While this may seem obvious to some, the distinction is not so black and white. Chiropractic (DC) facts and medical (MD) facts today are almost interchangeable terms. The biggest differences come from treatment protocol and a typical visit. These will be discussed below, but first here is some background information.
Most think that there is a huge difference in Medical and Chiropractic schools or colleges in the curriculum. While this did hold true until recently, the classes for each are almost identical. In reality, Chiropractors actually have more classroom hours spent on certain subjects like anatomy. Med schools spend more time than Chiropractic school in the physiology. These differences are actually pretty easy to understand. MD's base 90% of their practice on prescribing drugs, while Chiropractors don't use prescriptions at all. DC's work on the body using adjustments, making anatomy very important.
Also, Medical schools have specializations. After the basics are taken, a doctor can choose a specialty such as Podiatry, and learns the specifics for this occupation. Chiropractic schools do this as well, with adjusting classes being implemented. Both also have residency requirements, with MD's varying by their specialization. DC's are implanted into their schooling with 1 year of treating patients before they graduate.
Treatment is where the biggest differences come in. Medical doctors use medication while Chiropractors don't. DC's are "hands on" and utilize adjusting techniques to treat the source of problems through the musculo-skeletal system and nervous system. Medical doctors (general MD's) utilize prescription medicine and treat symptoms and offer relief. These two are very different, and depending on your current problem should depend on who you go see.
A typical visit to your MD has you seeing a nurse first. The nurse takes your history and background info and performs exams needed. The Doctor will see you for only a fraction of your visit, just to inform you of what his decision is and give any more info or a prescription. Typical visit lasts about 45 minutes, depending on number of other patients. A typical DC visit has a chiropractic assistant setting you up and the doctor seeing you shortly. The doctor will perform the exams and adjustments, as well as discuss diagnosis and treatments. Typical visits are 30 minutes depending on number of patients.
Overall, there are a few main differences between your visit to a DC compared to an MD. Chiropractors will spend more time with the patient and have a more personal relationship with patients. This is important as the doctor will be using his hands to adjust the patient, and they need to be comfortable to get the best results. MD's will utilize their nurses and see patients less, and utilize prescriptions to treat symptoms. Their schooling is very similar, and both are better than the other at what they do. It is suggested to pick a doctor based on your current problem and what you want out of your doctor patient relationship.