Chiropractor

The Job and What's Involved

Chiropractors are healthcare professionals. They concentrate on problems in the musculoskeletal system - the joints, bones and muscles - and the effects these have on the nervous system and general health.

Chiropractors look at patients' symptoms in the light of their medical history and lifestyle. They use their hands to make adjustments to patients' joints.

The treatment they offer is designed to release the body's natural healing abilities. The aim is to relieve pain, improve mobility and get patients back to normal activity. Chiropractic treatment does not involve the use of drugs or surgery.

A chiropractor may be consulted about conditions such as:

- Back, neck and shoulder problems
- Joint, posture and muscle problems
- Sports injuries
- Headaches and migraine
- Colic in babies

Patients of all ages visit chiropractors. The chiropractor may:

  • Ask questions about the patient's condition, lifestyle and medical history.
  • Carry out a physical examination.
  • Note the patient's range of movement.
  • Perform an X-ray if needed.
  • Provide treatment, which may include manipulation and massage, or the use of ice, heat or ultrasound.
  • Advise the patient on diet, posture, exercise, and other things they can do to relieve pain or prevent recurring problems.
  • Keep patient records.

Patients usually lie on a treatment table, which is adjustable. They may wear a gown, with the relevant area of skin exposed for treatment.

Patients may return for regular sessions over a period of weeks or months. Chiropractors are trained to judge when a patient needs to be referred to a GP or other specialist, if there may be an underlying condition requiring other treatment.

Working hours vary. Most chiropractors are self-employed, and may be able to work flexibly and choose their own hours to some extent.

Some evening and weekend work is likely, since many patients need to attend outside their working day.

The work is carried out in a clinical treatment room. Chiropractors may occasionally work outdoors at sporting events. Some may travel to provide treatment in patients' homes.

The job involves some standing and bending.

Most chiropractors are self-employed and set their own rates. These range from £25 to £60 for each consultation of up to an hour. Newly-qualified chiropractors may earn around £20,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are more than 2,500 practising chiropractors. The profession is growing rapidly.

Nearly all chiropractors work in private practice. A few provide services through the National Health Service (NHS).

They may work:

  • In a group practice with other chiropractors.
  • In a complementary health clinic, alongside other therapy providers.
  • In their own business.

Vacancies are advertised in regular magazines and newsletters issued by the professional bodies.

Education and Training

To practise, chiropractors must complete a degree course recognised by the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), which regulates the profession.

There are three providers of recognised courses in the UK:

  • The Anglo European College of Chiropractic in Bournemouth.
  • The Welsh Institute of Chiropractic at the University of Glamorgan.
  • The McTimoney College of Chiropractic in Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

All three institutions offer four-year, full-time Masters degree courses. The McTimoney College offers an additional route through a five-year programme combining distance learning with tutorials.

Students must be 18 to start training. Entry requirements are normally at least three A levels, including biology and another science (usually chemistry). GCSE's (A*-C) may be required in English and maths. Equivalent qualifications may also be considered, such as relevant BTEC national awards or the Diploma in society, health and development.

Gaining experience by shadowing a chiropractor may offer an advantage.

Topics studied on chiropractic degree courses include:

- Anatomy
- Physiology
- Neurology
- Radiology
- Biomechanics

The training also includes supervised hands-on practice in treating patients.

Chiropractors graduating from a GCC-accredited institution are recognised as safe and competent practitioners. They are able to register with the GCC, which allows them to practise and use the title of chiropractor.

For applicants who do not have the required entry qualifications for the degree course, there are one-year preliminary courses. Candidates must satisfy the education providers that they are capable of progressing to the degree course.

Entrants for training undergo checks through the Criminal Records Bureau, to make sure they are acceptable to work with children and vulnerable adults. They may also have a medical check to make sure they are suitable for the training.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Graduates who are members of professional associations undertake a year of supervised training.

Chiropractors are required by the GCC to complete at least 30 hours of continuing professional development each year as a requirement of registration.

There are many opportunities for chiropractors to study for additional postgraduate qualifications. This may be in a particular aspect of chiropractic work, such as orthopaedics or paediatrics.

Chiropractors can also choose to concentrate on a particular area, such as sports injuries or the care of children.

Qualified chiropractors who want to use their skills to work with animals can apply for MSc courses in animal manipulation and chiropractic for small animals at the McTimoney College.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A chiropractor needs to have:

  • Good manual skills and coordination.
  • The ability to listen closely to patients, and to provide clear explanations and advice.
  • Sound judgment.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • A professional approach.
  • Fitness to cope with physically demanding work.
  • Confidence and an ability to inspire trust.
  • Respect for each patient's dignity and privacy.
  • A caring nature, together with the ability to keep a professional distance.
  • Good organisation, for keeping patient records.
  • An ability to understand and comply with laws on health and safety and confidentiality.
  • Commercial skills (for those running their own business).

Your Long Term Prospects

Experienced chiropractors may become partners in a practice, or set up their own business. Progression is by marketing and promoting the business, and earning a good reputation among patients, public, chiropractic colleagues and other healthcare professionals.

There are some opportunities to work abroad. While chiropractic degrees are recognised internationally, some countries outside the European Union require chiropractors to sit an extra exam before working there.

Get Further Information

Anglo European Chiropractic College,
13-15 Parkwood Road, Bournemouth,
Dorset BH5 2DF
Tel: 01202 436200
Website: www.aecc.ac.uk

British Chiropractic Association (BCA),
59 Castle Street, Reading, Berkshire RG1 7SN
Tel: 0118 950 5950
Website: www.chiropractic-uk.co.uk

The College of Chiropractors,
Chiltern Chambers, 37 St Peters Avenue, Reading RG4 7DH
Tel: 0118 946 9727
Website: www.colchiro.org.uk

General Chiropractic Council (GCC),
44 Wicklow Street, London WC1X 9HL
Tel: 020 7713 5155
Website: www.gcc-uk.org

McTimoney Chiropractic Association,
Wallingford OX10 8DJ
Tel: 01491 829211
Website: www.mctimoney-chiropractic.org

McTimoney College of Chiropractic,
Kimber House, 1 Kimber Road, Abingdon, Oxfordshire OX14 1BZ
Tel: 01235 523336
Website: www.mctimoney-college.ac.uk

United Chiropractic Association,
17 Fore Street, Ivybridge PL21 9AB
Tel: 01752 896223
Website: www.united-chiropractic.org

University of South Wales, Enquiries and Admissions,
Pontypridd CF37 1DL
Tel: 03455 760101
Website: www.southwales.ac.uk

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