Chiropractic specialties certificates allow a wider range of health care for DCs and options such as women’s health, pediatrics and sports specialties
In recent years, the chiropractic field has seen an expanding range of chiropractic specialties designations. These board-certified credentials allow DCs to go beyond being “just” chiropractors and be highly-trained specialists in a variety of fields, such as female health, pediatrics, sports medicine, rehabilitation, pain management, radiology, nutrition, neurology, occupational health,
A specialist designation gives DCs the opportunity to provide a wider range of care, thereby attracting a wider customer base and increasing revenue.
Follow your passion
Specialties also allow DCs to work in fields that are of special interest to them.
“Specialization gives chiropractors who have a passion toward a specialty population the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in that population, which may guard against burnout in our profession,” says Jennifer Brocker, DC, DICCP, and president of the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) Pediatrics Council. “Patients can tell when their providers are passionate about the care they are providing, which leads to more referrals and potentially more success in practice.”
Chiropractic specialties also provide patients with more options for managing specific conditions using natural methods, rather than settling for surgical or pharmaceutical options. Being a specialist also creates more opportunities to work in standard medical settings with other medical professionals.
“For example, in my own experience, specialization has afforded me the opportunity to join the medical staff at my local hospital,” says ACA Council on Chiropractic Acupuncture president Gary Estadt, DC, DABCA, DACRB, who holds diplomate certification in both acupuncture and chiropractic rehabilitation.
Specialties on the rise
One of the biggest advantages of specialty training is that it creates more opportunities for DCs to join interdisciplinary clinic settings, which opens the door to more collaborative health care opportunities. Chiropractic specialties cover a wide range of interests to DCs, especially the fast-growing fields of rehabilitation, sports injuries and orthopedics.
“These are some of the most popular specialties because they cover musculoskeletal disorders, which most chiropractic physicians treat regularly,” says Estadt. “Other specialty certifications, such as pediatrics and clinical nutrition, seem to be on the upswing as many DCs take a more holistic approach to their practices and want to build on the knowledge that they’ve developed in their core chiropractic education.”
Women’s health is a rapidly-growing field to meet the needs for natural female health care. “Female patients are demanding quality patient care,” says Kristina Petrocco-Napuli, DC, MS, FICC, and president of the newly-formed ACA Council on Women’s Health. “Caring for the female patient goes beyond pregnancy; caring for her throughout her life is imperative.”
She notes that many practitioners did not learn how to care for women in chiropractic college.
“As a provider, it is imperative to review the entire physiological journey of the female, and its impact on the aging process,” she adds.
Sports and rehab chiropractic specialties
Sports chiropractic is one of the fastest-growing specialties in the chiropractic profession and is widely accepted in professional sports circles — for example, Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer recently credited his chiropractor with getting him back into the game during the World Series after a debilitating shoulder/neck injury.
“The multitude of techniques available within this specialty is extraordinary, from soft tissue techniques to rehabilitation protocols,” says Shea Stark, DC, CCSP, ICSC, EMT, and president of the ACA Sports Council. “Training is what makes a chiropractor a sports chiropractor, but all chiropractors treat athletes in one way or another because athletes are everywhere, such as weekend warriors, high school football players and recreational runners.”
Rehabilitation is a complementary specialty for any chiropractor who treats people with injuries and continues to grow in popularity. The goal of the ACA Rehab Council is to advance chiropractic rehabilitation (prevention, evaluation, assessment, chiropractic management of injuries) within the chiropractic profession and other practice settings.
“We assist in the promulgation of the science of chiropractic as a healing art and promote scientific research focused on physiologic therapeutics and rehabilitation, with particular attention directed toward chiropractic and a multi-disciplinary network approach,” says Jeffrey Tucker, DC, DACRB, and president of the ACA Rehab Council.
Acupuncture and pediatrics
Acupuncture is another rapidly-growing board specialty. Chiropractic physicians have expanded their scopes of practice in numerous states, providing them with the opportunity to practice acupuncture. In addition, the recent opioid epidemic in the U.S. has opened the eyes of mainstream health care to alternate modes of treatment for pain management.
“This has led to an explosion in the use of chiropractic care, especially acupuncture,” says Estadt. “Acupuncture is being requested by patients as well as providers. There is a shortage of qualified physicians to fill this role and chiropractic physicians are a perfect complement with their understanding of musculoskeletal disorders.”
Chiropractic pediatrics is increasingly used as an alternative treatment for children. To further define its role, the ACA Pediatrics Council is seeking to separate prenatal and postpartum care from pediatric care.
“We have been working with the leadership of the newly-established ACA Women’s Health Council to bring about this separation in our specialty education, as the needs of each of these specialty populations are inherently different,” Brocker says.
Specialties moving forward
The American Board of Chiropractic Specialties (ABCS) helps ACA specialty councils and specialty certification boards promote quality and expertise by evaluating and certifying DCs. ABCS collaborates with the ACA specialty councils to ensure high-value, accredited continuing education and professional development programming. The ABCS is also working to bring its member certification boards up to the standard of the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the gold standard in all industries with certification boards.
“As a member of this organization, the American Board of Chiropractic Pediatrics is working to bring a high level of standardization to the specialty of pediatric,” says Brocker. “I hope this certification excellence strengthens public perception of our specialty and open[s] the lines of communication with other pediatric health care practitioners.”
Achieving and maintaining board satisfaction serves another important purpose — increasing the credibility of chiropractic care. Some hospitals require that medical physicians maintain a board specialty to join the medical staff, which makes some medical professionals and hospital administrators reluctant to add chiropractic to the staff.
“However,” says Estadt, “when we can demonstrate that our profession is board-certified in various specialties, and that DCs must re-credential regularly, the walls of resistance can tumble down, making it a win-win-win situation — a win for the patients, a win for the chiropractic profession, and a win for intradisciplinary cooperation in health care.”
MARK CRAWFORD is a science/technology writer based in New Mexico and Wisconsin. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.