Doctors of Chiropractic are not licensed to write medical prescriptions or perform surgery in the United States. They rely instead on a variety of manual treatments, including spinal manipulation and mobilization, which are designed and selected to improve function and alleviate pain 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 recommend that their patients have a primary care physician, and they recognize the efficacy of medications to relieve extreme pain and other conditions. If medication is needed, many chiropractors work closely with their patients’ primary care physicians to determine which medicines may be needed to reduce pain or speed the healing process. If chiropractors are also licensed in a field such as homeopathy or naturopathy, they may recommend those types of remedies, or provide general nutritional counseling. Their ability to do this depends on regulations that vary widely from state to state in the U.S.
One state, New Mexico, has recently passed legislation that allows some chiropractors to prescribe medicines. This legislation was considered valuable to the public because the state contains many areas of low population in which the only medical professionals available are chiropractors. After completing a standardized course, these 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. Whether this approach will be taken in other states is yet to be seen.
In many cases, chiropractic care is all the therapy that is needed to treat common problems such as lower back pain. Chiropractors are trained in how to perform the manipulations that correct these problems. However, if the problems are more serious or if concurrent conditions are present, chiropractic care may be complemented by other medical treatment. We certainly urge you to consult with your primary care provider in such cases, and to rely on their specialized training to determine if medication is needed.