Careers in Medicine in Africa: Chiropractor


By: Rukhsar Jabbar. M.Sc. Physiotherapy. Freelance Health Writer and Datelinehealth Africa (DLHA) volunteer. Medical review and editorial support provided by the DLHA Team.

A black chiropractor in practice.

A black chiropractor in practice working on the spine of a patient lying face down on a couch.





Back and neck pain aren't just a headache for individuals—they're a big deal for entire countries, whether rich or poor.  In Africa, where resources are limited and labour intensive jobs are rampant, these pains take a toll. Think about it: if you're living in a region with few options for treating your back or neck pain, it can seriously impact your quality of life.


So, what can be done about it? Well, turns out, that some pretty effective treatments don't involve surgery or popping pills. Things like exercises, hands-on therapy, learning more about your condition, and making some lifestyle changes can make a difference. And guess who's often leading the charge in these non-invasive treatments? Chiropractors!


Now, in South Africa, these spine wizards are recognized and regulated by a professional council, which helps ensure they're providing safe and effective care. But what about in other parts of Africa? It varies. In some countries, chiropractors might be registered with the health ministry or traditional healers’ councils, even if there aren't specific laws governing their practice just yet. [5]



Who is a Chiropractor?


The World Federation of Chiropractic says that chiropractic is all about taking care of problems with bones, muscles, and joints, especially in the back and neck. They use their hands to make adjustments to the spine and other parts of the body to help fix these problems and improve how the nervous system works, which is important for overall health. [1] 



What do Chiropractors do?


Chiropractors focus on identifying, treating, and preventing issues with bones, muscles, and joints, and they consider how these problems affect the nervous system and overall health. They use hands-on techniques, special tools, and exercises to help patients feel better. They also take into account a person's lifestyle and well-being for a more complete approach to care.


A chiropractor's job involves:

  • Asking detailed questions about a person's health history.
  • Examining how a person stands, their spine, and reflexes.
  • Taking and looking at x-rays.
  • Checking blood pressure and doing other medical tests.
  • Figuring out what treatments a person needs.
  • Making adjustments to the spine and other body parts using hands, special tools, and massages.
  • Giving advice on health and lifestyle choices, like exercise, eating right, and sleeping well.
  • Keeping careful and private records of treatments.
  • Communicating with and referring patients to doctors or other healthcare providers when needed. [2]



How Do Chiropractors Get Qualified?


If you want to become a chiropractor, there are different degrees you can choose from. The main one is the Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree, which usually takes four years. You can also go for a Master of Science in Chiropractic Medicine (MSc) or a Bachelor of Science in Chiropractic Medicine (BSc).[3]



Are chiropractors considered doctors, and do they need a license to practice?


In South Africa, chiropractors need to finish a four-year chiropractic degree and then do a one-year internship. After that, they have to pass a test to get a license to practice. Many chiropractors also choose to learn more and specialize further to get better at what they do


Chiropractors aren't just a different option from regular doctors; they work closely with them and other healthcare professionals to give patients the best care. They often team up with physical therapists, massage therapists, and other specialists to help people feel their best.


One cool thing about chiropractic care is its focus on the nervous system. Chiropractors think that when your spine is out of whack, it can mess with your nerves and cause all sorts of health issues. By fixing these spine problems, chiropractors can help your nerves work better and boost your overall health.


Athletes, both pros and regular folks, are also getting into chiropractic care. Chiropractors can help them heal from injuries and get better at their sports by using things like massages, stretches, and exercises.


In a nutshell, chiropractors are a big part of healthcare in South Africa and worldwide. They have a special way of looking at health that's all about muscles, bones, and nerves, helping people feel their best [6]



How Can A Chiropractor Help Me?


On your first visit to the chiropractor, they'll talk with you about your medical history and check your body. If needed, they might ask you to get some special tests done to understand your muscles and bones better. These tests could include X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans.


After they know more about your symptoms and what might be causing them, the chiropractor will make a plan just for you based on what they found during the exam and tests.


During a chiropractic adjustment, the chiropractor will do things to help you feel better, based on what you need. You'll lie face down on a special table that can lift different parts of your body a little higher. This helps the chiropractor put pressure on the right spot.


They'll use their hands or small tools to give a quick, gentle push or stretch to your joints. This can help put your spine back in line if it's not quite right and release gas that's trapped in your joints. Sometimes, you might hear a pop or crack during the adjustment. That's just the gas escaping, similar to when you crack your knuckles. [4]



Common Issues Chiropractic Care Treat?


Jaw Joint Pain

Chiropractic treatment can help ease jaw joint (Temporomandibular joint, TMJ) pain by relaxing muscles, adjusting joints, and repositioning the jaw with trigger point therapy. This can improve jaw movement and relieve symptoms like ear pain, jaw locking, neck pain, and headaches.


Neck Pain

Neck pain can vary from a little discomfort to severe, long-lasting pain that makes it hard to do things.


Shoulder Pain

Shoulder problems usually fall into four categories: arthritis, fractures, instability, and tendon issues. Injuries from accidents or overusing your shoulder muscles can also cause pain and soreness.


Tennis Elbow

This happens when you strain your elbow from doing something over and over, like playing tennis or using a computer mouse. It causes pain on the outer part of your elbow, weakness in your muscles, and trouble doing simple tasks.


