Are chiropractors doctors? Safety, risks, and training requirements – Insider

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Over 85% of people experience back or neck pain at some point in their lives. Because these conditions can be debilitating and make daily tasks difficult, many seek help from chiropractors.
Chiropractors are healthcare practitioners that specialize in issues related to muscles, bones, tissues, and joints. They treat musculoskeletal conditions, such as the back, neck, or joint pain, as well as migraines and, depending on the state, nervous system conditions like headaches and migraines.
Some people are nervous or skeptical of chiropractic care because chiropractors don’t have medical degrees like an MD or DO. Therefore, chiropractors are not physicians or medical doctors, says Julia Louisa Iafrate, DO, a sports and dance medicine physician at Columbia University Medical Center. Instead, licensed chiropractors have a doctor of chiropractic degree (DC).
Here’s what you need to know about chiropractic training and whether chiropractic care is safe.
While chiropractors are not medical doctors, they do undergo a significant amount of training to become licensed, usually 3 to 5 years, including undergrad. 
Important: An important difference between medical doctors and chiropractors is that chiropractors cannot perform surgeries or prescribe medications, such as prescription-strength pain relievers.
According to Paul Quarneri, DC, a board-certified chiropractic neurologist and founder of the private practice Neurolink Chiropractic, chiropractors who earn their DC must:
Additionally, Quarneri says chiropractors may choose to pursue post-doctoral diploma certificates through the American Chiropractic Association, in subspecialties like:
According to Quarneri, here’s what you can expect when you visit a chiropractor for the first time:
In general, a visit to the chiropractor can take 30 to 60 minutes. Initially, you may have to see your chiropractor two to three times a week for several weeks. As you start to feel better, the frequency may be reduced to once a week.
What’s the cost? The cost of a chiropractic visit can vary considerably, says Quarneri. In general, he says the bill for a new patient examination may be between $250 to $700 while an adjustment may cost $40 to $80. 
Some of the treatments a chiropractor may offer you include:
Chiropractors treat patients with their hands or with specialized instruments. For example, a chiropractor may apply a sudden, controlled force to your joints, pushing them beyond their normal range of motion. This can cause the joints to crack or pop audibly back into place. Chiropractic treatments are not usually painful and often provide immediate relief from symptoms. 
Chiropractors are safe as long as they are licensed practitioners. The chances of experiencing side effects or complications are higher if you are treated by a person who isn’t trained and licensed, such as an assistant or technician in a chiropractor’s office.
“The best chiropractors are the ones who know their capabilities and understand their limitations and do not try to overstep them. However, they do have good knowledge of the musculoskeletal system and can provide relief – sometimes short term, sometimes longer – to patients,” says Iafrate. 
A small 2018 study involving US military personnel with back pain found that compared to those who only received medical care, those who received chiropractic care in addition to medical care for six weeks reported:
However, some may experience mild side effects such as muscle stiffness or pain after a chiropractic visit. These symptoms should resolve in a few days, as your muscles adjust to the corrected alignment.
Yet, some people do experience serious complications from chiropractic care. Although extremely rare, complications include:
According to a 2017 study, having other pre-existing conditions increases your risk of developing complications from chiropractic care. Therefore, you should not be adjusted by a chiropractor if you have:
Chiropractors specialize in the treatment of muscles, joints, bones, and tissues. 
While they are not medical doctors, licensed chiropractors go through extensive training that can last almost a decade. Therefore, the average healthy adult can safely seek treatment from a chiropractor for pain in their back, neck, and joints. 
But, if you suspect your pain is due to an underlying condition like osteoporosis or bone abnormalities, seek advice from an MD or DO first. 

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