According to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, chiropractor jobs are expected to grow by 11% over the next 10 years. This growth is considered faster than average and is encouraging for those entering the field. Many experts believe this demand is driven by an aging baby boomer demographic, as well as the public’s growing desire for holistic health care options.
Currently, chiropractors make about $70,000 to $100,000 annually. The highest earners receive up to $200,000, while the lowest are paid around $40,000. Various factors impact this pay range, including location, schooling, certifications and years in the field.
What Does a Chiropractor Do?
Chiropractors are experts on the human musculoskeletal system. By using hands-on spinal manipulation techniques, chiropractors help patients alleviate pain caused by damaged nerves, bones, tendons and muscles. When the human spine is misaligned, it can cause joint stiffness, pain, tingling in the extremities and headaches.
By manually adjusting the joints back into their proper alignment, chiropractors work to restore the body’s natural balance and reduce symptoms. The American College of Physicians recommends this effective and non-invasive treatment as the first care choice for those experiencing chronic lower back pain.
Chiropractor jobs can be very rewarding. Most providers take pride in knowing they can help improve their patients’ quality of life.
Who Can Benefit From Chiropractic Care?
Whether you’re a newborn or an older person, you can probably benefit from a trip to the chiropractor, like the 35 million people in the United States who receive treatment every year, per the American Chiropractic Association. That amounts to about three out of every four people. Of that group, almost 80% consider the treatment to be “very effective.”
Most individuals pursue chiropractic treatment when they’re experiencing pain or discomfort. According to a study by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, almost half of all surveyed patients reported spinal complaints as their primary reason for seeking care. The second most common complaint was discomfort in the arms and legs, followed closely by headaches.
Luckily, chiropractic can offer some relief. In a comparative-effectiveness study conducted by the ACA, 94% of those who received thrust spinal manipulations saw a 30% reduction in their pain levels. In comparison, only 54% of patients who chose a traditional medical treatment reported the same levels of success.
Those Suffering From Back Pain
A recent Centers for Disease Control study found that almost 40% of American adults suffer from back pain. A similar study conducted by the ACA found that chiropractic adjustments improved back pain more than other treatments like massage, prescription medications, pilates and yoga. Chiropractic can also prevent spinal problems from becoming worse, which may decrease the need for surgery.
Chiropractic is so effective in treating back pain that insurance companies are increasingly covering the treatment, although there may still be some out-of-pocket costs. While Medicare Part B covers manual spinal manipulations, it does not cover additional services such as X-rays or massages.
Those Suffering From Headaches
Headaches are a common nervous system disorder that can seriously impact a person’s quality of life. The causes of headaches vary, but chiropractic can be a good treatment option that doesn’t require drugs. Neck adjustments are particularly effective for alleviating headache frequency and severity.
Those Suffering From Addiction
Treating chronic pain is challenging for those struggling with addiction. Since chiropractic pain management doesn’t require medications like opioids, many experts believe it will become an increasingly popular option for addicts.
In addition to pain relief, chiropractic realignment often leaves a patient calm and relaxed — feelings that can help people in drug rehabilitation programs.
Those Suffering From Arthritis
According to the CDC, almost 60 million people have arthritis, a painful condition that affects joints and connective tissues. Unfortunately, that number is expected to grow as the population ages.
Arthritis can be debilitating. In fact, this disease limits the daily functioning of 25 million Americans. In many cases, chiropractic can help to restore mobility to poorly-functioning joints. However, if you have severe arthritis or an inflammatory condition, you may not be the best chiropractic candidate. Your doctor will guide you to the best treatment for your situation.
Those With Fibromyalgia
A complex and somewhat mystifying disorder, fibromyalgia causes musculoskeletal pain, memory problems, sleep disturbances and mood swings. Women are often more susceptible to fibromyalgia, although many men are diagnosed each year, too.
Chiropractic is thought to alleviate certain fibromyalgia symptoms by increasing blood flow around the spine. In addition to providing manual manipulations, a chiropractor may also employ other techniques for fibromyalgia patients, such as flexion-distraction (spinal stretch), activation (spinal impulses) or the Gondstad technique (steady pressure).
Those Uncomfortable With Traditional Approaches
Many patients take comfort in the outpatient nature of chiropractic treatment. Unlike traditional medical care, chiropractic doesn’t require needles and doesn’t cause pain. Therefore, it can be an attractive alternative for those who fear hospitals and mainstream procedures.
Those Seeking Relaxation and Overall Well-Being
According to a National Health Interview Survey study, most chiropractic patients reported improvement with general well-being, energy and concentration after spinal manipulation. Additionally, some participants commented that they enjoyed how chiropractic gave them a “whole body” approach to wellness.
What Are Some Chiropractic Risks?
Although many people benefit from chiropractic, no treatment is 100% risk-free. It’s been found that spinal manipulations can cause mild to moderate complications, especially when the upper spine is adjusted. The most common complications are headaches, temporary loss of consciousness or vertigo.
Rarely, spinal adjustments can cause stroke, a severe (and sometimes life-threatening) complication. Researchers don’t know enough about the relationship between strokes and chiropractic, but research is ongoing.
What Are Essential Daily Duties for Chiropractor Jobs?
Chiropractor jobs are dynamic and exciting. Since many professionals operate as small business owners, chiropractors often wear multiple hats in the office. They spend many hours on their feet and see both new and established patients daily. Some enjoy the flexibility of owning a business and may offer evening and weekend hours to accommodate busy patients.
