This is a question that generates irritation and anger from chiropractors, traditional medicine physicians and patients who all have differing opinions. On the one hand individuals who go through a tract of education that nets them an MD after their names are very protective of the term “doctor”. But on the other hand that terminology is also given to anyone who achieves the educational benchmark of PhD.
The definition of doctor is: a person licensed to practice medicine, as a physician, surgeon, dentist or veterinarian. So the next question when determining if a chiropractor is a real doctor is – what is the definition of medicine? If the definition of doctor is person licensed to practice medicine then what is ‘medicine’? Psychiatrists are considered doctors, are called doctors and most lay people consider them to be doctors – but do they practice medicine?
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary ‘medicine’ is the science and art dealing with the maintenance of health and the prevention, alleviation or cure of disease OR the branch of medicine concerned with the nonsurgical treatment of disease.
Using both definitions then chiropractors are, by definition, real doctors. They go through rigorous training to help prevent, alleviate or cure disease and injury and they work with non-surgical techniques.
However, the real question isn’t if the profession meets the standards of definition but whether or not the average person considers the chiropractor a real doctor. Unfortunately, the general public has been led to believe by traditional western medical practitioners and the pharmaceutical industry that the only ‘real’ doctors are those who graduate from a traditional medical program, pass their board certification and dispense pharmaceutical drugs.
Now, while passing the board examinations is an excellent criteria to determine if the physician who is intending to treat an individual has reached a level of education and knowledge that would be expected, it isn’t a method of determining if a person has knowledge in other areas that may also be beneficial. Just as you wouldn’t seek the advice of a dermatologist (doctor specializing in the treatment of the skin) to deliver your baby, nor should you seek the advice of a chiropractor when you have a tumor growing on your leg.
The question also remains if chiropractors are real doctors or just quacks passing themselves off as health practitioners. Unfortunately there are those health practitioners in every field who are unfit to practice or are entirely unethical. You can find those types in traditional western medicine, Chinese medicine, chiropractic medicine, physical therapy, social work, psychiatry and the list goes on. There are, and always will be, people who take the easy way out and practice their art in a way that is more harmful to their patients than helpful.
The real choice lies with the individual who wishes to seek the advice and care of a chiropractor. As in any other field or profession, before seeking advice an individual should get referrals, look for red flags about the professional’s practice and take a consultation to meet and greet the professional.
Spine Universe: What Should You Look for in a Chiropractor