Modern chiropractic is embracing an expanded range of specialties just as the overall population is embracing a broader view of healthcare. Reporting on the sustained growth in the profession, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states, "People across all age groups are increasingly becoming interested in integrative or complementary healthcare as a way to treat pain and to improve overall wellness." 1


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What's the definition of chiropractic today?

While the average healthcare consumer may still think of chiropractic in very basic terms, such as relieving back problems via manual therapy, the growth in chiropractic specialties requires an updated definition of what the profession is and can accomplish.  

With that in mind, we turned to Dr. Nicolas Poirier, assistant vice president of academic affairs at Northeast College of Health Sciences, an expert who's helping develop the next generation of chiropractic leaders. He told us, "My definition of modern chiropractic is a licensed health profession that specializes in musculoskeletal care and the effects that these conditions may have on the nervous system and the overall health of patients. It's a science of prevention, diagnosis and treatment -- not just of musculoskeletal conditions but also of the impact that these conditions may have on a patient's general well-being."

A greater role in general patient health leads to more chiropractic specialties

It's precisely the potential of chiropractic to improve general healthcare that is driving the growth of specialty practices. This is, of course, an expansion dependent on collaboration, which leading chiropractic colleges emphasize as both a skillset and a mindset. "At Northeast College, chiropractors are trained to practice in a collaborative setting with other providers and to be able to support the needs of patients from an entire healthcare system perspective," noted Dr. Poirier. "After all, healthcare is most effective as a team approach, and chiropractors have important roles to play as part of that team."

Poirier mentioned that how and where those roles play out can vary according to the individual professional, noting that some prefer to practice in a private office while, increasingly, others choose to work in a multidisciplinary setting. Regardless of the environment, chiropractors provide their patients with specialized expertise via a combination of referral, direct collaboration and the coordination of care through the integration of multiples approaches.

Chiropractic specialties require specialized education

Leading institutions such as Northeast College are adding innovative new degree programs to meet that educational need.

Dr. Poirier said, "Northeast has been at the forefront of this movement. It was the first to offer a Master of Science in Diagnostic Imaging for chiropractic, and the post-doctoral program has since become a model in the field. You'll find our chiropractic radiologists practicing in a number of states, and some of them now provide training at other institutions."

Nutrition is another important arena, particularly as chiropractors and their increasingly savvy patients look to support health through effective new approaches that aren't drug dependent. The Northeast College master's degree in Applied Clinical Nutrition continues the school's tradition of rigorous, evidenced-based training. The advanced coursework equips graduates to evaluate more complicated and advanced conditions related to nutritional imbalances and to accurately specify the types of nutritional interventions that are most likely to have a positive impact on patient health.

Specialties are woven through the best core chiropractic course work

Students who pursue a Doctor of Chiropractic degree at Northeast College will also have the opportunity to explore more specialized therapies in core courses and electives. We spoke to several of Dr. Poirier's colleagues at Northeast to find out what other treatment areas are available for students to explore.

  • Chiropractic pediatrics focuses on treating patients under the age of 18, as well as pregnant patients. Dr. Jeanna Voorhies told us, "This specialty is gaining prominence as people seek less invasive treatment for their families and themselves. There are many factors to consider when treating these special populations, including modifications that must be made to the delivery of adjustment and the application of therapeutic modalities. At Northeast College , we offer a core course called Human Developmental Diagnosis, which focuses on the pediatric and pregnant patient, highlighting key differences in diagnosis and treatment of this population. In addition, pediatrics is interwoven with many of our core courses." 
  • Soft tissue therapy is a therapeutic approach used to treat a variety of conditions related to the connective tissues: muscles, fascia, ligaments, tendons, capsules and discs. Dr. Hunter Mollin told us, "Even though these tissues literally hold us together and are affected by all human maladies, they have often been ignored in traditional anatomy education. Our students receive connective tissue training in a variety of courses, including ConnecTX Therapy, a unique protocol to enhance the healing of damaged or dysfunctional tissue that was developed right here at Northeast College."
  • Advanced adjusting therapies are procedures that require a higher degree of psychomotor skills and precision. Dr. Brett Carnevale described how Northeast  College takes a different approach to ensuring that students master these more specialized therapies. He said, "Our students start hands-on training immediately, in their very first trimester, to provide the time required to learn a range of advanced skills. These include diversified technique, flexion distraction, extremity adjusting and drop table technique. This is in addition to techniques taught in the main curriculum and can be further extended through electives. The goal is to allow Northeast students to create more dynamic, advanced treatments plans for their future patients."
  • Ergonomics and occupational health helps chiropractors take a cost-effective approach to worker preparation, recovery and treatment. "Of all the professions that work in (healthcare)," said Dr. Dennis Homack of Northeast College, "Chiropractic provides an unsurpassed understanding of the neuromusculoskeletal system -- and that gives chiropractors an advantage. Whether it's posture, body strength, spinal and extremity alignment or overall health, we prepare patients to perform maximally in their environments."
  • Sports science and human performance is a specialized discipline within chiropractic that helps individuals reach their full performance potential and is embraced by many professional sports teams and high-level athletes. As Dr. Gregory Ramsden of Northeast College commented, "Chiropractors can help increase performance, reduce injury and enhance overall health. Northeast students learn movement screening, assessment, evaluation and rehabilitation, making them well-prepared to step into a human performance team upon graduation."

Is it time to change your own definition of chiropractic?

Whether you're a student just coming to the field or an experienced clinician looking to grow your practice, the new possibilities for chiropractic specialization demand an expansion of educational horizons. There's no better place to broaden your view than with the experts at Northeast College -- so start a conversation today.

Non-interview references:
1Occupational Outlook Handbook U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics