Are Chiropractors Doctors? 4 Things Chiropractors Can’t and Shouldn’t do in Their Practice

featured image - Are Chiropractors Doctors? 4 things chiropractors can’t and shouldn’t do in their practice

When you think of chiropractors, do you think of someone “cracking bones”? That’s not entirely false, yet there is more to our profession than meets the eye.

Chiropractors are musculoskeletal experts, trained in assessing, diagnosing, and treating disorders relating to muscular, skeletal, and nervous systems.

Besides that, they have been touted to treat headaches, postural issues, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain.

In recent years, chiropractic care has gained popularity among those seeking alternative therapy for postural and spinal health and no wonder, when desk jobs are abundant in every sector.

According to a Singapore General Hospital study, 73 per cent of office workers surveyed experience pain in at least one of the following body parts – the neck, shoulder, and lower back.

Currently, there are about 90 chiropractic clinics operating and at least 150 chiropractors in Singapore, of which a small percentage are registered with The Chiropractic Association Singapore.

So with many locals opting for chiropractic care these days, the age-old question prevails: Are chiropractors doctors?

Are Chiropractors Doctors?

Although chiropractors graduate as doctors of chiropractic degrees and attend a 4-year medical school curriculum, they are not medical doctors.

Medical doctors tend to focus on acute or immediate symptoms, often prescribing medication in accordance with the ailments of their patients.

On the other hand, chiropractors utilise manual manipulation and spine adjustment techniques with the aim of lessening or eliminating pain, as well as improving body functions including bone and soft tissue conditions.

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This holistic approach means looking at a patient’s physical and emotional wellbeing instead of just focusing on the injury or symptoms at hand.

This includes the overall look at nutrition, exercises, relaxation techniques, electrical stimulation and acupuncture, which may be useful in managing or preventing a variety of health conditions.

Spinal manipulation has been proven to significantly reduce lower back pain, as reported in a published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In fact, Spinal Manipulative Therapy (SMT) is recommended as the initial treatment for back pain in numerous medical guidelines.

Even with all these accolades, there is still a line drawn when it comes to what chiropractors cannot and should not do in their practice.

Let’s take a look at 4 things that could address the question: Are Chiropractors Doctors?

  1. Prescribe Medication

    Are chiropractors doctors if they cannot prescribe medication? Yes and no.

    Even though chiropractors carry the title “Dr”, which is legitimate, they cannot advertise or hold themselves out as medical practitioners nor practice medicine as doctors, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH).

    Because chiropractic treatment uses no drugs, chiropractors work on the nervous system’s overall health by aligning the spinal column and allowing the body to heal underlying problems causing pain, restricted movements and other common issues.

    In other words, without the reliance of medication, chiropractors are set to discover the root cause of pain and suggest a treatment plan that will bring about long-term relief rather than prescribing medication to merely alleviate symptoms.

    Take a patient who has high cholesterol for example.

    The most rational solution to lower down the numbers is to prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication, which they will most likely have to take for an inordinate amount of time and lack of explanation on what the root cause of their cholesterol might be in the first place or steps that can be taken for long-term improvement.

    Chiropractic care generally emphasises on getting patients to play an active role in taking care of their health and results, rather than having them be reliant and passive in their long-term recovery.

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  2. Conduct Surgery

    So what about surgery? Are chiropractors doctors if they cannot conduct surgery on their patients?

    Chiropractors are not professionally qualified surgeons and they typically use non-invasive treatments such as posture corrections, soft tissues techniques, joint mobilisation, electronic muscle stimulation, and massages.

    Even if chiropractors cannot perform surgery, they can still refer their patients to orthopaedic surgeons who are qualified to perform surgery.

    Both chiropractors and orthopaedic surgeons relieve patients of musculoskeletal discomfort.

    One key difference is chiropractors base their methods on the philosophy of interconnected bodily functions.

    Orthopaedic physicians, on the other hand, use applied medical sciences to diagnose and treat conditions, using X-rays, scans, and physical examinations.

    Although chiropractors are not licensed to use surgical interventions to help their patients restore normal functionality, they play an important part in assisting in rehabilitation and strengthening work post-surgery including helping patients regain mobility and move pain-free in the long term.

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  3. Treat Traumatic Injuries

    We have been talking about chiropractic care being a hands-on alternative treatment to restore the body’s physiological functions by aligning the spine and improving the flow of nerve transmissions, thereby alleviating back and neck pains, as well as headaches and joint discomfort.

    However, there are certain conditions that are beyond a chiropractor’s scope of practice as they may require medication or surgery, which would be better treated by a medical physician.

    While chiropractic care may be beneficial for muscle-related strains or lower back pain, it is not a suitable treatment for chronic issues such as arthritis.

    It is also important to be sure of your source of pain before deciding on opting for spinal manipulation as it has the potential of making things worse if the application of controlled force is not performed accurately.

    Broken bones and fractures are among the traumatic injuries that chiropractors should not attempt to treat right away until the injury has begun to heal and inflammation is reduced.

    Regardless, a chiropractor can use compression techniques to keep the bone in place so it can heal better on its own.

    In addition, suggesting a variety of stretches and exercises to be performed at regular intervals and intensities will promote a faster recovery rate, strengthen the affected area, and reduce the chances of recurring injuries.

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  4. Advertise Themselves as Medical Practitioners

    As mentioned, chiropractors cannot and should not practise as medical doctors unless they are registered under the Medical Registration Act (MRA) in Singapore.

    Are chiropractors doctors if they are not able to treat patients the way doctors can? Yes, they are!

    Even if they should not advertise themselves as such, they are still a great complement to medical physicians especially for patients with severe pain.

    Studies have suggested that chiropractic manipulation leads to better results for patients when combined with standard medical care.

    It’s a whole-body approach to living the best of one’s health and well-being.

    It is important for patients to exercise transparency during their doctor visits and to discuss alternative therapies to try, and vice versa.

    However, one thing our chiropractors can do is, to be honest, and upfront about what we can and cannot treat, as well as lay down options for our patients depending on their conditions.

A One-Stop Solution to Manage Pain

Singapore Pain Solutions have been aiming to provide authentic and professional chiropractic services for their patients since 2015.

Set to become one of the best chiropractic providers in the Asia Pacific, our chiropractors are well experienced in sports injury, pediatric chiropractic, pregnancy chiropractic, nutrition for fitness and many other areas.

Contact us today for a professional consultation and receive the best-specialised treatments for your pains and discomfort.

Dr. Jenny Li
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