Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
With a Degree in Kinesiology,
Does It Make Sense to Study Chiropractic?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

I am a kinesiology student about to enter Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon, with a B.Sc. degree. I feel strongly that spinal manipulation is a valuable way to treat back pain. I have doubts, however, about the future of chiropractic and the credibility of some chiropractors who should not be doctors of anything. My concerns increased after reading articles written by you and Dr. Stephen Barrett.

I have a true interest in manual rehabilitative therapies, especially in sports medicine. I like the idea of being a doctor, but, unlike some, I do not want money to be a deciding factor in how I run my clinic. After all, we should be health-care providers before being businessmen. Several kinesiology students here are interested in becoming chiropractors. We are all concerned about the lax entrance requirements, licensing requirements, and educational quality of chiropractic colleges who are graduating large numbers of chiropractors. We would appreciate any comments you might have.

Answer

Your knowledge of kinesiology would be helpful in using spinal manipulation to treat back pain, and I'm sure you would make a very good chiropractor. But you might be better off choosing physical therapy as a career.

Western States Chiropractic College is one of the scientifically-oriented chiropractic colleges, but once you are in the field you will be competing with graduates of other chiropractic colleges who claim that using spinal adjustments to correct vertebral subluxations will restore and maintain health. The bad image created by such practitioners hinders cooperation with other health-care providers. This makes it difficult to succeed in practice as a properly limited, science-based chiropractor. Student loan defaults among chiropractors are higher than in any other health-care profession.

To avoid the rejection associated with the practice of chiropractic, you might want to consider physical therapy as an approach to treating back pain. Manipulation and mobilization are now a part of the armamentarium of physical medicine, which includes a variety of physical treatment methods. All physical therapists now graduate with a master's or doctoral degree. Many states now allow direct access to a physical therapist without a physician's referral during the first month of treatment. Many are in private practice as portal-of-entry practitioners.

You might also want to consider being a physiatrist (a medical doctor specializing in physical medicine) or a physician's assistant. A physical therapist with a degree in kinesiology would be a valuable partner for an orthopedist who recommends manual therapy.

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Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic's history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.

This page was posted on February 24, 2003.