Becoming a Doctor of Chiropractic

Becoming a Doctor of Chiropractic

by Sherry McAllister, DC, executive vice president, Foundation for Chiropractic Progress

Maybe you’re interested in becoming a doctor of chiropractic (DC). Maybe you’re wondering what kind of training your own DC has been through. We can help with some details.

When you go to your chiropractor for care, you’re seeing a practitioner with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. They receive this degree from a nationally accredited chiropractic school. Many chiropractic programs require an undergraduate degree for entry, but that can vary from school to school. At minimum, 90 hours of college coursework prerequisites are necessary before entering a chiropractic school. Most applicants already possess a B.S. degree.

While enrolled in the program, students will take courses similar to those attending medical school. Anatomy, physiology, pathology, biology, chemistry are part of the curriculum, as well as nutrition, rehabilitation and public health. A large portion of their schooling is spent in clinical training, giving them countless hours of experience with patient care before even graduating. When combined, time in clinical training, classroom settings and lab experiences totals over 4,200 hours.

Once the program is complete, graduates are required to pass an exam governed by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners. Each state also issues licenses for their practitioners. Maintaining a license is contingent on continued education and training throughout the entire course of a chiropractor’s career.

The training to become a doctor of chiropractic is challenging and stringent. If you’re considering a career in the chiropractic field, you will work hard but be rewarded with a degree that can help people manage their health issues in a drug-free manner. Ask your own chiropractor about their experience! 

A good stretch

A good stretch will do you (and your spine) good

by Sherry McAllister, DC, executive vice president, Foundation for Chiropractic Progress

Chiropractic care is one of the best things that you can do for your body and overall health. Your doctor of chiropractic is interested in helping your body stay in balance through non-invasive measures like spinal adjustments. He or she may offer other advice to help keep you on the right track. Enter dynamic stretching.

There’s something about maintaining a regular stretching routine that goes hand in hand with regular chiropractic care. Here’s why:

Maybe you’re the type who doesn’t stretch at all or maybe you already take 5 minutes for a quick warm-up before a workout. Regardless, it’s time you learned about dynamic stretches, which use more of the body and better prepare muscles and joints.

Static, the opposite, means holding a position for a period of time with lesser challenge to the body. These stretches can actually inhibit the muscles’ firing ability during exercise. Think of the kinds of stretches you learned in gym class growing up.

Dynamic stretches are controlled movements that warm up your body gently. These do not involve jerky motions but rather smooth swinging moves using momentum to increase range of motion. Picture a swimmer behind the blocks, getting ready for a race. She circles her arms around in different directions then pulls one knee at a time to her body. Or think of a runner lunging from side to side and then swinging his legs forward and back. These are all great dynamic stretching examples. There are lots of other routines to more effectively get your entire body ready for physical activity.

Most people stretch to warm up or to ready their muscles. But while static stretching may loosen your muscles to an extent, they aren’t actually warmed and ready to go. A more dynamic stretch can target specific areas of the body, depending on the muscles that are used. By getting your body ready for the task ahead, your range of motion will be improved, which in turn gives you a better quality workout. The muscles as well as joints are warmed and prepared, reducing risk of injury and increasing overall flexibility.


Ask your doctor of chiropractic about dynamic stretching. It’s one of the best things you can do to prepare your body for exercise. Your spine will thank you, too!

Let’s talk feet!

For the most part, our feet happily do their job each day, absorbing pressure five times our body weight as if it were nothing.

We also know when something like an annoying stubbed toe comes up, we realize how much we really do depend on them keeping us mobile. But there is more riding on those durable soles. Our feet – and even more specifically, the footwear we force them into – affect the all-important posture that keeps us pain-free. (And we’re not just talking about pinched toes!)

So if you want to avoid lower back pain – and keep that satisfying sense of well-being after visiting your doctor of chiropractic – you might want to weed these shoes out of your closet.

• Open-back sandals and flip-flops in particular make us feel free, or at least a few steps away from the beach. We are seeing them more often, even in professional settings. But they aren’t doing you any favors! Because they have no structure – think of toes used as little claws to keep them on – you’re forced to use other tendons and muscles to keep you going. And that does not provide the stability to keep you standing tall and free of back pain. Studies prove it; admit it and scrap the strappy footwear.

• You know high heels are taboo. When the heels are two inches or higher, you are pitched forward, affecting the spine, hips, knees, ankles and feet. Even worse, if you are a chronic wearer, reversing the damage isn’t as easy as changing your shoes. Your calf muscles become cramped and bulge as they adjust to keeping your body in balance. Don’t head down that slippery slope.

• And the answer isn’t flats. Again, a flat shoe offers no arch support, leading to a whole new set of woes. Anything that forces you to adjust your gait to stay in balance is going to affect your posture … and eventually your back.

• Been there already? Pitch the worn shoes that slip you into that familiar gait. It is time to give your feet some TLC with features that pamper your posture.

• So where does that leave us? They exist, but it is going to take time to adjust. Look for shoes that fit well with room for your toes. You want good arch support and an inclined sole. And be sure to do some stretching exercises, undoing the damage already done.

Your back will thank you, your feet will throw a party and you will make your doctor of chiropractic very happy. And, as always, the others are fine in moderation, like a special night out. But just watch how quickly you are ready to get out of them at the end of the night. That says it all!

Fighting cabin fever

Fighting cabin fever

We’re in the home stretch now, the holiday is behind us as we work our way through the remnants of winter. Just thinking about seeing those first crocuses poking through the ground warms the heart.

But chances are most of us aren’t thinking about spring right now. We’re locked in a bad case of cabin fever. There is a reason why February, only 28 days long unless Leap Year adds one, feels like it will never end.

Compounding things is the natural letdown that follows weeks of festivities. Is it any wonder we feel like crawling under a rock until the sun comes back out? There is even a name for it – seasonal affective disorder – for those hit the hardest.

Fortunately, as your doctor of chiropractic can tell you, there are ways to turn it around, though it will mean fighting the season’s natural inclinations. No more coming home from eight hours behind the desk to spend the next five wrapped in a blanket in front of the television. It will be well worth the effort!

Stay active

The outcome of a sedentary lifestyle is well-documented, affecting everything from mobility and balance to risk of depression. What many don’t realize is that it doesn’t take daily trips to the gym to change things around. Start by setting a timer at work and taking a few minutes each hour to walk around. In the morning or later in the day, look up the myriad of stretching routines online and get things moving. Soon, you may find yourself naturally taking the stairs, getting out more and maybe even heading for the gym. Bring on the endorphins!

Eat smart

Adding more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet – and removing inflammatory ones like sugar and processed foods – is good for easing the joint pain that normally comes with colder temperatures. But a recent study showed that it can also decrease your risk of depression by 30 percent. That Mediterranean spread is starting to look tastier, isn’t it?

Try a change of scenery

Cruising around the Bahamas right now would probably cheer anyone up. But any change in routine can freshen your day. Take a new route to work. Plan a weekend getaway, checking into a hotel with a pool, hot tub and complimentary breakfast. Take the kids to an escape room and spend an hour trying to break free. Maybe you’ll learn something in the process!

Visit your doctor of chiropractic

A body in balance equips you to make the most of your lifestyle changes. And staying active, eating better and getting a good night’s sleep helps your body stay in alignment, making it a win-win situation all around. An added bonus: Your doctor of chiropractic is trained in all of the above and can come up with a plan that works for you.

And consider this: You are going to be in great shape to enjoy spring when it finally gets here!

Oh my aching back

Oh, my aching back!

While people are discovering the many ways chiropractic care enhances well-being, doctors of chiropractic are commonly associated with a sore back. It doesn’t matter that modern chiropractic was born in 1895 when D.D. Palmer restored a janitor’s hearing with a spinal adjustment.

