If you have a lot of experience as a patient, having been treated by an array of doctors and specialists, then you are probably well aware of the various letter combinations that sit behind any given doctor’s name. The most widely recognized designation of this type is “MD,” which stands for “Doctor of Medicine.” However, if you have back problems or any of a number of other common health conditions, your regular MD may decide to refer you to a “CD,” or “Doctor of Chiropractic.” So, what do those two letters mean, actually? And why can’t your MD do what a chiropractor does? For your information, here are three ways a chiropractor is different than a medical doctor:
Education. Chiropractors and medical doctors must possess different knowledge and skill sets. Therefore, although they both begin in college receiving a general medical education (anatomy, physiology, etc.), their educations take very separate paths after the first two years. Chiropractors must complete two years of undergraduate studies, then spend four years in chiropractic school. After they graduate from chiropractic school, they must serve an outpatient facility internship for two years. Medical doctors, on the other hand, must complete four years of undergraduate studies before heading to medical school, which lasts another four years. Medical school is followed by an internship at a hospital, which lasts one year at the very least, and finally a residency in their specialty for two to three years.
Licensing. Chiropractors are required to obtain a license with their State Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Medical doctors must pass an examination given by the United States Medical Licensing Board before even entering into a residency. Before practicing, medical doctors must pass the State Board of Medical Licensing examination, and then a licensing examination by the American Board of Medical Specialties before going into a chosen specialty.
Treatment options and methods. Medical doctors are able to prescribe medications, whereas chiropractors are only able to recommend dietary supplements and vitamins. Additionally, medical doctors may perform surgeries (if they have served surgical residencies), while chiropractors use a non-invasive approach to treatment that involves manual manipulation of the spinal column.
Perhaps the most important thing to note is that chiropractic care is not a replacement for medical care, even though it is often referred to as “alternative medicine.” Chiropractic care is really just a great way to supplement your normal health routine, as well as to support any medical care you are receiving. When in doubt, see a doctor; when you have an option, see a chiropractor.