A global view of chiropractic: growing need and opportunity
There is a global need for more chiropractors
Consider just two findings from a 2019 study, fielded by an international team of experts and published in the journal Chiropractic & Manual Therapies.1 First, they estimate that a billion people around the globe suffer from some form of disability, with the most common cause being musculoskeletal issues. And second, they report that worldwide there are only 103,000 chiropractors, the medical professionals who have exceptional expertise in musculoskeletal therapies. Clearly, there is both great need and tremendous opportunity.
Fortunately, the chiropractic profession is attracting a wide range of students internationally. To get an overview of the opportunity in front of them, as well as the educational options that serve them best, we sat down with Dr. William Lauretti, a chiropractic professor at Northeast College of Health Sciences and a frequent spokesperson for the American Chiropractic Association.
The global expansion of chiropractic
Dr. Lauretti told us, "Until the latter twentieth century, chiropractic was mostly a North American profession, founded in the U.S. in 1895. Then the 1990s into the 2000s brought a blossoming of the profession overseas, so much so that direct access to chiropractic therapy is now available in 81 countries.2 The most significant growth has been in Latin America, Australia and especially Northern Europe, where chiropractic enjoys widespread popularity."
The key to the current growth in chiropractic
There's no single reason why chiropractic is growing, but one factor, which in modern days so often carries with it negative news, leads the list: opioids. As Dr. Lauretti put it, "Chiropractic offers a safe, natural, drug- and surgery-free approach to general health care, including chronic pain management. Compare that to the opioid crisis, with so many people prescribed extremely strong drugs that are not all that effective for managing pain, and which often do more harm than good. The contrast makes our brand of healthcare very attractive, not only to the general public, but even more so to governments and healthcare leaders."
Those leaders include the United States' Veterans Administration, which fielded a study of drug-free options for managing chronic pain. It concluded that non-pharmacological approaches, including chiropractic, hold the promise of fewer long-term adverse effects versus traditional drug therapy.4
Chiropractic education is growing, too
With growth in demand comes a rapidly expanding need for educating more clinicians. Chiropractic schools are currently available in at least 19 countries, via nearly 48 institutions.3 Even with increased educational options, U.S. schools remain a strong draw for their unsurpassed subject matter expertise, hands-on learning, larger institutional sizes which support admission of more students, and exceptional preparation for practice anywhere in the world.
To illustrate the draw of studying chiropractic in the U.S., Dr. Lauretti said, "Although Canada, for instance, has two schools of chiropractic, Northeast College still gets a fair number of Canadian students. That's partly because those schools are relatively small and don't have many openings, and students would rather not be put on a waiting list when outstanding chiropractic education is just a few hours away."
A trend toward academic rigor plus clinical experience
Because of its greater overall number of clinics and practitioners, the United States provides chiropractic students with another crucial advantage: easier access to hands-on experience with patients.
Dr. Lauretti mentioned, "Northeast College offers great breadth and depth in our academic program, but also exceptional clinical experience. We operate three outpatient clinics, and students spend the last year of their educational program in one of those, seeing patients under supervision of a licensed chiropractor. The program leaves students very well prepared to start their careers, no matter where they want to practice."
He continued, "In fact, our graduates are prepared for licensure in all 50 U.S. States, all the Canadian provinces, and any other countries that have a formal chiropractic licensure process.
That's because Northeast College is accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education(CCE) and its global branch, CCE International. As a graduate of a CCE-accredited school, you are eligible to take the individual licensing board exam and practice in virtually any jurisdiction."
Advice for international students interested in studying chiropractic in the U.S.
At the end of our interview, Dr. Lauretti noted the many special considerations of international study and suggested that prospective students thoroughly research the field and their educational options. He said, "There are ample resources to explore, from the World Federation of Chiropractic, to the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards."
Dr. Lauretti added that, most importantly, students should speak directly to admissions professionals: "At Northeast College, nearly 20% of our Doctor of Chiropractic student enrollment is international. Our admissions counselors have experience supporting these students, and the entire college has a commitment to their success that extends far beyond the application process. After all, there's a pressing global need for more chiropractors -- and Northeast College can make a world of difference to international students."