Chiropractors use physical therapies to support patients with mobility and pain issues. Using their hands, they’ll physically manipulate joints and muscles to improve mobility or injury recovery, and life quality. They may also advise on exercises for patients to carry out in their own home.
What is a chiropractor?
A chiropractor is a complementary therapist who uses alternative methods to surgery and drugs to support a patient’s mobility. This may be to support recovery from an injury or to improve life quality for a lifelong condition.
Chiropractor treatments are not usually available on the NHS, as they are considered complementary therapies to traditional medicine. As a result, most patients will see a chiropractor privately - though there are some exceptions.
As a chiropractor, your responsibilities are fairly standardised. These include:
- Gathering a detailed medical history of patients, ensuring chiropractic care is suitable and safe for their needs.
- Liaising with other practitioners, especially if your patient has come to you through a referral from another provider, such as a GP practice.
- Taking relevant diagnostic tests, such as blood pressure.
- Listening to the needs of the patient and advising on the best course of treatment.
- Physically manipulating bones, joints and muscles to improve a patient’s mobility or pain.
- Advising on a course of physical movements for a patient to carry out at home to improve their long term capabilities.
- Taking detailed notes for the patient’s records, potentially passing these on to other healthcare providers if deemed appropriate (with consent of the patient).
- Educating patients on the best ways to improve overall mobility quality, such as working on posture or adapting working conditions.
- Keeping track of appointments and payments - this is especially true if you work independently.
Chiropractic care is a regulated profession requiring extensive training in chiropractor courses.
While chiropractic care is a form of medical treatment, it is not ordinarily carried out by the NHS, so is not subject to the traditional medical payscale. Salaries for chiropractors vary significantly, though the average starting chiropractor salary is around £30,000. If you develop your skills and experience enough to open your own practice, employing other practitioners alongside your own work, you could expect to earn anywhere from £80,000 - £100,000.
While many chiropractors work within a small practice, another common route to practice is independent work. You’ll work on a self employed basis, usually billing clients hourly. The average treatment costs between £30 and £80 per session, so your overall earnings will depend on how many hours you’re able to complete.
Chiropractic care is a regulated profession requiring extensive training in chiropractor courses. Studying for a chiropractic degree is the key route to practice, after which you’ll need to join the chiropractic register with the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) in order to legally practice. Most chiropractic degrees span undergraduate study with an intercalated masters in chiropractic, so last between four and five years. You’ll usually need 4-5 GCSEs at grades 9-4 (A*-C) including English and maths. You’ll also need 3 A Levels, usually including a science subject.
- AECC Chiropractic College
- London South Bank University
- McTimoney College of Chiropractic
- Teesside University
- University of South Wales (The Welsh Institute of Chiropractic)
Training and development
Your chiropractic degree will give you the knowledge you need to legally practice in chiropractic jobs. It will cover a wide variety of subjects, from learning about anatomy and physiology to best practice in patient care.
As part of your registration with the GCC, you’ll need to keep up regular continuing professional development (CPD) to keep your status. This can include a variety of different learning opportunities, from attending training and conferences through to professional observation of senior chiropractic colleagues. You can keep up to date to changes within the profession with the GCC, or attend events with other chiropractic institutions, such as the British Chiropractic Association (BCA), The Royal College of Chiropractors (RCC), the Scottish Chiropractic Association (SCA) and the United Chiropractic Association (UCA).
It’s a good idea to get some experience of shadowing in a chiropractics setting prior to applying for a course.
The RCC encourages new graduates to carry out the Post Registration Training (PRT) after completing the chiropractic qualification. This is to help smooth your transition from study to practice. You’ll receive support throughout, and the course counts as your CPD hours for your first year.
Your skills as a chiropractor combine practical knowledge with excellent personal skills to support your patients. These include:
- Working knowledge of chiropractic principles and techniques.
- Physical fitness and strength for manipulating patients and supporting their weight.
- An understanding of relevant health and safety procedures.
- Excellent verbal communication to ensure patients are aware of what you are doing to support their needs.
- Excellent written communication for compiling reports.
- Good social skills to ensure patients are put at ease.
- Good team working skills - while your work will largely be independent, you may work with a wider team of practitioners, and your work will likely be informed by referrals from other medical professionals.
- Up to date knowledge of the profession, including any new research updates or amendments to best practice.
- An understanding of marketing and/or communications if you run your own practice to ensure potential clients are aware of your work.
- Business skills, especially if you work independently - you’ll need to have an awareness of costs/expenses, as well as keeping up to date with relevant insurance.
It’s a good idea to get some experience of shadowing in a chiropractics setting prior to applying for a course. This shows your commitment to the discipline and a budding awareness of what the job involves. It’s worth researching whether the NHS have any connections with chiropractors in your local area, to see if you can shadow them. However, the majority of chiropractors will work privately, so you may need to reach out directly. You can ask to shadow their work, if their patients are willing to have a work experience student present, or learn more about the business side of how a chiropractic clinic runs. Always make sure your potential placement is registered with the GCC.
A chiropractor is a complementary therapist who uses alternative methods to surgery and drugs to support a patient’s mobility.
You could also take part in relevant seminars and conferences run by the GCC, RCC, SCA and UCA to show a willingness to learn more about the profession.
You’ll usually begin your role as a chiropractor being part of an established clinic to build up your experience. With time and practice, you could set up your own clinic. With the right business skills, you could even develop your practice, employing other chiropractors and taking a management position.
Some chiropractors find the teaching side of their work the most fulfilling, so go on to teach trainee chiropractors at university level. You could work towards becoming a lecturer while still holding your own practice hours.