HEALTH Has back pain has gotten you wondering whether to seek relief from a chiropractor or medical doctor? Though each individual patient must ultimately make the decision for himself, fear and apprehension are increased by the sometimes contentious debates between the two professions. Is it a competition with a single victor?
Chiropractors and medical doctors are trained professionals, respectively earning either a DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) or MD (Medical Doctor) degree. Additional degrees may be acquired based on specialty training. Both spend thousands of hours in clinical science and supervised patient management. Medical students have hospital- and community-based practice training.
Chiropractors focus on biomechanical diagnosis of the musculoskeletal system, neuroanatomy, diagnostic x-ray and other imaging disciplines. There is less focus on pharmacology and surgery since this is out of the scope of the chiropractic field.
Due to differences in their training, medical doctors most often rule out serious causes such as tumors or trauma-induced internal organ damage first. Afterwards, a pharmacological resolution is generally prescribed. Drugs addressing symptoms can provide more immediate relief but may mask undiagnosed and uncorrected causes.
A good chiropractor may consider radiology as adjunctive diagnosis but is often most focused on biomechanical alignment of the musculoskeletal system to minimize pain. Treatment of the whole person may involve ruling out environmental contributors in combination with radiology, medical evaluation, chiropractic care, and dietary recommendations.
The important thing is to find a competent health provider that has the patient's interest in mind above all else. This requires patients to actually interview their provider. Ideally, chiropractors and medical doctors value the service provided by the other profession and are willing to work cooperatively, contributing the benefits of their respective training.
See Caribbean Health & Fitness article on pain relief.