If you’d rather not own a business, that’s fine, too. Some chiropractor jobs can be found in hospitals, corporate fitness centers, primary care offices and alongside sports teams.
No matter which path you choose, all chiropractors tend to have similar job duties. These primarily include onboarding new patients, taking X-rays, performing spinal manipulations, incorporating other therapies and offering education.
Onboarding New Patients
The initial consultation is often the longest visit of the treatment plan. During this meeting, chiropractors should obtain the patient’s complete medical history. Chiropractic is safe for many conditions, but not all diseases are well suited for it. Those who have osteoporosis, inflammatory arthritis, spinal cord compression issues or cancer may not be the best candidates. Additionally, those taking certain medications (such as blood thinners) generally should not undergo spinal manipulation.
A chiropractor is expected to review each case and determine if chiropractic is the best treatment option. If not, the patient should be referred to another provider.
Taking and Analyzing X-Rays
X-rays are an important tool used in chiropractor jobs. They aren’t always necessary, but when they are, they can often be taken right in the office. If all safety precautions are followed (such as wearing protective vests and ensuring appropriate exposure limits), X-rays can be a safe part of the patient’s treatment plan.
Performing Spinal Manipulations
Hands-on spinal manipulations are considered the heart of chiropractic treatment. Daily living, poor posture and repetitive actions can all strain the human body. By using controlled but sudden force, the chiropractor adjusts joints and re-aligns bones, primarily in the neck and spine.
Using Other Therapies
Chiropractors aren’t limited to manual manipulations when it comes to treatment options. They often use a variety of techniques such as heat therapy, electrotherapy, ultrasound, massage or acupuncture. Other common methods include Gonstead (when the doctor applies steady pressure to the lower back), flexion-distraction (a gentle spinal stretch performed using a special table) and activator (a small tool that sends impulses into the spine).
Some patients experience even better results when spinal adjustments are used in conjunction with these other methods. For this reason, it’s common for chiropractors to work with other wellness professionals such as nutritionists and physical therapists.
Offering Education and Enrichment
A chiropractor should develop a customized treatment plan for each patient. This often includes educating patients about the cause of their pain and how further damage may be prevented in the future. Information about proper lifting, posture and exercise often accompany a chiropractic visit.
Additionally, prior to treatment, chiropractors should educate patients about the potential of any procedure. Chiropractic is generally very safe, but no medical practice is completely without risk.
What Is the Required Education and Training for Chiropractor Jobs?
Chiropractors are well-educated professionals in the medical field. To pursue chiropractor jobs, you’ll need to obtain your Doctor of Chiropractic and become licensed in your state. Although the requirements may change depending on the school, there are several necessary steps to take before a D.C. is awarded.
First, the student must complete a bachelor’s degree with at least 45 semester hours of physical sciences. Next, he or she must complete four years of chiropractic school, which includes a 1-year internship. Finally, the aspiring D.C. must pass the NBCE final examination.
Recommended Undergraduate Studies
Chiropractic students should pursue an undergraduate degree in general science, with an emphasis on courses studying the human body, such as anatomy or exercise science. While a science background provides a solid foundation for chiropractic jobs, no specific majors are required for chiropractic school.
Some relevant undergraduate majors could be:
- Chemistry: the molecular study of energy and matter. Coursework often includes statistics, physics and biochemistry.
- Anatomical science: the study of the human body structure. Coursework includes endocrinology and molecular mechanics.
- Biology: the study of living things. Coursework often includes genetics, ecology and calculus.
- Pharmacology: the study of drug action on the body. Coursework includes organic chemistry, mathematics and biology.
- Histology: the study of animal and plant cells. Coursework may include anatomy, neuroscience and advanced mathematics.
- Physics: the reactive study of energy and matter interactions. Coursework includes thermodynamics, philosophy and engineering.
Most chiropractic schools will expect a 3.0 minimum undergraduate GPA.
Doctor of Chiropractic School
After successfully completing at least three years of undergraduate studies, the aspiring chiropractor may apply to chiropractic school. Unlike medical doctors, chiropractic students aren’t required to take the MCATs prior to applying.
The D.C. program typically takes up to five years to complete but can be done in as few as three. To graduate, you’ll need a minimum of 4,200 instructional hours. If you’re trying to finish your degree quickly or save money on student loans, you could consider enrolling in an expedited program. Some schools offer year-round class schedules and heavier coursework to minimize the number of years spent in school.
Doctor of Chiropractic Coursework
Depending on the school, students can expect to encounter three phases of education: the basic sciences, the chiropractic sciences and the clinical internship.
During the basic science phase, the student will learn about the human body. Specific coursework in physiology, anatomy, chemistry and other sciences will be required. Students may also begin learning hands-on manipulation techniques during this phase.
The next phase involves in-depth coursework regarding the chiropractic sciences. Students will learn more about diseases, including their causes, diagnostic criteria and treatments. Future chiropractors will also be educated on proper patient interaction.
Lastly, chiropractor jobs require the student to complete an internship. This provides critical real-world experience while partnering with an industry professional.
What Is the Future of Chiropractor Jobs?
Chiropractor jobs are in high demand, and this trend will likely continue over the next decade. If you’re looking for an exciting career that can change people’s lives, chiropractic may be a great choice for you. Be sure to visit the FutureSprout website often for more career tips and advice.