Is Physical Therapy or Chiropractic Medicine worth the time and money?
From what I've learned, both physical therapy and chiropractic medicine require years of school. Tuition is pricey and school takes up a lot of your time. Is it really worth all that effort to become a PT or a DC?
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As a chiropractor, most of the time you will be operating in a private practice setting. I’ve had the fortune of being a staff physician at the local hospital as well as the medical provider for the local high school sports teams. Research is starting to catch up and prove how valuable manual therapy and manipulation of joints is when it comes to managing pain. Both professions provide a huge service and neither is going away any time soon.
Also, OCS PT assistants can do much more than DC assistants so if a PT wants to open their own practice they can probably make about as much money as a DC while doing less direct patient care in repetitive tasks (ie. teaching patient exercises) so it is a much more fulfilling job. If you are serious about getting great results and helping people OCS PT is the way to go. I know that chiropractic incomes may be tempting (average $120k/yr for self employed in all regions) as they are business owners and give a great sales pitch for the field but keep in mind that any chiropractor who is evidence-based will be swimming against the tide in the field where they will always be shunned by other DCs who use quackery. They will also struggle to make as much money as they would if they were an OCS PT with higher qualified PT assistants or the nonevidence-based DCs.
In fact, 50% of chiropractic graduates end up leaving the field within 5 years and are stuck with their student loan debts that they never pay off. You can find many good articles about chiropractic problems on Chirobase.org.
This won't matter for unethical students who don't care about ripping patients off but if you eventually want to be in an evidence-based field you can be proud of and contribute to then chiropractic is not for you. You will find yourself likely having to self-learn differential diagnosis and evidence-based rehabilitation but this is impossibly difficult to do on your own without supervised instruction in these subjects. It will be the hardest for graduates of the straight programs (ie. Life University, Sherman) but even at mixer programs (ie. Logan, NorthWestern), which cover differential diagnosis better, students are in a losing proposition due to the deficit of competent supervised rehabilitation instructors. Also, as a DC trying to do evidence-based care you will always be on your own and have to tolerate the mainstream chiropractic quackery to avoid being a target. So it is incredibly isolating. The other DCs will hate you for not supporting their quackery and will call you names like mixer and sell-out. This is how bad it is.
Red Flags that Chiropractic is a Bad Field
A big tip-off that a field is bad is a lack of improvement. This is why you see chiropractic colleges still teaching methods like "Hole-in-one" aka Toggle Recoil (1890s), Gonstead (1930s) and Sacro-Occipital technique (1920s). These techniques are known to use inaccurate biomechanical systems yet students are still tested on them on their national board exams.
Another big tip-off of a health scam are unsupported claims that a procedure helps most problems (ie. with chiropractic claims that manipulation raises immunity, removes nervous system interference and helps a wide range of health problems).
Another big red flag is that chiropractic students don't even respect their instructors, they say things like, "those who can't do...teach." At evidence-based schools (ie. dentistry, physical therapy) it is an honor to teach and they are highly selective because they want only the best professionals teaching but low-quality schools and professions like chiropractic do the opposite. Attending a chiropractic college is nothing more than an expensive diploma mill taught by incompetent faculty.
Don't put yourself in a losing situation, just avoid chiropractic and get an OCS PT certification. If you can't get into physical therapy then find a good school in another field that you have an interest and aptitude in, and has a good future outlook.
Also, be careful about the US Government's Occupational Outlook Handbook as it is promoting fields as having more credibility and a better outlook than is actually warranted.
Here is a representative chiropractic clinic that has an emphasis on rehabilitation with chiropractors from a mixer-type program (New York Chiropractic College) where you would be getting the best instruction in primary care and the owner has a diplomate in chiropractic orthopedics so it is a good representation of the upper tier of the field. From a job ad the owner of the clinic "is a Chiropractic Orthopedist, Chiropractic Neurologist and Functional Medicine Practitioner" yet he has no credentials in rehabilitation. (https://tinyurl.com/bdhejz3c) In fact, none of the chiropractors have any credentials in rehabilitation yet they market themselves as treating these types of injuries. Note how even the mixer-type chiropractors push subluxation care. Here they are using a subluxation poster to sell manipulation treatments (aka adjustments) as a false cure for osteoarthritis which is a common sales pitch that is used to justify never-ending maintenance care (care beyond maximum medical improvement).
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Again, much of this depends on how you want to help people and interact with them. I've worked as a chiropractor in facilities alongside physical therapists and I've been incredibly happy to talk to and learn from them. I've actually seen the best patient outcomes when both a chiro and PT work together to treat the same patient than separately. Good luck and hope that helps.