time. The same is true of chiropractic care for your spine.
It is important to remember that, just like your teeth, your spine experiences normal wear and tear as you walk, drive, sit, lift, sleep, and bend. More importantly, the way we live our lives with increasing complexity often manifests as pain in our bodies. We see this in practice every day, with people who are highly stressed, often presenting with headaches, neck and/or back pain.
Routine chiropractic care can help you feel and cope better, move with more freedom, and stay healthier throughout your lifetime. Although you can enjoy the benefits of chiropractic care even if you receive care for a short time, the real benefits come into play when you make chiropractic care a part of your wellness lifestyle.