Chiropractic is a health care profession that treats disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system and the effects of these disorders on general health. Chiropractic services are used most often to treat neuro-musculoskeletal complaints, including but not limited to back pain, neck pain, pain in the joints of the arms or legs, and headaches. DCs may assess patients through patient history, clinical examination, laboratory testing and diagnostic imaging to determine when chiropractic treatment is or is not appropriate. Chiropractors will readily refer patients to other providers when chiropractic care is not suitable, or when the condition warrants co-management in conjunction with other health care providers.
In many cases, such as lower back pain, chiropractic care may be a patient's primary method of treatment. When other medical conditions exist, chiropractic services may complement or support additional medical treatment by relieving the musculoskeletal aspects associated with the condition.
Like their MD colleagues, doctors of chiropractic are subject to the boundaries established in state practice acts and are regulated by state licensing boards. Their education consists of a four-year doctoral program and is nationally accredited through an agency that operates under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Education. After graduation, they must pass national board exams before obtaining a license to practice, and then must maintain their license annually by earning continuing education (CE) credits through state-approved CE programs.