Created by the Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows.

Is Chiropractic Integrative, Alternative, or Mainstream?

Chiropractic may seem mainstream because of physician referrals and the frequent role of chiropractic in interdisciplinary teams in settings such as rehabilitation centers. Furthermore, visits to a chiropractor are commonly reimbursed by most health insurance plans.

But chiropractic is still considered an integrative and alternative form of healthcare because it is not regulated by medical practice statutes. Chiropractic is not currently taught in public universities along with medical or nursing schools and does not include pharmaceuticals or surgery in its care of patients.

How is it integrative?

Interdisciplinary teamToday chiropractic most often shares a complementary role with conventional medicine. Many people seek chiropractic care based on referral from informed health professionals who understand the unique skills and perspective of the chiropractor in caring for perplexing problems.

Doctors of Chiropractic (DC) may also be members of an interdisciplinary team. Interdisciplinary practices are now becoming more common in a variety of settings, with chiropractors, medical doctors, physical therapists and others working as partners in occupational health, sports medicine teams, and rehabilitation centers.

In this role, chiropractors may provide the primary intervention of manual therapy to normalize joint function in patients recovering from injuries, or they may work cooperatively, for example by providing manual therapy and nutritional guidance for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

How is it alternative?

Woman receiving adjustment.The roots of chiropractic are distinctly alternative to the conventional allopathic system of medicine. Chiropractic has a unique philosophy that stresses the body's innate intelligence and focuses on preventive care as a means to sustained health and quality of life.

Recent cooperation with academic medicine has been troubling to some within the chiropractic profession, suspicious of the growing cooperation with medicine in practice and research. Purists embrace the founding principle of hands-only care and reject modified approaches. Most chiropractors in practice today, however, appreciate the important roles of multiple modes of care for patients.

What's the bottom line?

IllustrationSo chiropractic fits all the labels in some respects! It seems "mainstream" because it is one of the most commonly used "integrative" therapies and is regularly reimbursed by insurance.

On the other hand, it retains its own unique philosophy of care and the central role of the chiropractic adjustment in its regimen of care. Thus, chiropractic remains both an integrative practice and an alternative healthcare system.

Expert Contributor: 
Larry Kuusisto, PhD, DC

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