Difference Wiki

Chiropractor vs. Doctor: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 20, 2023
A chiropractor specializes in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal disorders, primarily through manual spinal manipulation, while a doctor is a medical professional trained to diagnose and treat a wide range of health conditions.

Key Differences

A chiropractor primarily focuses on the body's musculoskeletal system, especially the spine. They believe that spine alignment can affect the overall health and seek to correct structural issues without surgery or drugs. A doctor, however, has a broader scope, encompassing the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of various diseases and medical conditions across all body systems.
The training paths for a chiropractor and a doctor diverge significantly. While both undergo rigorous education, chiropractors attend chiropractic colleges to master spinal adjustments and related treatments. In contrast, doctors attend medical school, where they receive a comprehensive education on various medical disciplines and treatments.
Chiropractors often emphasize a holistic approach, considering factors like nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle in their treatments. They don't prescribe drugs but might suggest supplements or therapies. Doctors, conversely, have the authority to prescribe medications, perform surgeries, and utilize a vast range of medical techniques and procedures.
In terms of regulatory bodies and professional recognition, chiropractic is recognized as a complementary and alternative medicine in many jurisdictions. Chiropractors must be licensed to practice. Doctors, with their broader medical training, are governed by distinct medical boards and associations and have to acquire specific licenses and certifications to practice.
While both chiropractors and doctors aim to help patients achieve better health, they often collaborate. A chiropractor might refer a patient to a doctor for further evaluation if they suspect an underlying medical condition, and doctors might recommend chiropractic care for certain musculoskeletal issues.

Comparison Chart

Primary Focus

Musculoskeletal system, especially the spine
All body systems, diseases, and conditions

Treatment Methods

Manual adjustments, therapies
Medications, surgeries, wide range of medical techniques

Prescription Authority

Cannot prescribe drugs
Can prescribe drugs


Chiropractic colleges
Medical schools


Complementary and alternative medicine
Broad medical disciplines

Chiropractor and Doctor Definitions


A professional who uses manual adjustment to correct alignment problems.
The chiropractor adjusted her neck to relieve tension.


A person authorized to practice medicine.
The doctor advised him to get plenty of rest.


A healer emphasizing the connection between spine health and overall well-being.
After the accident, he sought relief from a chiropractor.


A professional trained to diagnose and treat illnesses or injuries.
The doctor prescribed antibiotics for the infection.


A practitioner who treats musculoskeletal issues, mainly focusing on the spine.
She visited a chiropractor for her back pain.


An individual holding an advanced degree in medicine.
She aspired to be a doctor and help people.


A licensed individual in chiropractic care focusing on holistic treatment.
She preferred the chiropractor's holistic approach over painkillers.


An expert in medical science and patient care.
He thanked the doctor for her timely diagnosis.


One specializing in non-invasive treatments for structural issues.
Regular visits to the chiropractor improved his posture.


A medical professional skilled in various treatments and procedures.
She visited the doctor for her annual check-up.


A system of health care that focuses on disorders of the musculoskeletal system and nervous system and their effects on overall health. The method of treatment usually involves manipulation of the spinal column and other body structures.


A person who is licensed to practice medicine and has trained at a school of medicine or a school of osteopathic medicine; a physician.


A health-care practitioner who specializes in chiropractic, the hands on or hand-held instrumental movement of the bone structure of the body to improve the function of the joints or nervous system.


Any of certain other healthcare professionals, such as a dentist, optometrist, chiropractor, podiatrist, or veterinarian.


A therapist who practics chiropractic.


A therapist who practices chiropractic


Do doctors recognize chiropractic treatments?

Many doctors recognize and even refer patients to chiropractors for specific issues.

Can a chiropractor prescribe medications?

No, chiropractors cannot prescribe drugs but might suggest supplements.

Can a chiropractor perform surgeries?

No, chiropractors focus on non-invasive treatments.

How long do doctors typically study?

Medical school is usually 4 years, followed by residency, which varies in length.

Do chiropractors undergo medical training?

They undergo training specific to chiropractic care, not general medical training.

Can a doctor provide spinal adjustments?

While some might have training, it's primarily the domain of chiropractors.

What conditions might lead someone to see a chiropractor?

Issues like back pain, neck pain, headaches, or joint pain are common reasons.

What's the foundational belief of chiropractic care?

That proper spine alignment can promote overall health.

Do doctors focus on preventive care?

Yes, many doctors emphasize prevention as well as treatment.

How do doctors and chiropractors stay updated in their fields?

Both attend conferences, workshops, and continue their education throughout their careers.

What's the main focus of a chiropractor?

The primary focus is the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine.

Can doctors and chiropractors work together?

Yes, they often collaborate for the patient's benefit.

Are all doctors surgeons?

No, only those trained in surgery can perform surgical procedures.

Do chiropractors use any equipment in their treatments?

Yes, some use tools or machines, but manual adjustments are most common.

How often should one visit a chiropractor?

It varies based on individual needs and the chiropractor's recommendations.

Are chiropractic treatments safe?

Generally, yes, but it's essential to see a qualified and licensed chiropractor.

Do all doctors work in hospitals?

No, many work in clinics, private practices, or other settings.

Is it necessary to have a referral to see a chiropractor?

Not always, but some insurance plans might require it.

Is a chiropractor a medical doctor?

No, while they undergo extensive training, they aren't medical doctors.

Can a chiropractor diagnose illnesses?

They can identify issues within their scope but often refer patients to doctors for broader concerns.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons