Since the dawn of civilization there has always been a necessity for individuals to require some method of assistance to aid with their overall health and wellbeing. Some forms of this assistance were: providing support devices for injuries sustained during the hunt, assisting women with difficult childbirths, offering herbal remedies for sickness and disease, and a variety of other non-traditional cures to aid those in need. Of course, those same necessities exist today and our society has evolved to level that can provide that assistance to almost anyone, anywhere. In the beginning, the people that provided this care were known as shamans, or medicine men/women. Today this vital group of individuals has become the vast group of medical professionals capable of administering healthcare and services all around the globe. In the past it may have been essential for one person to possess the ability to heal or assist with every different form of ailment while today we are able to divide these professionals into a wide range of different specializations and fields. One of the fields that evolved over the years is the study of chiropractic care. These doctors, known as chiropractors, help to serve the society by providing assistance with pain and ailments associated with the back, neck, and more specifically spine. This paper will discuss the field of chiropractic care including: history of the profession, education requirements, working conditions, employment opportunities, and typical salaries. It will also explain the individual characteristics that might drive a person into this fast growing career field as well as the potential “pros” and “cons” associated with the job.
According to Brown and Hayes (1998), chiropractors diagnose and treat health problems of muscles and skeletal system usually focusing on manipulating the spine to improve the nervous system and overall health (p. 56). Most patients seek out chiropractors for issues of back pain and associated discomfort. These physicians utilize a variety of different methods that do not include surgery or medicine to help with the treatment plan. The most common method of treatment is the use of different types of therapy to improve health. Some of the forms of therapy include: realignment, water, temperature, light, massage, acupuncture, and electro current.
As stated by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) (2011) the origins of chiropractic care date back to 2700 B.C. from the writings of both Chinese and Greek civilizations (para. 1). In modern times, the practice of spinal manipulation can be traced to the professions American pioneer Daniel David Palmer. Palmer founded the chiropractic profession in Davenport, Iowa where he established the Palmer School of Chiropractic which is still a very prominent school of chiropractic care to this day (ACA, 2011, para. 2). According to the World Chiropractic Alliance (WCA) (2010) Palmer first became interested in the notion of spinal re-aliment as a method of healing other ailments after an encounter in 1895 with an older man that had become deaf after dislodging one of the vertebras in his back (para. 10) . The man explained to him that he lost his hearing at the same moment that he was bent over and heard a popping sound and sharp pain in his back. After examining the man’s spine, Palmer realized that one of his vertebra was not in the proper place. He deduced that the two occurrences must be connected and he racked the man’s back into proper aliment and his hearing returned. The discovery that Palmer made fueled his desire to establish the principals that are still utilized today. After the introduction of the practices and procedures performed by Palmer, the profession gained notoriety and acceptance across the entire country. It became obvious that the methods could be an extremely beneficial addition to the normal human body healing process and decrease the possibilities of health concerns for years to come. Studies were conducted to weigh the cost-effectiveness and benefit of the inclusion of chiropractic manipulation and the results were astoundingly in favor of this care in conjunction with existing practices. The principles that chiropractic care utilizes do not include the use of medicine or surgery and are considered relatively non-invasive. The methods can contribute to a healthy lifestyle and prevent medical complications from arising as the human body ages.
The ACA (2011) mentions that, “A continuing dedication to chiropractic research could lead to even more discoveries in preventing and combating maladies in future years” (para. 4). Every state now has a wide variety of schools dedicated to chiropractic studies and it has become an established and well respected profession within the medical career field. Inventive methods have been employed to alleviate the pain associated with spinal dis-aliment and a variety of forms of therapy are currently accepted as effective. The profession has advanced tremendously over the years; however, the same basic principles remain. The fundamental job of the chiropractor is to correct vertebral displacement to alleviate nerve interference and improve overall health.
