Many of us are used to seeing a general physician get a prescription for some kind of medication. But the question, “Can chiropractors write prescriptions for us?” gets asked more than you think.
This article will explore the laws regarding whether or not chiropractors are legally allowed to prescribe medication in different states and what the limitations are on their ability to do so.
How Chiropractic Works
Chiropractors are primary contact practitioners that treat various conditions that cause bodily discomfort and pain to the bones, joints, and muscles, such as:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Strains and sprains from daily activities
- Overuse injuries
- Work and sports-related injuries
They use various treatments to diagnose musculoskeletal problems with as little medication as possible, including hands-on clinical examination and diagnostic imaging such as x-rays or MRIs. These and other diagnostic methods determine when chiropractic treatment is appropriate. Such techniques include:
- Chiropractic adjustments – This method fixes misalignments in the spine and joints throughout the body. Chiropractors usually perform a physical assessment of your spine and the area where the pain or discomfort is concentrated, which would then help restore proper body functioning.
- Soft tissue therapies – This therapy involves therapeutic massage and ultrasound checking to help restore and promote healthy blood flow to the body and relieve stiff, inflamed muscles. The inflammation in muscles, tendons, and ligaments can also contribute to misalignments and unhealthy functioning in the body.
- Stretching and exercising – A chiropractor may help you walk through stretches and physical exercises as you recover from an injury. Gentle stretches can help regain one’s strength, improve the range of motion, loosen up the muscles, and encourage flexibility. Exercising helps increase the heart rate, promoting proper blood circulation throughout the body.
In some conditions, chiropractic services may also complement or support medical treatment by relieving any musculoskeletal aspects that could be present with them. However, if chiropractic care is inappropriate, or if the condition needs to be overseen by other health care professionals, the chiropractor will refer the patient to the appropriate health care provider.
Most of the time, people don’t need to get a referral when seeking an appointment with a chiropractor.
Can Chiropractors Prescribe Medication?
Chiropractors operating in New Mexico would be classified into two types: the regular and the advanced, where the latter would have to undergo training to prescribe certain types of medications to their patients, including medications for some musculoskeletal conditions and non-steroidal, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs.
Chiropractors generally do not promote taking any kind of medication because in general, they promote a more natural approach to healing and pain relief. Many studies reveal that certain medications can cause side effects and further endanger one’s health.
Another study performed on patients with back pain who received chiropractic care showed that about 55% were less likely to seek a prescription for pain medications like opioids, which backs the claim that chiropractic care has extremely low rates of negative side effects among patients.
When administering injections, chiropractors from Mexico, Utah, Oklahoma, and Idaho are allowed to give certain types, though these are generally limited to nutritional or supplemental injections.
Chiropractor clinics would also offer steroidal or orthopedic injections to offer a wide range of services since most people don’t know how to do it on their own. Though chiropractors can’t legally administer injections, they are usually done by mid-level providers, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners.
Many chiropractors would also sell nutritional supplements as part of their practices. In fact, a 2018 study showed that up to 90% of chiropractors offered supplements to patients. It could be because supplements are not as regulated as prescription medication, meaning they don’t need to be prescribed by doctors.
Downsides of Chiropractic Care
While chiropractic care is generally safe, there are a few reports of complications associated with it. One study reported that spinal manipulation, particularly on the upper spine, is frequently associated with mild to moderate adverse effects and may also lead to serious complications such as vertebral artery dissection followed by stroke.
Other times, it may lead to fractures and injuries if not properly.
Chiropractic aims to provide pain relief, improve range of motion, and relieve injury as much as possible without using drugs. For one thing, the all-natural is one reason chiropractic care has extremely low rates of adverse effects among its patients.
While chiropractors in 49 states aren’t able to write prescriptions, if you live in New Mexico, you can find a chiropractor that writes prescriptions for certain types of drugs. Generally, if drugs or other medications can help in the treatment, chiropractors can refer their patients to physicians who can prescribe drugs or provide alternative treatments.
If these methods aren’t working or don’t seem appropriate, chiropractors may write a prescription or refer the patient to other medical professionals who can help; if their medical training and judgment suggest this is the best option.