Back pain, and low back pain in particular, soon stole the stage with its effectiveness in relieving the often-crippling symptoms. With good reason, it seems. In the past year alone, according to the 2018 Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic study, “Managing Neck and Back Pain in America,” 25 percent of Americans sought professional health-care in treating their neck and back pain. And nearly two-thirds of us will experience severe enough pain to seek care in our lifetimes.

That is why the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress has designated low back pain as its focus in December. It is an issue escalated by the opioid epidemic as people want options to the prescription painkillers that often lead to addiction, abuse and overdose. Multidisciplinary health care is emerging, with medical organizations such as the American College of Physicians encouraging people to try chiropractic care before taking opioids or considering surgery. Americans have strong opinions of their own as well, as seen in the recent Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic study.

One in four – 28 percent – prefer drug- and surgery-free treatment, though eight out of 10 – 79 percent – want options. And one in five of those with significant back and neck pain take prescription painkillers. Medical physicians and doctors of chiropractic are the top choices – 62 and 53 percent, respectively – the latter chosen because they provided the most effective treatment, the study said.

Americans’ trust is well placed. According to a 2018 study of active-duty military personnel, participants experienced fewer back problems when treated with chiropractic and medical care. As Christine Goetz, who led the research, has noted, “This study provided the strongest evidence to date that chiropractic is safe, that it’s effective and that it can be integrated into a multidisciplinary health care setting.”

Americans also try to deal with pain on their own, applying heat or ice, practicing yoga, getting a massage or using over-the-counter pain relievers, which can also be risky when overused.

And there are effective actions you can take to complement your chiropractic care:

• Make lifestyle changes now that prevent back and neck pain. Good posture is a good place to start. Avoid becoming sedentary—breaking away from the desk for stretches and regular exercise. Drink plenty of water, and while you are at it, watch what you eat as well. Your doctor of chiropractic can suggest additional measures you can take specific to your situation.

• Seek treatment at the first sign of back pain. Watch for stiffness or decreased range of motion in the neck, a knot in the back muscle, loss of bladder or bowel control, loss of balance or coordination, muscle weakness or numbness and tingling in your extremities. While they may not seem related to the back, they often originate from the spine … your doctor of chiropractic’s area of expertise!

• Keep your healthcare professionals informed on what you are experiencing and what other treatments or prescriptions you are receiving. We are at the crossroads in addressing an issue dating back to the beginning of time. And recent studies – along with dialogues scheduled own the road – indicate that we are on the same page in pursuing relief.

woman with back pain

Barriers to Care: Opioids Are Cheap and Easy

Barriers to Care: Opioids Are Cheap and Easy
New research on coverage policies confirm what my patients and I have known for years

By Sherry McAllister, DC

A recent study published in JAMA Open Network seems to confirm what I and my patients have known for years: health insurers are steering their members toward pharmacological, often opioid-based, management for chronic pain.

The study, “Coverage of Nonpharmacologic Treatments for Low Back Pain Among U.S. Public and Private Insurers,” shows that payer-imposed barriers to care such as $60 copays, visit limits and onerous medical necessity determinations, are disincentivizing their members away from   nonpharmacologic care, even though the care is widely covered. This is despite the substantial evidence supporting the effectiveness of chiropractic care and physical and occupational therapy for chronic pain. Meanwhile, according to an associated commentary in the publication, Christine M. Goertz, DC, Ph.D. and Steven Z. George, PT, Ph.D., cite research that the preferred generic opioid prescriptions cost members only $10 a month.

To that avail, I have a patient with chronic uncomplicated low back pain who finds great relief with chiropractic. Unfortunately, this patient can only receive care if all the allotted paperwork, authorization and deductible has been met. Problematic is that this patient typically needs one treatment every few months to contain her discomfort. This makes managing chronic pain extremely difficult, as many insurance companies allocate payments based on an acute phase patient, ultimately leaving the patient and doctor frustrated by the paperwork and high out-of-pocket costs. This is just one example of many I could share regarding the hurdles both parties are facing.