In order to obtain the qualifications to become a chiropractor a person must complete an undergraduate degree program of either 2 or 4 years and then must complete a 4-5 year program specifically for chiropractic education. As mentioned by the ACA (2011) “the complete curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience” (para. 5). A large portion of the study is dedicated to learning about adjustment techniques and spinal analysis. After these standards are met, the student must pass both national and state board exams to ensure an adequate level of proficiency has been obtained. Once the exams are completed they must then receive a license specific to the region or state that they wish to practice. After obtaining the proper licensure it is mandatory for these physicians to maintain proficiency and continue their education on new topics and procedures within the career field. The specific requirements vary based on location; however, the physician will typically need to be re-certified or obtain licensure annually to continue practicing. The goal of the chiropractic curriculum is to develop a critical and in depth understanding of human anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology. The critical understanding provided by these programs enables the student to diagnose and treat people with aliments. This is a key difference from non-physician status professions such as physical therapists. There are several excellent schools that offer chiropractic care in the US and most offer flexible schedules that can meet the demands of each person. The program also requires students to participate in residency education that includes hands on training experience at a practicing chiropractic institution.
Pursuing a degree of Chiropractor care can be a lucrative endeavor both financially and personally. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2010) reports the median annual wages of chiropractors was $66,490 (Earnings). Even though the salary is substantial, the necessity for more professionals in this field continues to increase. Smith and Carber (2001), point out that eighty-eight percent of the respondent chiropractors reported providing care to patients from counties designated as having an extreme shortage of chiropractic professionals (p. 3). Job opportunities in the field are projected to rise by 20% over the next 7 years (BLS, 2010, projection data). The chances of employment for this career field have been steadily increasing in large part due to the increasing age and subsequent aliments of the baby-boomer generation. There is a growing need for chiropractors in hospitals in every state in America. A well-qualified physician should have little trouble finding job placement at any major facility where they choose to call home. Despite the need for this position in most major hospitals, the majority of chiropractors choose to practice independently or within a small group of professionals establishing a private firm. Chiropractors are very necessary for the members of society with back pain, athletes, and older individuals. Riva J, et al. (2010) mention that a chiropractor’s ability to provide a primary or secondary musculoskeletal diagnosis gives them an opportunity to offer an additive approach to patient care within collaborative groups (p. 3). This statement points out that chiropractic medicine, while vital, is only one aspect of a recovery team. In most scenarios the procedures of a chiropractor begin after a formal consult request has been made by a primary care physician. Both physicians work hand in hand to achieve a successful recovery or improvement in overall quality of health. A chiropractor does not prescribe medicine; however, they may infer that it would be beneficial in some cases. If the chiropractor determines that the patient will require some form of medication they can refer them to a licensed physician to have it prescribed. Chiropractors typically have a good working relationship with other local physicians and it is often possible that they can establish a partnership together to collaborate efforts for the process of treating patients.
A person that wishes to pursue this career should have a fundamental desire to help people with their overall physical health. Chiropractors encourage a healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, exercise, and proper rest. The individual should enjoy interacting with people and have no trouble with physical contact. The work involves meeting with patients and therefore requires a pleasant demeanor and bedside manner. It is also often preferred over other medical professions because they usually work regular hours. Other professions may have to deal with on-call duty or long nightshifts and chiropractors typically do not. Another positive aspect in relation to other health care professionals is that chiropractors typically have lower malpractice insurance rates. This can in effect lower the cost of operating a private chiropractor firm. Although it is a fast growing and popular field to follow there are still some negative aspects to consider. The job sometimes requires long hours on the feet and a considerable amount of physical effort. A person pursuing this goal is going to need to be self-motivated and driven. Chiropractors need to be able to juggle many projects at the same time. They also have to be able to make public presentations, relate to people, and be able to communicate their passion for chiropractic. The success of a chiropractic practice lies in their ability to self-promote. This is a very “hands on” career field that provides a great deal of job satisfaction and can provide a lucrative salary. The profession has become an important and well respected alternative to pharmaceutical methods and the size of the career field is expanding rapidly.
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