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Hi, I'm Dr. Chalk, DC

The primary component to chiropractic is, of course, the spine.  It is the spine, which for the sake of our discussion is made up of the spinal cord and vertebrae that is central to the science of chiropractic. 

By giving you a little anatomy lesson on the spine, it will help you understand how and why chiropractic makes so much sense to those of us who have adopted this practice as our lifelong vocation.

The spinal column is a row of bones that encircle the spinal cord.  The spinal cord is the central component of the central nervous system which transmits signals throughout the body.  Some people assume that the spinal cord and nerves only transmit signals about touch and pain.

It is believed that the nerves signal the brain when you touch something hot, pain then registers in the brain and you quickly remove your hand from the iron.  This much is true, but there is so much more information that the nervous system communicates to the brain and other organs in the body.

In chiropractic it is known that every area of the body is supplied with information that comes from the nerves.   When there is no static, if you will, what chiropractors refer to as subluxation in the message transmitted, every organ can function at its fullest capacity.  That is the number one purpose of chiropractic – to remove static from the message signals and open the channels for the body to mend and heal using its own innate intelligence.

Regions of the Spine

The spine can be broken down into three key regions.  There is the cervical spine, thoracic spine, and lumbar spine.  There is also a fourth area referred to as the sacral region.   The sacral region, however, only has two bones: the sacrum and the coccyx.  These are at the bottom of the spine and extend into the pelvic area.

Within the top three regions of the spine, the vertebrae are all assigned numbers.  So when there is a misalignment in a particular vertebra, the chiropractor may explain to the patient that there is a subluxation caused by the misalignment of the C4 vertebra.  This would mean the 4th vertebra from the top, or the 4th vertebra in the cervical spine, is misaligned.

A patient who has a blockage or misalignment in the C4 vertebra could actually be seeing the doctor about their hay fever and not necessarily back pain.  That is because the nerves that extend from the C4 vertebra are responsible for messages sent to the nose, lips, mouth, eustachian tube, and mucous membranes.  Often a misalignment here manifests itself as hay fever, postnasal drip, adenoid infections, and other upper respiratory symptoms.  There can even be problems with hearing by a misalignment of the C4 vertebra.

Every nerve that extends from the spinal column is responsible for an organ, function, or performance of some part of the body.   This includes the obvious organs such as the sensory capabilities of touch, which goes literally to every part of the body.  A complete body map shows this radial effect.   If you were to envision an outline of the body and create lines from the center where the spine would be located, drawn out to each extremity, then you can see how the nerves and protective vertebrae are assigned to those areas within the body.  You can also see clearly, then, how if the vertebra meant to protect the nerve gets pushed out of place, even slightly, how that can have an impact on the nerve signals that go out from that region of the spine.

This idea of the vertebrae being labeled and the corresponding nerves reaching out to all areas of the body is not exclusive to chiropractic.  The medical field also recognizes the anatomy and what it means to have something out of alignment.  Where mainstream medicine and chiropractic differ, is in the way it is treated and in recognizing the full impact of the misalignment.

How the Spine Moves

The spine is able to bend and move and return to its “s”-like shape without incident or injury because of some of the soft tissue that works with the bony vertebrae.  There are two types of soft tissue that are important in helping the spinal column protect the large central nerve, the spinal cord.

An inter-vertebral disk can be found between each vertebra.  This disk helps absorb shock as the spine bends and twists during normal movement and activity.  It also protects the vertebrae and spine from excessive shock.  You don’t think about that as you bend down to pick up a toy off the floor, because everything is in its proper place.  You can even bend and twist to one side to grasp the toy that slid under the chair.  Still no problems.  However, if you were to have a deterioration of that disk or if it were to have slipped out of place even a little, there could be a grinding of the bone and a pinching of a nerve, and you would feel pain.

This type of back injury or painful condition is probably the number one reason people visit a chiropractor.  Luckily, there are so many more health reasons that keep them returning to the chiropractor to maintain their overall health.

The second type of tissue is the facet joint.  This allows for limited movement of the spine.   The facet joints regulate movement so that routine movements are restricted to the point that they will not injure the spinal cord.   The body, with its innate ability to heal, was created in a way that protects the most vital organs.  The ribs protect the heart and lungs.  The skull protects the brain.  Then there is the spinal column to protect the spinal cord.

Misaligned Vertebrae

Every nerve in the body that radiates from the spinal cord supplies important information to the area of the body for which it is responsible.  The example of the C4 vertebra being out of alignment is just one of literally hundreds of slight misalignments that can cause subluxation, that interference with the nerve signal, and result in some kind of ailment.

In the medical world, a patient visiting the doctor for indigestion or heartburn will almost immediately be prescribed some kind of antacid to ease those uncomfortable symptoms.  For some people, this kind of quick fix may be okay for a while.     After all, we all want to get rid of painful discomfort as quickly as possible.  The problem with this treatment is that it doesn’t cure the problem.  It hardly even addresses the problem and certainly neglects the real cause of the problem.  How can the body ever hope to heal itself if medications are momentarily quieting the symptoms?

Symptoms are there for a reason.  The body, in its wisdom, has to let the brain know something isn’t right.  If we just quiet that inner voice with a medication, it’s like telling someone to stop talking when they see you are about to get hit by a car.  They are trying to give you an important message, but if you ignore it long enough, you will eventually have to deal with a much bigger problem.

