Debunking 5 Misconceptions about Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care often gets a bad rap. They are often seen as not real doctors, associated with pain, dangerous medical procedures, or even seen as “witch doctors” in old myths or current stigmas. While these theories come from a place of ignorance, it’s important to know why the misconceptions exist in order to properly debunk them.

But it’s safe to go ahead and say it: your chiropractor in Wheat Ridge,, is not a witch doctor. If he is, he does that on his own time. There are currently nearly 36,000 chiropractors employed in the United States in 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For reference, there are 33,620 active pediatricians in the U.S. It’s a bona fide and legitimate practice, though its practitioners still work to break down misconceptions and educate the public on what chiropractic care entails.

What Does Chiropractic Care Entail?

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health defines chiropractic as “a licensed health care profession that emphasizes the body’s ability to heal itself. Treatment typically involves manual therapy, often including spinal manipulation. Other forms of treatment, such as exercise and nutritional counseling, may be used as well.”

Usually, patients see chiropractors for:

  • Lower or other back pain
  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Injury recovery
  • Post-accident treatment
  • Athletic wear and tear
  • Chronic pain

Why Are There Stigmas Around Chiropractic Care?

In the 1940s, a collection of conservative physicians — members of the American Medical Association (AMA) — publically flamed and tried to ultimately end the practice, in an attempt to label chiropractors as uneducated or unscientific. This stigma was perpetuated throughout the 20th century until the 1980s when a lawsuit found the AMA guilty of conspiracy against the practice.

Below we break down the five most common misconceptions about chiropractic care.

1.  Chiropractors and physicians in the field are mistrusted by other doctors

This myth was largely perpetuated because of reasons listed above by the AMA, but the reality couldn’t be more on the contrary. As the practice has been more accepted in the last 50 years, more and more medical journals about chiropractic care have emerged, shedding light on tangible results patients have credited to the practice.

Today, many hospitals have chiropractic physicians on staff at the ready, and for chronic pain and recovering patients, chiropractic is generally recommended as a non-invasive, safe procedure to find relief.

2.  Chiropractic Physicians Aren’t Real Doctors

The language of this myth lends to its unclarity. While chiropractors attend graduate-level courses for years to treat disorders in bones, muscles, joints, nerves and ligaments, they do not graduate as medical doctors.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t real doctors. In fact, most aspiring chiropractors go through eight years of college-level coursework before eventually earning their Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) So while they aren’t technically medical doctors, they have doctorate degrees after years of higher education. After receiving their certification, chiropractors need to attain a state license to practice anywhere in the United States.

According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), “chiropractors are educated in nationally accredited, four-year doctoral graduate school programs through a curriculum that includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical internship, with the average DC program equivalent in classroom hours to allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medical schools.”

3.  Chiropractic Care Is Dangerous

Cue the shots of people’s necks being cracked and twisted in every which way. While this visual is unsettling, chiropractic physicians don’t just go in there willy-nilly. The idea that chiropractic care is largely risky or dangerous is simply false.

As one of the least invasive, least drug-dependent practices in the medical community, chiropractic is largely heralded for its safety and effectiveness. It’s a natural alternative to medicines like steroids and painkillers and surgery — all of which are linked to complicated risks and complications.

Fun fact: While all doctors are required to pay for malpractice insurance, including chiropractic physicians, medical doctors outside chiropractic actually pay much higher rates of insurance due to the more common nature of malpractice in their field versus chiropractic care.

Individuals with certain conditions are advised not to use chiropractic care according to the World Health Association, including:

4.  Chiropractic Care is Painful

As with any medical procedure, treatment, or rehabilitation, there is always the risk of mild discomfort or pain from the appointment. However, chiropractic care’s arguably best calling card is its reputation as a pain reliever.

Though the treatment options in chiropractic can range from simple stretching, to applying pressure to joints or muscles, to specific spinal realignments and adjustments, this misconception springs from the very hands-on nature of chiropractic care. Rather than using technology or surgery tools, a chiropractor uses their own two hands to manipulate a patient’s body. This can be unfamiliar and unsettling.

Roughly 22 million Americans visit chiropractors each year, and about 7.7 million (35 percent) are seeking treatment for back pain from various causes. In addition to providing back pain relief, the goals of the treatment aim to improve or restore function and prevent future injury also. According to the ACA, Three of four people who saw a chiropractor in the last year described chiropractic care as “very effective.”

5.  Once I Begin Chiropractic Care, I Won’t Be Able To Stop

Many believe chiropractors will string them along for a series of treatments rather than getting their issue resolved in one procedure at a different doctor’s office or hospital.

Depending on a patient’s medical or injury history or situation, many chiropractors will recommend a check-up every 1-3 months to maintain a healthy lifestyle or recovery schedule, though it’s necessary to see your chiropractor after an issue has been resolved. To avoid this concern, most chiropractors are upfront in the initial consultation about how long your specific recovery process will be. Like other doctors, often multiple treatments are required to complete the healing process, but it’s not a lifetime commitment.