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Medical Doctor vs. Chiropractic Doctor

This is the $60,000 question. Well, possibly worth more than that. Knowing the differences and similarities between medical and chiropractic doctors saves you time and money. You don’t want to pay a golf pro to teach you how to shoot a basketball. Too often, we go to one when we should have gone to the other; however, there are times when seeing both is a good idea. When you are looking for a Cedar City doctor, knowledge is power, time, and money.

What Are Some Similarities?

First, the similarities. Medical doctors and chiropractic physicians both have training on anatomy, physiology, injury, illness, and disease. Both can diagnose your problem, both can order blood tests, and both can recommend remedies, though the types of remedies usually differ. MDs and DCs, including a licensed Cedar City doctor, are considered doctors by all 50 of the United States, holding the status of gateway doctoring or primary care physician. Both sometimes wear white coats, and both sometimes drive Porsches.

Both types of doctors have their risks and drawbacks. Some MDs routinely prescribe antibiotics for viral infections, which is certainly not a good thing, unless the patient is elderly or otherwise susceptible to a secondary bacterial infection. Antibiotics kill the good bacteria in the gut, which we desperately need for intestinal and total health. Some DCs may be either too aggressive or not aggressive enough. Too aggressive can hurt, and too gentle can prolong pain and the healing process. You’d be wise to talk to people and even interview a few doctors before choosing whom to trust.

MDs and DCs go through rigorous national board exams and requirements to earn state licensures. Most states are very strict about who they let practice health care on their public.

What Are Some Differences?

Second, the differences—and they are many. The differences underscore how important it is to understand your body and the doctors so you can utilize these doctors at the right times for the right things, saving valuable time and money. Medical doctors prescribe pharmaceutical medicines and perform surgeries; chiropractors use physical “medicine,” meaning therapies such as spinal adjusting and physiotherapy. (Physiotherapy is the word used by the chiropractic profession for physical therapy.) Medical doctors often refer patients to a physical therapist; chiropractors are board certified in physiotherapy, so they do it in-house.

There are times when a drug is needed. For example, drugs can kill bacterial infections, manage your blood sugar, stop cancers, reduce the symptoms of mental illness, and help many other organic issues in the body. Many other ailments respond well to spinal manipulation.

Chiropractic doctors are more holistic about health: posture, sleep, exercise, good nutrition, and prevention are their mantras. They believe that the primary key to a person’s ability to get well is connected to the health of the spine. If a spine is not normal, it can interfere with the nervous system (which the spine protects), which affects every cell in the body. As with virtually all chiropractors, a Cedar City doctor of chiropractic can provide nutritional, exercise, and other lifestyle counseling. Medical doctors are trained to examine, diagnose, prescribe medication, and do surgical repairs. Chiropractors are trained to examine, diagnose, correct spinal misalignments, apply physiotherapy, and recommend nutritional supplements.

Organic illness, such as bacterial or fungal infection can be cured with drugs. Musculoskeletal issues can be cured with spinal manipulation and physiotherapy. For example, if you wake up with a backache or crick in your neck, chiropractic will fix it better than taking a pill. While pain pills reduce pain, they will not correct a dysfunction of the spine and its surrounding soft tissues, such as ligaments, tendons, and pinched nerves.

So Which Should I See First?

A general rule of thumb is, “Physical injuries require physical medicine; organic illnesses require pharmaceutical medicine.” The obvious exception is when a bone is broken or dislocated, or when you need to be stitched up. ER departments are great for those crises. Chiropractors do not sew up cuts or perform surgeries.If you’re in a car crash, you’d be smart to see a chiropractor because of the spinal sprains and strains that occur, even at low speeds. Whiplash is best rehabilitated by chiropractic, and this is stated in the Journal of Orthopedic Medicine. Seeing a medical doctor might be good, too, if you want pain medication. Prescription drugs can help you sleep and tolerate your lifestyle while you’re being treated by the chiropractor. For example, if you must work, pain meds usually make work more comfortable; however, if your job is strenuous, painful, or could injure you further, the doctor of chiropractic will recommend time off work or perhaps light duty and write you a temporary disability letter for your employer.

Another difference is with regard to training. Both MDs and DCs complete college work equivalent to a bachelor’s degree, including the “pre-doctor” regimen of science courses required to be accepted to chiro or med school. Chiro-school lasts 3.5 years, and med-school takes 4 years. Chiro students take 28 to 32 credit hours per semester, and Med students take about 22. (Being the underdog, chiropractic school has chosen to be more rigorous.) After med-school, the doctor must complete a residency of on-the-job training—typically about 4 years. A Cedar City doctor who is a chiropractor, much like dentists, can start their own practice after graduating chiro-school.

A common health problem that may require seeing both types of a Cedar City doctor– a medical doctor and chiropractic doctor– is headache. Chiropractic has been effective in decreasing the severity and frequency of headache, but some patients require medication, too. So, seeing the chiropractic first appears to be good advice, especially because most insurance plans have some kind of chiropractic benefit. If you’re paying cash, it’s still normally more cost effective to start with a DC, then, if necessary, see an MD.

A real-life story of the author illustrates the MD vs. DC question. After a car accident, the author noticed a painful bump in his upper chest, just right of the sternum/breast bone. He asked a Cedar City doctor about it, and he said, “I could give you a muscle relaxant and pain medication, but this is why we have chiropractors.” The author saw a chiropractor, who promptly adjusted the rib-head (that had popped out from being squeezed by the shoulder harness) back home into its happy place. Ah, relief! No pill could have done that. Prudent DCs will refer a patient to an MD when the problem is medicine related, and prudent MDs will likewise refer neuromusculoskeletal and personal injury patients to a DC.

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