St. Paul Chiropractor Blog

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Can Chiropractors Prescribe Medication?

chiropractor prescribe drugs

Prescribed health?

Prescribing Drugs?

Doctors of Chiropractic are not licensed to write medical prescriptions or perform surgery in the United States. Their philosophy as a natural healing profession dictates otherwise and strives to avoid the potential dangerous side effects of medications.

They rely instead on a manual method of adjusting the structure of the body in order to affect function.  This approach is designed and selected to both reduce pain and stress and improve function  for their patients.

The chiropractic field is based on treatment with as little use of medication as possible, and is defined by the National Chiropractic Association as ideally a “drug-free, non-surgical science.”

That said, most chiropractors recognize the efficacy of medications to relieve extreme pain in other conditions. If medication is needed, many chiropractors work closely with their patients’ medical physician to determine which medicines may be needed to reduce pain or speed the healing process. Chiropractors may recommend homeopathy or naturopathy, or provide general nutritional counseling. Ultimately, their goal is to do what is best for their patient.

New Mexico Chiropractic Legislation

One state, New Mexico, has recently passed legislation that allows some chiropractors to prescribe medicines. This legislation was considered controversial by many.  On the one hand, it may be valuable to the public because the state contains many areas of low population in which the only health professionals available are chiropractors. After completing a standardized course, these so-called Advanced Practice chiropractors are allowed to prescribe medicines from a strictly regulated formulary. This program has provided access to these medicines to many residents of New Mexico who would otherwise have had to travel several hours to see a medical doctor. However, the ramifications of this policy and how it transfers to other communities is yet to be seen.

Many argue that this legislation is a diversion from the major philosophical tenet of chiropractic.  Chiropractic in its purest form, is a drug-less profession focused on the self-healing capability of the body.  The controversy exists in the political arena as diverging camps try to decide on the direction the profession will take.

Chiropractic and Medicine

Chiropractic care can be used in a number of ways.  At its root, it is fundamentally different from medicine.  It is not intended as a replacement or even an alternative to proper medical care,  but instead can be used in conjunction for the best benefit to the patient.

Chiropractic care seeks to restore, improve and optimize the function of the human body.  Building health should be the primary focus of every health care discipline.  True health care should be utilized when one is healthy as well as when they are sick.  Medicine excels in crisis care while chiropractic excels in the wellness arena.

The question remains…what is truly best for the public?  If we care about health – what will promote the best health and treatment of the patients under our care.

I invite your comments…

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10 comments… add one
  • Alan Dinehart, DC

    January 18, 2016, 12:22 pm

    Apparently none of you have looked at the laws in Oregon where chiropractors have surgical rights, or Oklahome where they have injectible vitamin rights. If this profession continues to hold out and refuse to include a full spectrum of therapies, we will be a non-issue in 10 years. The schools are failing and the student population drops EVERY YEAR!

  • Joel Fugleberg

    January 18, 2016, 2:00 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Dr. Dinehart. Whether adding prescriptive rights to the profession is a good thing, remains debatable. Since this post was written earlier, I have now updated it to read “Doctors of Chiropractic are not licensed to write medical prescriptions or perform surgery in most all states within the U.S.” Thanks again for your comment!

  • Albert A. Luongo, MS, PA-C, MBA

    October 4, 2016, 10:27 pm

    I respectfully disagree with the statement recently made: Chiropractors will be a “non-issue” in 10 years. I also do not believe it is necessary for Chiropractors to prescribe medication or perform surgery to maintain viability. On the contrary. The future of medicine in this country, though largely run by the Big Pharma industry is with maintaining health, which includes physical, mental, and nutritional health. I believe Medicare will increase the value placed on physical medicine simply because it’ generally cost effective. No ER visits for the side effects of powerful, mild altering medication such as sleep hypnotics, anti-anxiety medication prescribed to the elderly, or the multiple medications which cause constipation and urinary retention. The morbidity and mortality due to medication errors is extremely costly to the US healthcare system as is liver damage from polypharmacy from hepatotoxic drug. This is due the overzealous use of statins, NSAIDS, acetaminophen containing narcotic medications. Speaking of narcotics, we all know the price generous prescribing of these drugs, which in my opinion will cause the US government and continue regulating the use of judicious prescribing of narcotic medication for non-cancer patients. The solution: Education, physical medicine, nutritional counseling to reduce the co-morbidities caused by the obesity epidemic. These truths I’ve learned after 19 years of allopathic medicine practice. Albert A. Luongo, MS, PA, MBA

  • dan

    October 23, 2016, 7:15 am

    Cool osteopaths in the next 50 years.

  • Auckland chiropractor

    November 17, 2016, 11:53 pm

    What most patients don’t understand is that chiropractors are primary care physicians. This means that patients don’t need a referral to see a chiropractor. Because of Optum Health’s study, it is wise for patients to see a chiropractor before they see any other provider.

  • Joel Fugleberg

    November 22, 2016, 6:18 am

    I agree, seeing a chiropractor and starting with conservative care FIRST, rather than a last resort is prudent.

  • William

    December 9, 2016, 1:15 am

    So I should see a chiropractor first if I have a fever, infection, or vomiting blood? That’s absurd. Chiros need to increase their scope and evolve along with science and medicine. A lot has changed since 1895. Osteopathic profession was younger but smart to increase their scope. Every other health care profession is increasing their scope except for Chiro. PT’s and other professions can do what you do so the only thing you have in your tool belt is manipulation. PT now hold doctorates and sooner or later they will be able to take and interpret X-rays. Schools are opening up in all other aspects of health carewhile chiros begin to close, with the start of Cleveland and more will follow. The admission is a joke. They practically admit anyone because there really is no competition for enrollment. I like chiropractic and I see its benefits, but let’s be real, it would be more beneficial if they could do more. I’m talking about full scope of prescription right, only limited to what chiros do. Muscle relaxers and pain meds

  • Daniel

    December 11, 2016, 6:20 am

    I’ve been a chiropractor for 37 years. Chiropractic is great, but the business of chiropractic is on a serious downturn. Why? Because the chiropractic schools are not addressing real world needs. Bottom line: Chiropractors are in the pain business, not preaching philosophy.. I think prescriptive rights will save our profession. One poster said the chiropractic schools are in trouble. They are. Note to chiropractic colleges: Wake up. You’ve been sleeping since 1895.

  • David M Fulkerson

    January 31, 2017, 10:26 pm

    I am curious as to how a progressive Chiropractor can get his or her credentialing to participate in forms of allergy testing and prescribing immunotherapy (which is the main principle of my inquiry). There is a huge need for medical professionals to look at underlying conditions such as environmental and food allergens. Currently most medical professionals refer their patients out to an allergist who still use accurate but archaic methods such as the old skin test to test patients for allergies. with advances in lab devices etc. most of these providers can perform finger prick blood drop tests or blood draws in office if there is a medical necessity and symptoms are displayed or communicated. They then can order/prescribe immunotherapy regimens and treat the patients to lessen his or her allergy(s) and mitigate dependency on your daily OTC and Rx allergy meds. In certain states Chiroprators are allowed to prescribe under a MD NPI and participate in this service which broadens his or her customer servicing, enhance their quality of life, generate a whole new revenue stream for the practice and take advantage of the under-diagnosed demographic of us that now have to wait months for an allergist opening. What specifically does a chiropractor need to be or do in order to be able to legally prescribe immunotherapy if they would like to?

  • Joel Fugleberg

    February 6, 2017, 8:19 am

    Good question, David. I wonder if there are different regulations per state on this specific therapy. I guess it depends on what they are prescribing?

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