Chiropractic Scores Highest Among Professional Students in

Understanding Musculoskeletal Conditions 

A report on the scientific literature 

William J. Owens Jr DC DAAMLP



According to Wikipedia: The musculoskeletal system (also known as the locomotor system) is an organ system that gives animals (including humans) the ability to move using the muscular and skeletal systems. The musculoskeletal system provides form, support, stability, and movement to the body. It is made up of the body's bones (the skeleton), muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other connective tissue that supports and binds tissues and organs together. The musculoskeletal system's primary functions include supporting the body, allowing motion, and protecting vital organs. The skeletal portion of the system serves as the main storage system for calcium and phosphorus and contains critical components of the hematopoietic system. 

Musculoskeletal conditions range from neck, mid and low back pain to certain type of headaches and arm and leg pain. Most sports injuries are musculoskeletal in nature as well and most degenerative conditions (arthritis) that prevents the use of an limb over time. If it has to do with moving, lifting, sitting or carrying, it is usually a musculoskeletal condition responsible for the inability to perform that action, or have pain with completing the task related to movement. 

In a recent article written by Humphreys, Sulkowski, McIntyre, Kasiban, and Patrick (2007), they stated, “In the United States, approximately 10% to 25% of all visits to primary care medical doctors are for MSK [musculoskeletal] complaints, making it one of the most common reasons for consulting a physician...Specifically, it has been estimated that less than 5% of the undergraduate and graduate medical curriculum in the United States and 2.26% in Canadian medical schools is devoted to MSK medicine” (p. 44). 

Musculoskeletal complaints have a major impact on the healthcare system and although many patients believe that traditional providers are highly trained, recent publications relating to basic competency have shown otherwise.  For example, the authors cited another study stating, “A study by Childs et al on the physical therapists’ knowledge in managing MSK conditions found that only 21% of students working on their master’s degree in physical therapy and 25% of students working on their doctorate degree in physical therapy achieved a passing mark on the BCE [Basic Competency Evaluation]” (Humphreys et al., 2007, p. 45).  

The authors reported, “The objective of this study was to examine the cognitive (knowledge) competency of final-year chiropractic students in MSK [musculoskeletal] medicine" (Humphreys et al., 2007, p. 45).  "The typical chiropractic curriculum consists of 4800 hours of education composed of courses in the biological sciences (ie, anatomy, embryology, histology, microbiology, pathology, laboratory diagnosis, biochemistry, nutrition, and psychology), chiropractic sciences, and clinical sciences (ie, clinical diagnosis, neurodiagnosis, orthorheumatology, radiology, and psychology).  As the diagnosis, treatment, and management of MSK disorders are the primary focus of the undergraduate curriculum as well as future clinical practice, it seems logical that chiropractic graduates should possess competence in basic MSK medicine” (Humphreys et al., 2007, p. 45). 

The following results were published in this paper for the Basic Competency Examination and various professions that are in the front line of the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.  In Table 2 on page 47, the following results were shown when the passing score was established at 73% or greater: 

Recent medical graduates (18%), medical students, residents, and staff physicians (20.7%), osteopathic students (29.6%) physical therapy  (MSc level, 21%), physical therapy (doctorate level, 26%), chiropractic students (51.5%). 

In Table 2 on page 47, the following results were show when the passing score was established at 70% or greater.  

Recent medical graduates (22%), medical students, residents, and staff physicians (NA), osteopathic students (33%) physical therapy  (MSc level, NA), physical therapy (doctorate level, NA), chiropractic students (64.7%). 

Although many professions offer significant training in musculoskeletal conditions, chiropractors, based upon their training and outcomes in comparative studies are shown to be highly competent in caring for musculoskeletal conditions. It is therefore in the public's best interest to consider chiropractic as a "first-line" treatment option or the primary care for "all things musculoskeletal." 


1. Human Musculoskeletal System, Retrieved from:

2. Humphreys, B. K., Sulkowski, A., McIntyre, K., Kasiban, M., & Patrick, A. N. (2007). An examination of musculoskeletal cognitive competency in chiropractic interns. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 30(1), 44-49.

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