Yes. Chiropractors fill an important void in most physicians' education.

Dr. John Mennell, a well-known orthopedist, teacher and textbook author, testified about the average American physician's almost total lack of knowledge and training on the musculoskeletal system.

A Royal Commission inquiry on chiropractic in New Zealand found chiropractors have more thorough training in spinal mechanics and therapy than any other health professionals. It recommended letting them treat patients in hospitals.

Compensation boards in California and Oregon found that workers with musculoskeletal neck and back injuries who were given chiropractic care recovered in half the time it took patients receiving medical care.

The first American hospital to grant privileges to chiropractors was Lindell Hospital in St. Louis. It also has a hospital-based residency program in chiropractic family practice. But only six or seven other U.S. hospitals have chiropractors on staff.

If chiropractic care were available in hospitals, unnecessary low-back surgery could be avoided. For example, a weakened disk without complete rupture that hasn't been definitively diagnosed often leads to exploratory surgery. We feel conservative care should be tried first.

All too often, manipulation isn't part of conservative care because of physicians' prejudice and lack of training. They never see it done.

Physicians and chiropractors can work together in the hospital to patients' benefit. A car-accident patient with injuries that require medical treatment may also have a spinal injury calling for chiropractic treatment. Why should he have to wait until he's discharged from the hospital? -- Dr. Michael D. Pedigo president, International Chiropractors Association

No. The training chiropractors get isn't enough to qualify them to be independent practitioners in a hospital.

It's hard to get into medical school and easy to get into chiropractic school. Even a physical therapist has more education than a chiropractor.

Chiropractors base their manipulations on the unproven theory that everything in the human body has to be lined up geometrically. But this is never true.

Most people show some spinal changes without having problems. Out of 1,000 young men who had X-rays, only 28 had completely straight spines. None was in pain.

Physicians aren't trained in chiropractic because there's no evidence that the theory has an intellectual basis.

In good hospitals, back surgery is done only when all conservative approaches fail.

Chiropractic procedures don't help patients avoid low-back surgery. The same results a chiropractor would achieve can be achieved with proper therapeutic exercises, which are always tried.

True, many physicians aren't well trained in treating musculoskeletal problems. But orthopedists and physiatrists are. These specialists go through a three-year residency to gain competence. The training chiropractors get is much shorter.

I'm not saying manipulations aren't sometimes helpful, or that there are no good chiropractors. But the manipulations can be administered by physicians, particularly those specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. They have much more background from which to decide whether so-called chiropractic procedures should be applied. -- Dr. Willibald Nagler physiatrist-in-chief, New York Hospital -- Cornell Medical Center