When there is a symptom related to the stomach, it can often be traced back to the T6 vertebra.  It is from this area that stomach problems and the body’s ability to correct them transmit.  The nerves in the T6 region could be experiencing some kind of interference.  Removing that blockage through an adjustment of the spine will open up the lines of communication to the stomach and allow the problems in that region to be corrected naturally.

This simplified lesson on the anatomy of the spine is meant to illustrate the complex nature of the spinal column and the central nervous system.  It is not quite as simple as explained here.  There are so many minor misalignments that can impact one region of the body.  Likewise, there are many different ways in which symptoms manifest themselves that it isn’t always easy to pinpoint just what the real problem is.  Back pain can often originate in the stomach and vice versa.  Headaches can be the symptom for so many other ailments that may start out in a completely different area of the body.  The complexities of this whole system is what chiropractors study for years so that they can perform the right diagnostic tests and begin the correct treatment for any specific ailment.

Chiropractic Credentials – Are Chiropractors Doctors?

If you have ever had any doubts about whether or not chiropractors are qualified to provide the important type of healthcare services rendered by the profession, this chapter should set your mind at ease.  Doctors of Chiropractic (that is the official title once education and clinical training is completed), receive just about as much classroom education in anatomy and physiology and in biology and other sciences as medical doctors.

A student attending an accredited chiropractic college starts out with an average of four years of college level course work in a pre-medical, scientific field.  Upon entering the college curriculum, the student begins the journey of another minimum 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical training.  The majority of this time is spent in a clinical setting.  It is very difficult to learn to adjust the spine and master the necessary amount of pressure and delicate balance of touch without hands-on experience.  Once the classroom training has allowed the student to become knowledgeable on the functions and form of the body, the clinical experience prepares them to make accurate and precise adjustments.  This kind of training also ranks Doctors of Chiropractic among the highest trained health care professionals.  Here is a good comparison of the hours spent in training by a chiropractor and a medical student.  There are many different numbers out there that vary from one medical school or chiropractic college to the next, so this chart summarizes the averages of several sources.

SubjectsClass Hours
Chiropractic Students
Class Hours
Medical Students 
Anatomy540 510
Microbiology120 115
Neurology320 110
Radiology360 150
HOURS3,065 2,710 
Chiropractic SchoolMedical School
Spinal Manipulation
Advanced Radiology
General Surgery 

Colleges of chiropractic that are accredited have obtained the approval of the Council on Chiropractic Education.  This governing board is also recognized by the Secretary of the United States Department of Education.  There are currently 22 accredited colleges of chiropractic and/or programs within the institutions around the world today.  Those outside of the United States are also accredited by the local governing boards of the educational accreditation organizations for those countries.

Boards and Agencies Governing Chiropractic Care

Probably the best way for any group of people to be monitored and to be held to a high standard while having a sense of accountability is to let them be watched by their peers.  Chiropractic has had a hard enough time gaining acceptance among some mainstream healthcare professionals, so it would be even more difficult if it were not for its strict requirements on licensing imposed by other chiropractors and the government.  

The process of watching over the chiropractic profession begins with the education and training.  Schools of Chiropractic can become accredited by an agency fully accepted and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.  Students graduate well-trained and prepared to practice chiropractic, but it doesn’t stop there.  Licensing in all 50 states in the United States, and by agencies around the world occurs to make sure Doctors of Chiropractic are trained to do what they say they can.  Any type of field where a person’s health and well-being can be impacted should be licensed and certified.  Chiropractic is no exception.

National and state examinations must be taken to determine if a chiropractor is qualified to treat patients.  There is a four-part test, and most states require passing scores on all sections.  In addition, Doctors of Chiropractic in most states are required to participate in a certain number of continuing education hours each year in order to keep their current license.

State licensing agencies can be found at state divisions of occupational licensing and at boards of chiropractic examiners located regionally around the country.  They are the watchdogs for the field so that only the top, most qualified chiropractors are able to work with patients.

Chiropractors are also part of a community of other chiropractors and can learn and further develop their skills through professional trade associations specific to chiropractic.  Some of these organizations have programs recognized by the Council on Chiropractic Education that provide specific, specialized training in certain subcategories of chiropractic.  Doctors of Chiropractic can become certified as specialists in orthopedics, neurology, occupational and industrial health, diagnostic testing, internal disorders, imaging thermography, and sports injury.  These specialties may help a patient decided on a potential chiropractor.

My education and background includes… My other credentials are…

Chiropractic Licensing Agencies & Boards

In 1999, the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards (FCLB), decided to create a Disciplinary Code for all licensed chiropractors.  The project received funding from private insurance companies and recognized the need to protect and govern the industry and most importantly the well-being of patients of chiropractic. 

The task force created a model where areas possibly requiring disciplinary action could be addressed.  The final code includes provisions for violations in advertising practices, commercial misconduct, negligence or incompetence, professional misconduct, and substance abuse.  Further, the code outlines how complaints are to be filed and handled and ultimately what kind of disciplinary action will occur for specific offences.  The FCLB has the authority to investigate complaints and revoke licenses.  The contact information for the FCLB is: 

Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards
5401 W. 10th Street, Suite 101 Greeley, CO 80634-4400, USA
970.356.3500; FAX 970.356.3599

Any concerns about a specific chiropractor can be addressed by contacting the FCLB directly.    Their website, at also gives a complete directory of chiropractic regulatory boards worldwide.

Some other helpful contact information is as follows:

National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE)
901 54th Avenue
Greeley, Colorado 80634

The Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE)

8049 North 85th Way

Scottsdale, Arizona 85258-4321

Telephone: (480) 443-8877;Fax: (480) 483-7333

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