Spine curvature disorder (Scoliosis)

Scoliosis is when your spine curves sideways. It often shows up when girls hit a growth spurt before puberty, between ages 8 and 18. This can lead to arthritis, back pain, and trouble breathing.



Fibromyalgia makes your muscles hurt all over and comes with other issues like tiredness and problems with sleep and memory. It's more common in women aged 25 to 50. Chiropractic care aims to improve blood flow, align your skeleton, and help your nervous system work well. [7]


Low Back Pain

Most of the time, lower back pain happens because of spondylosis, which is when the spine wears down from regular use over time. Other reasons for low back pain include strains, disc problems, sciatica, and injuries.


Spine Disc Pain

The discs in your spine cushion the bones and are made of soft tissue with a jelly-like center. Problems with discs can range from small issues to serious ones, often causing sudden pain that gets worse with sitting for a long time.


Hip Bursitis

This happens when the fluid sacs below your hip muscle get inflamed. It mainly causes pain in the hip area that spreads to the outside of your thigh. Chiropractic care can help with this.


Inflammed sole of foot (Plantar Fasciitis)

This is when the tissue on the bottom of your foot gets inflamed or irritated. It causes heel pain when walking, along with swelling and numbness. Sometimes, a bone spur can make it worse by irritating the tissue and making muscles tight. [7]


Salaries of Chiropractors in Africa?


Entry-Level Chiropractor Salaries


New chiropractors (with less than 5 years of experience) can expect to earn between R117,000 ($6,257.09) and R416,000 ($22,247.43) per year at current exchange rate.


Just like in many jobs, how much an entry-level chiropractor makes can change based on different things. Things like where they work, who they work for, and how much education they have can all affect their salary. Also, if they specialize in certain areas like sports medicine or working with kids, they might make more money. [6]


Mid-Level Chiropractor Salaries


Chiropractors who've been working for 5 to 10 years can expect to earn between R193,000 ($10,321.52) and R509,000 ($27,221.01) per year.


As chiropractors get more experience and get more patients, they usually make more money. Some mid-level chiropractors might also get promoted or help teach newer chiropractors, which can mean extra money. [6]


Senior-Level Chiropractor Salaries


Experienced chiropractors (with more than 10 years of experience) can expect to earn between R307,000 (16,418.18 $) and R804,000 (42,997.44 $) per year.


Chiropractors who've been around a long time usually have a lot of patients who trust them. They might also teach other chiropractors or negotiate for higher salaries because of their reputation. Even though salaries can change, it's clear that more people are looking for chiropractic care, so there are good chances for chiropractors to have successful careers. [6]



Factors Influencing Chiropractor Salaries in South Africa


Chiropractor salaries can vary a lot based on different things. Here are some important factors that affect how much chiropractors make in South Africa:




Like in most jobs, the more experience a chiropractor has, the more money they can make. Chiropractors who've been working for a long time usually have more skills and can handle more complex problems, so they often earn more.


Location and Living Costs


Where a chiropractor works can also affect their salary. Generally, chiropractors in big cities or rich areas make more than those in small towns or rural places. This is because living in those places costs more.

But even within a city, salaries can differ. For example, a chiropractor in a fancy neighborhood might earn more than one in a less fancy part of town. Also, in smaller towns, living costs might be lower, which can balance out lower salaries.




Chiropractors who specialize in certain areas, like working with kids or sports injuries, can make more money. This is because they have special skills that some patients really need. For instance, a chiropractor who focuses on sports injuries might work with famous athletes, which can mean higher pay.


Type of Practice


Where a chiropractor works also matters. Chiropractors who have their own private practices often earn more than those who work in hospitals or other places. If they own their practice, they can set their prices higher and have more control over their schedule, which can lead to more money. [6]





In summary, chiropractors offer non-surgical solutions for back and neck pain by focusing on spine alignment and nervous system well-being. They create individualized treatment plans, work alongside other healthcare providers, and tackle diverse musculoskeletal problems. Chiropractors undergo extensive training and licensing, with their earnings influenced by experience and specialization. In essence, they play a crucial role in healthcare, promoting wellness through hands-on therapies and lifestyle guidance.




1. Hartvigsen J, French SD. So, what is chiropractic? Summary and reflections on a series of papers in Chiropractic and Manual Therapies. Chiropr Man Therap [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2024 Apr 24]; 28:4. doi: 10.1186/s12998-019-0295-2. Available from:

2. Chiropractor - Career info and advice - Post Matric [Internet, n.d.]. Cited 2024 Apr 25. Available from:

3. 1 Top Bachelor Degrees Degrees in Chiropractic Medicine in South Africa for 2024. [Internet, n.d.]. Cited 2024 Apr 25 Available from:

4. Cleveland Clinic. Chiropractic Adjustment. [Internet. Last reviewed 2022 April 25]. Cited 2024 Apr 29. Available from:

5. Melka HA, Russell R, Whedon J, Haldeman S. Chiropractic Practice in the Continent of Africa: A Structured Online Survey of 608 Chiropractors. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2021; 44(4):280–8. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2020.07.010. Available from:

6. Ashton. Chiropractor Salary: Comprehensive Insights on Earnings. Arcadia Finance [Internet. 2024 March 7]. Cited 2024 Apr 30. Available from:

7. Ehlers TC. 10 Common Conditions that Chiropractors Treat. OasisMD Lifestyle Healthcare. [Internet. n.d.]. Cited 2024 May 1]. Available from:




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Published: May3, 2024

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