Chiropractic is a growing healthcare profession throughout the world. And it’s no wonder—several different factors are driving its growth at the same time, and most of these factors transcend national boundaries:
- The effectiveness of chiropractic care in relieving musculoskeletal conditions and a variety of other health problems has been proven by an increasing number of scientific studies.
- Patient satisfaction ratings increasingly give chiropractors high marks, especially for their treatment of back and neck pain.
- Chiropractic care (along with other manual therapies) has shown itself to be a very cost-effective way to treat a range of health conditions.
- Having a well-established complement or alternative to conventional medicine can help reduce the burden on overworked healthcare system in countries around the world.
- Chiropractic care appeals to large segments of the global population who are looking for safe, effective ways to treat musculoskeletal pain without the use of drugs or surgery.
Let’s see what the numbers can tell us about the growth of chiropractic care outside the U.S. and how other countries are incorporating this therapy into their own healthcare systems .
The World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC) is a global organization affiliated with the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO). In essence, it is an association of associations. The WFC brings together various national chiropractic associations from around the world and collects information about the status of chiropractic.
Not surprisingly, the greatest number of chiropractors can be found in the US, which is where chiropractic was founded approximately 120 years ago. There are currently about 75,000 chiropractors in the US, followed by 7,250 in Canada, 4,250 in Australia and 3,000 in the UK. These countries have the most chiropractors working inside their borders today because the first chiropractic schools were located there. Brazil, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa also have chiropractors numbering in the hundreds, as do most European countries (Norway: 600, Denmark: 550, France: 450, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden: 400, Spain: 300 and Switzerland: 275). Chiropractic care is available in other nations as well. However, it is important to know that practitioners in those countries that do not regulate the profession may or may not be properly qualified to provide these services.
Chiropractic is regulated by law in 48 countries around the world. Though the rules are different for each country, most allow patients to seek out chiropractic care on their own and do not require a medical referral. In most places, regulation also defines the “scope of practice” for the profession (the sorts of care chiropractors may and may not offer), provides for credentialing and oversight, and reserves the use of the name “chiropractor” exclusively for those who have met the educational and licensing requirements. Among countries where chiropractic care is regulated, most practitioners are allowed to order film imaging (69%) and lab tests (62%), while a smaller number (38%) are authorized to order and read magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs).
A group of international accrediting agencies have established common international standards for the education of chiropractors. These were adopted by the WHO for its 2005 Guidelines on Basic Training and Safety in Chiropractic. An undergraduate chiropractic degree consists of four years of full-time study, followed by post-graduate clinical training and licensing exams. Most American chiropractic schools are private colleges. However, the newer international programs are part of the national university system in many other countries (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK). In the Danish and Swiss programs, chiropractic and medical students take the same basic science courses for the first three years of their education before branching off onto their respective tracks.
There were only four recognized chiropractic programs outside the US in 1990: Canada, Australia, South Africa and the UK. Today, there are 41 programs operating in 16 different countries, with new schools being planned in other nations as well.
More chiropractors are being integrated into mainstream healthcare systems, particularly since studies have shown that patients who have chiropractic services included in their healthcare plans incur lower overall costs than patients without them. There are now chiropractors on staff in many US Veterans Administration and military hospitals, as well as chiropractors in the Middle East and Latin America working within spine care clinics.
Chiropractic care around the world continues to grow, which will be a benefit to both patients and healthcare systems the world over.