By Rehan Iqbal
The short answer to this question is that, in the United States, these two terms are synonymous. Both mean “foot doctor”, but chiropodist is a bit more of an old fashioned term. It also has slightly different meanings in different parts of the world. In this article, we explore the similarities and differences between podiatrists and chiropodists. Read on to learn more.
For many centuries, a health care provider who specialized in the care of feet was known as a chiropodist. With the passage of time, this title has fallen greatly out of use. Today, this sort of specialist is usually known as a podiatrist. By either name, a foot doctor is one who has specialized training in the diagnosis, care and treatment of conditions and injuries of the ankles and feet.
A good podiatrist can answer questions and give advice regarding foot care. He or she can treat skin conditions of the foot, problems with the nails, bunions, plantar fasciitis, sports injuries, sprains, fractured and broken bones and more.
Can You Call a Podiatrist a Chiropodist?
You could, and many older people still do, but it’s not common. Chiropody pretty much became podiatry in the mid-twentieth century.
The first foot and ankle specialists (then chiropodists) came into being in the nineteenth century, and the first organization recognizing them was the Society of Chiropodists, which was established in New York in 1895. Since that time, the organization has been renamed the New York State Podiatric Medical Association (NYSPMA). It became possible to receive a degree in surgical chiropody in the United States in the 1940s.
The London Foot Hospital was opened in 1912, and specialized training became available for chiropodists in London in 1919. Soon after, Australia adopted chiropody as a specialty, and professional organizations for chiropodists became established down-under in the 1920s.
In the 1960s, the term “podiatry” began replacing “chiropody” in the United Kingdom and the United States. By 1977, this change had also come about in Australia.
There are several reasons for this change. First, chiropody does not actually break down to mean “foot care” when you examine the construction of the word. The Greek root “chiro” means “hands” and the secondary root “pod” means “feet”, so this is a cause for some confusion.
Second, chiropractic care was becoming popular during that time, and the use of the term “chiropody” led to even more confusion.
Third, in some places (e.g. Australia) chiropody was not a regulated profession. In 1977 there was a push to set standards and register practitioners who had been approved. Changing the terminology supported this decision and helped clarify exactly which practitioners were actually qualified.
The term “podiatry” stands on its own two feet, as it were. Its first root is “pod” (feet), and it includes the Greek word, “iatros”, which means “physician” or “heeler”. Use of this term made it more natural to consider podiatry as a genuine medical profession rather than an unofficial specialization. Even so, there are still some places in the world that call this branch of medicine chiropody. For example, you will find chiropodists in Canada.
Do Chiropodists & Podiatrists Perform The Same Services?
Generally speaking, you will get the same care from a specialist who is called a podiatrist as you would from one called a chiropodist. This may include:
A qualified chiropodist/podiatrist should be capable of providing proper care and treatment of foot and ankle problems. He or she should be qualified, licensed and certified to assess, diagnose and treat problems of the lower limbs.
In the UK, anyone identifying as a chiropodist or podiatrist must have a BSc Podiatry degree. In the US, you will almost never hear the term “chiropodist”, and podiatrists must have a medical degree and specialized training in podiatry. In Australia, a podiatric surgeon must have a master’s degree and specialized training in podiatry. All in all, a fully qualified podiatrist must have a minimum of seven years of education and training and may have studied a decade or more to earn the right to use that title.
Whether you are seeing a chiropodist or a podiatrist, you would be wise to double-check the person’s education background, certification and licensing. This is a sure way to know exactly how qualified the provider is and exactly what sorts of services you can expect.