In light of the nation’s opioid epidemic, as recommended by the CDC, FDA and IOM, nonpharmacological clinical pathways need to be the first-line approach for chronic pain. However, study lead author James Heyward, MPH, a research data analyst at the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, finds little collaboration within these health plans to prioritize evidence-based, nonpharmacologic care protocols after interviewing 43 medical and pharmacy health plan executives.

From the study:

“Overall, informants indicated a low level of integration between coverage decision making for nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic therapies, such as through the use of step therapy requirements that encourage use of physical therapy before initiation of long-acting or extended-release opioids.”

In my own practice, I have found that many of my patients’ primary care physicians opt for pharmacologic care options as a first choice to manage pain rather than a nonpharmacological approach simply because they are not familiar with the options. One of my patients mentioned that her primary care physician knew very little about chiropractic and instead gave her a number of reasons why taking a medication would be just as good of a choice to manage pain instead of opting for a drug-free approach. The primary care physician went as far as to say that my patient could just simply come back in when she needed a refill. If the primary care provider lacks the understanding, then the patient cannot be fully informed of the safe, effective, drug-free options that are available, which perpetuates the barriers to care and further fuels the reliance on prescription medications.

Steps to reverse the trend

While there are multiple drivers behind the country’s opioid public health crisis, this study indicates that health plans can take steps to help reverse the course. They include:

1.Copay reduction for evidence-based and effective interventions such as chiropractic care and physical and occupational therapy

2.Decrease unnecessary administrative obstacles such as medical necessity reviews for conservative, cost-effective care

3.Reconsider limitations on number of visits to encourage members to make such care part of their long-term, chronic pain management strategy, preventing the need for pharmacologic interventions

4.Increase collaboration and coordination between medical and pharmacy health plan leaders to help incentivize members to pursue nonpharmacologic interventions for chronic pain

5.The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should seek input from the entire spectrum of healthcare providers and professionals, including doctors of chiropractic and physical and occupational therapists, as they design policies and guidelines for the newly passed “Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act

The bottom line is patients deserve and desire drug-free clinical pathways. A recent Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic survey report showed 79 percent of Americans want to explore all nonpharmacological treatments for pain before considering an opioid. It is up to all stakeholders, including physicians and health plans, to help remove barriers to evidence-based, effective and preferred therapies for chronic pain.

About the author:

Sherry McAllister, DC, is executive vice president of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress and Foundation for Chiropractic Education. A not-for-profit organization, Foundation for Chiropractic Education (501c3) and the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress (501c6) provide information and education regarding the value of chiropractic care and its role in drug-free pain management


In a society where we’ve so long approached our health from the medical perspective of diagnosing a problem and treating it, drug- and surgery-free chiropractic care’s approach of enabling the body to operate at its maximum is a unique concept.

But when you look at chiropractic care from that angle, not waiting until low back pain or tech neck sends you to the doctor of chiropractic for relief but proactively strengthening your body’s neuro-musculoskeletal system before issues arise, you climb to a new level of well-being. And that is why the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress recognizes October as Optimizing Health the Chiropractic Way Month.

While medical care will always play an important role in your health, ideally, in working together, your doctor of chiropractic and primary care physician will strike a balance that reduces your need for reactive treatment. Sound utopian? Numerous studies show that those receiving chiropractic care use fewer pharmaceuticals, spend less time in the hospital and live independently longer.

Even more, with the positive lifestyle changes that doctors of chiropractic incorporate with spinal adjustments, patients report that they feel if their bodies are finally functioning at 100 percent. As one put it, he felt better after his visit with a doctor of chiropractic in places he never knew felt bad!

The reason is simple. Your body’s central nervous system is housed in the spine, where it transfers messages from your brain to muscles and organs throughout your body. But when something is out of alignment, the connection is interrupted, like calling on your cell phone from high in the mountains. The signal might get through but you’re going to spend a lot of time asking, “Can you hear me now?”

By developing a better relationship between structure and function, your doctor of chiropractic’s hands-on therapy triggers your body’s innate capacity to heal itself.

It doesn’t stop there, either. Working hand in hand with your doctor of chiropractic, you can take steps to prevent future problems and optimize the benefits of your recent chiropractic care. Maintain good posture, preventing your spine from slipping back into its familiar misalignment. Get a good night’s sleep, which relieves the stress on your spine and joints and gives your body time to recoup.

Develop an exercise routine, taking time to walk around during the work day and learning to stretch at your desk while anchored to a screen. Talk to your doctor of chiropractic about proper nutrition; it really makes a difference!

And pamper yourself on occasion, whether going in for a massage or taking a little time, with lights down low, to listen to some soft music and restore the soul.

Finally, make an appointment now for an annual check-up with your doctor of chiropractic. Just as your dentist regularly cleans your teeth and looks for cavities, your DC can tell if an adjustment is needed, even before symptoms surface.

Are you optimizing your healthcare options? October is a good place to start … see what chiropractic care can do for you!

September is Drug-Free Pain Management Awareness Month

You might wonder why, with 115 Americans dying every day from opioid overdoses, F4CP even needs to raise awareness about available drug-free pain management. Then, among all the statistics pouring out, comes one pointing out that less than 20 percent of the public consider chronic pain a major health problem.

Chronic pain affects more people than diabetes, cancer and heart disease combined, according to the PAINS Project. While it might be easy to dismiss the overdoses as an urban problem confined to junkies in dark alleys, the truth paints a far different picture. For starters, 80 percent of heroin addicts began with prescription painkillers, reported the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Even more telling, 66 percent of the 63,632 overdose deaths in 2016 involved prescription or illicit opioids. Prince and Tom Petty put a public face to the epidemic, but it reaches much deeper, from those struggling with chronic pain to teens raiding their family’s medicine chest and unborn babies who have no choice in sharing their pregnant mothers’ addictions.

But, as the 2017 Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic annual report discovered, 78 percent of Americans prefer to try other ways of dealing with their chronic pain before filling a prescription. And a growing number of groups, including the American College of Physicians, have called for drug- and surgery-free chiropractic care as a first line defense in fighting back pain.

Statistics, most recently a study involving active-duty military personnel, back up their support. The findings, reported by JAMA in 2018, found that chiropractic care, when added to standard care, brought moderate short-term improvements.

It’s a finding mirrored in other statistics. Ninety-five percent of Americans who sought chiropractic care in the past year said it was effective, according to the 2017 Gallup-Palmer College report, and 97 percent of them said they would see a doctor of chiropractic again if the pain returned.

Then there are public accounts, such as Ret. Army Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris, who was seriously injured in Iraq when his Humvee hit an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Once addicted to his prescription painkillers, he now says his doctor of chiropractic “saved my life.”

How does it relieve the pain? According to Harvard Health, the spinal manipulation relieves the pain and improves the body’s functions, helping it to heal itself. Doctors of chiropractic often include physical activity, nutrition and other lifestyle changes in their treatment plans. And in talking with doctors of chiropractic, we often find that it was their own positive experience in receiving chiropractic care that prompted them to become a DC themselves.

If you see one of our new billboards around the country, you’ll see our simple message that says, “Back pain? See a chiropractor.”

Now you know why.

The Dreaded Crash!

One minute, you’re thinking about how good that Italian sausage you just picked up is going to make your spaghetti dinner taste. The next, a blur of white racing in from the next lane drives any thought of dinner from your mind.

You’re in a crash; police car lights are flashing and first-responders want to know if you’re all right. It’s a dizzying experience as your mind inventories everything that happened and absorbs all that’s changed.

And as surely as you’ll send your vehicle to the shop to assess the damages, think about what you need to make sure you’re OK. If there are injuries, you’ll want to head to the hospital for medical attention. You’ll immediately want to see your doctor of chiropractic, too, even if you don’t notice obvious symptoms.

