The Curriculum

What Do They Teach at Chiropractic College?

Regardless of where you stand on the philosophy of conventional medicine, there is no dispute that medical school represents the pinnacle of academic excellence. I have never met anyone - even the most ardent alternative health proponent -- who did not understand and appreciate that medical school was the gold standard by which all other educational institutions are measured.

But does that prestige extend to chiropractic college?

Same Name Different Course

If you look in a chiropractic college catalog it would appear that the course listings are the same as in a medical school. But this apparently is not accurate. By all accounts, the courses actually taught bear little resemblance to the real thing as these former chiropractors reveal:

The medical portion of a chiropractor's education is a simulation… [8]
… the medical and science courses that ARE listed for chiropractors represent little more than a theatrical prop, like the white jacket and stethoscope needed to "Play a doctor in real (insurance-reimbursable) life." [7]
"A CCE report from their lawsuit against Life University reveals… that Life was not teaching [differential diagnosis] at all. Instead of the real subject and despite representations in admissions materials that it was being taught… students merely learned to qualify every patient using non-validated chiropractic diagnostic procedures…" [18]
Life University has been teaching that chiropractors should not perform differential diagnosis (listing possible medical conditions and doing what is necessary to determine whether they are present) -- a policy that places patients at considerable risk. [4]
The only physical examinations we performed were on our fellow students. Except for a radiology course in which we actually viewed x-ray films, our other disease-related classes provided little practical information. [5]
Basic sciences: My biochemistry and physics teacher maintained that you weighed less when you picked one foot off the ground and that there was no gravity on the moon. [7]
Microbiology: When asked about the size of a virus, the professor maintained it was "very small," but wasn't quite sure if it was bigger than an atom, or not. A fungus was defined as the 'green stuff' that appears on cheese left too long in the refrigerator. [7]
The General Diagnosis course, taught by a chiropractor who had a nursing degree, covered diseases whose symptoms and course we were expected to memorize by rote. [5]
I have sent evidence to CCE that the deficiencies it found at Life were there when I was a student. I estimate that 8,000 Life graduates were inadequately trained in diagnosis, posing a serious threat to their patients. These graduates have also been taught to take unnecessary x-rays of pain-free areas (to find "subluxations") and to advise patients to discontinue prescription medications. [4]
Finally, I am not aware of any required clinical internship or residency (as with MDs) for chiropractors above and beyond their relatively minor clinic exposure... [7]

The Result: Inferior Education

Again, I must emphasize that this is not merely my opinion. Here is what the chiropractors are saying:

Some chiropractic schools are notorious for failing to teach critical analysis skills. [10]
… pretend diagnosis, focus on subluxation analysis. No meaningful clinic experience... No telling us when manipulation was actually appropriate, just everybody needs chiropractic all the time… [14]
I once believed that I could teach myself differential diagnosis and follow scientific treatment guidelines. Later I learned that this was not possible without exposure to expert faculty and actual patients. [4]
What really irked me was that I was a physics major prior to chiropractic school and I knew more than the instructor, yet he was sitting in judgment of me! [9]
After so many poorly written exams, I got into this habit whereby, if I finished the exam early, I would correct the spelling, grammar, etc of the actual test itself .....so cocky!... I would "grade" my professors' exams that they gave me!.... [9]
I remember a couple instances during lab exams where a fellow classmate was bombing the test so badly that they started cursing. They still managed to pass the test with a C grade. I think that when it came to most classes that were taught by chiropractors there was often a tendency by many instructors to take it easy on people who were struggling. [9]
I also recall one anatomy class (CNS) where I was hoping to just pass the class. When I looked at my grade I was amazed to see that I had finished with an "A." [9]
Accreditation standards say that one objective of chiropractic education is to acquire the ability to critically evaluate research. However, my personal experiences with other students proved that this was not attained. [4]
Leaving out this three to five years training that most MDs undertake AFTER graduating four years of medical school is perhaps the most grotesque, but no less naive, misrepresentation of the [course listings] comparing MD and DC medical educations.

But there's a qualitative subtlety which may be missed if we only focus on this obvious quantitative difference. This relates to the relationship of the chiropractor and the MD to the course-work that's listed. [7]

A former chiropractor now turned med student writes:

Medical education is a very humbling experience for me. It is much more intense and much more clinical exposure that I can't even compare it to chiro school. [6]

So, if the course material doesn't measure up, one can't help but wonder if the testing policy fares any better.

Next: Testing Policies and Procedures

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About the Author

Dean Moyer is the author of the books, Rebuild Your Back, Rebuild Your Neck and The Pain Relief Manual. Copies of his books are available exclusively through this website. Read more...

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The Pain Relief Manual

Last updated: Sept 13, 2006