Pros / Chiropractic work is a growing field providing back and neck pain relief.

Cons / Many chiropractors must run their own business including marketing efforts.

 Verdict / Chiropractors are an alternative medical career that's gaining popularity.

Editor’s Note: This career has been removed from viewing as part of this site because it has been included in the Advanced Careers in Medicine Review site. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this version of the review.

The chiropractic profession is unique among medical careers because it is considered alternative medicine. Only special schools offer the doctoral level programs; however, chiropractors study many of the same subjects as medical doctors, such as anatomy, physiology, neurology, orthopedics and geriatrics.

A visit to the offices of chiropractors has a similar feel to that of visiting a medical doctor. They begin by taking a patient's medical history and then perform a number of orthopedic or neurological examinations. They often order x-rays of the spine or another injured part of the body.

As part of a treatment plan, chiropractors adjust the spine to help relieve pressure on the nervous system and the muscles that support the spine. You will also work with other skeletal systems such as the ribs or hips. Treatments are generally scheduled more frequently at the beginning of a treatment plan and then taper off as a patient begins to heal. Some patients may only need a handful of visits, while others experience benefits from periodic visits over a number of years.

Individuals in this profession do not prescribe medication or perform surgery. They use massage or electrotherapy to relax a patient's back muscles before or after an adjustment, and they may also apply heat or ice. They will often give patients stretches or exercises they can do at home to help with the healing process, and they will also advise on such things as good nutrition, physical fitness and good ergonomics at home and work.

Common conditions that this practice helps to address are back or posture problems, disc problems, neck pain or whiplash injuries, scoliosis, sciatica, headaches, hip problems, knee problems, fibromyalgia and carpal tunnel syndrome.

This practice stems from the belief that proper alignment of the spine will better support the nervous system, which will help to improve the overall health of an individual. Different than mainstream medicine, individuals in this profession and their patients believe there is a relationship between musculoskeletal structures and functions of the body. They believe in the concept of innate intelligence, a force in every living creature that is responsible for the organization, maintenance and healing functions of the body.

Some individuals in this profession specialize in either a particular population, such as pediatrics or geriatrics, or in a certain discipline such as sport injuries, neurology or orthopedics. The field of pediatrics is becoming popular because of the gentleness of the procedure on children. Generally, this practice has become more popular as people have sought treatment methods for chronic pain that do not involve taking medication. In addition, many insurance plans now cover treatments such as these.

Forty-four percent of chiropractors have independent practices, and many are in smaller communities throughout the United States. Running an independent practice involves the development of additional skill sets such as hiring and supervising a small staff, managing client accounts and marketing to build a clientele.

Salary

The starting salary for chiropractors averages $39,575 annually, although it depends a lot on the size of your clientele. Your starting salary will depend on whether you start your own practice, purchase the practice of a retiring chiropractor, join a partnership or become an employee within a larger practice. The salary for this profession peaks at $150,570 annually. Medical insurance and other benefits may or may not be available.

Education and Opportunities

Presently, 49,100 chiropractors practice in the United States, and the profession is expected to grow 20 percent in the next 10 years as alternative medicine continues to become more mainstream. Bakersfield, CA; Prescott, AZ; and Boulder, CO have the highest concentration of individuals in this profession.

Workplace Opportunities

Education is the key to obtaining the qualifications for a chiropractor. Make sure the program you enroll in is accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education. Licensure is issued when you pass a four-part test administered by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, and most states require you to complete continuing education credits to renew your license.

Advancement in this profession is often determined by the size of your clientele. The price you charge clients needs to stay affordable, so it is the number of appointments you bill for on a weekly basis that often determines your income.

Work Environment
Chiropractors generally offer appointments to clients during the day, early evening, and sometimes on Saturdays. You may work in a team environment with other chiropractors, but more commonly, you'll work on your own. Often you will consult with a patient's primary care physician or orthopedic doctor.

You should be able to establish a rapport with clients that is professional but friendly. Clients will return frequently when they feel they are in a safe, nurturing environment.

Physical Requirements
Chiropractors learn proper lifting techniques to use when adjusting patients to prevent injury. The techniques require agility and adequate strength, although you don't have to be exceptionally strong.

Chiropractors often wear a uniform such as a white coat. Others wear business attire. When conducting x-rays, you should wear protective gear to shield you from low levels of radiation which can be harmful after repeated exposure.

Basic Office Skills Required
You will likely use medical database software to maintain patient accounts. Be familiar with other common office software such as MS Word, Excel and Outlook. Spelling, grammar and punctuation skills, as well as typing, data entry and 10-key skills will assist you in maintaining patient accounts and in preparing email correspondence. Verbal communication, including phone skills, is essential in this profession.

Summary
Chiropractors are among unique medical jobs that involve the development of special skill sets. The profession also has a number of business components, especially if you open your own practice. Although seen as alternative medicine, chiropractic work has helped to significantly improve patients' health and well being.

Summary

A Chiropractor's Typical Work Day

Kevin just got hired as a chiropractor at a medium-sized clinic in a suburban community. He recently completed his doctoral level education, including an internship at a solo practice in his home town. He is excited to work with other individuals in medical careers like his as he develops his practice.

Although chiropractic is considered an alternative form of medicine, Kevin became a believer in its effectiveness after he suffered a whiplash injury in a car accident just after completing his bachelor's degree. His doctor recommended that he see a chiropractor.

When Kevin saw his chiropractor the first time, he asked him where he was experiencing pain. The doctor then took x-rays of his spine, which revealed an irregular curvature in his neck. His lower back was also affected from the injury. The doctor had Kevin come to the clinic three times a week for the first month of his treatment, when he massaged the muscles in his neck and adjusted his spine with a series of cracks. The doctor then placed electrodes on his upper back that sent gentle pulses through his muscles which helped to relax and balance them.

Kevin was a little nervous the first time his doctor adjusted his back, but he knew the doctor could tell what he was doing. As the patient, Kevin had to learn how to relax and let the doctor do all the work. Now as a chiropractor himself, Kevin makes an effort to put patients at ease and to explain what they can expect. He takes the time to get to know his patients and to see how they are doing.

Emotional stress often plays a role in tension that patients hold in their neck and shoulders. Although he is not a behavioral therapist, he knows that just being a listening ear is helpful to patients in their mental well-being, as well as their physical. Kevin esteems the chiropractor he mentored under, who happens to be the same doctor who treated him for his whiplash injury. He really cares about his patients and treats them like family.

Kevin received his license through his state's Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Even though he has graduated, Kevin will continue to enroll in coursework on a part-time basis throughout his career to keep him up to speed about new developments. In recent years, there has been an increase in emphasis on continuing education in the industry. Kevin hopes the environment will give him the opportunity to publish papers in professional journals.

Kevin has always been an athletic person, and he enjoys being a chiropractor because of its athletic components. But he is also very detail-oriented, and he has the ability to visualize the end goal as he develops treatment plans. He knows that his work is affective in patients, that they experience lasting relief as their muscles heal and their bones realign over time. Medical jobs like his, although considered as alternative medicine, are recognized by many mainstream medical professionals as effective treatment programs, especially in conjunction with other medical treatments.