Ask Jess Caruso, who in a Palmer College of Chiropractic blog discussed the chiropractic care she received to treat the debilitating effects of a crash. She revealed that it was what led to her decision to become a doctor of chiropractic herself. She doesn’t even want to imagine what her life would be like today, she said, if she had continued to rely on prescription drugs for relief.

This is why the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress has designated August as its Personal Injury and Motor Vehicle Accidents Month. Consider these points if you are involved in a personal injury crash:

• With the incredible force involved in a crash, your body takes a real jolt. Even a low-speed fender-bender with a speed change of 2.5 miles can apply intense pressure to your spine, neck, and soft tissues. But the adrenaline of the moment might mask the collision’s effects. By waiting to see your doctor of chiropractic, what might have been averted by a simple adjustment could surface days or weeks later as chronic pain. The earlier you address it, the sooner your body can heal itself, naturally without drugs or surgery.

• For insurance purposes, it is important to document your injuries within three days, whether it is discovering a fractured wrist in the emergency room or neck pain caused by soft tissue injuries, most commonly known as whiplash, by your doctor of chiropractic. When you wait a week or longer to seek help, your case loses credibility as your need for chiropractic care increases.

• If you experience symptoms such as blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, neck stiffness, or pain in the lower back, shoulders, or arms at any time following a crash, immediately see your doctor of chiropractic. Again, the sooner you receive chiropractic care, the better chance you have of avoiding long-term chronic problems.

• The bottom line is that you want to do everything you can to protect your quality of life. Early intervention can decrease the inflammation and scar tissue that threatens your mobility by relieving pain and restoring range of motion. It’s the TLC you give your vehicle without a second thought; why would you think twice about doing the same for this complex mechanism we call the human body?

In the Game

One of the fastest growing branches of chiropractic care has wrapped itself around sports. It comes as no real surprise. For years, professional athletes have embraced its preventative and restorative benefits, to the point of now including doctors of chiropractic on their healthcare crew.

What’s fueling the growth? Celebrity testimonials from the likes of golf great Tiger Woods, tennis legend Venus Williams, and football’s Tom Brady, who said, “As long as I see the chiropractor, I feel like I’m one step ahead of the game.”

But don’t underestimate studies such as the one measuring a markable increase in distance for golfers who received chiropractic care and the word-of-mouth power of those who’ve discovered for themselves the many benefits.

As the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress turns its attention to sports-oriented chiropractic care, our theme for July, here are a few things you might consider:


• Athletes, especially in high-impact sports such as football, hockey, and rugby, take a beating. Even the gentler sports, such as baseball, take their toll with repetitive strain. Many of us wondered how much longer Texas pitcher Nolan Ryan could stay on the mound before he retired at 46. But a doctor of chiropractic, by maintaining flexibility and range of motion, can lessen the risk of injuries and develop a stronger connection between the spine and the nervous system, leading to quicker recovery from minor injuries. The Olympic games is a great example. A doctor of chiropractic accompanied the Aruba team to the 1976 games, the USA team came aboard in 1980 during the winter games in Lake Placid, and in 2010, chiropractic care was fully integrated into treatment of athletes in the polyclinic at the winter games in Vancouver.

• Studies abound on the benefits of chiropractic care when there is a sports-related injury. A 2001 study by Duke University found almost immediate relief of headaches originating from the neck after spinal adjustment. Similar results were found on studies of shoulder and ankle injuries. Better yet, the treatment is drug-free and non-invasive, avoiding risk of addiction to a prescribed opioid painkiller.

• Finally, chiropractic care can enhance your performance. A 2012 study reported in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that a group of national level judo athletes improved their grip strength by 16 percent following three visits to a doctor of chiropractic. And a 1997 report in the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research found that chiropractic care improved muscle strength and distance jumps among baseball players.


Want to stay on top of your game? Put a doctor of chiropractic on your team and see for yourself the difference it makes.