Can Chiropractors Prescribe Pain Medication?


Prescription medications have their uses. Many people are used to seeing a general practitioner and walking away with a prescription for some kind of medication. And since there’s still some confusion about what chiropractors do, many people wonder if these medical professionals can also prescribe medications.

The vast majority of chiropractors in America are unable to prescribe medication. This is partially due to federal and state laws, and partially due to the nature of chiropractic care, which relies on natural, non-invasive, and drug-free treatments to relieve pain and address its underlying cause. 

States That Allow Chiropractors to Prescribe

At the time of this writing, chiropractors in every state but New Mexico are unable to prescribe medication. Chiropractors in New Mexico can go through special training to be able to prescribe certain types of medications to their patients. In all other states, physicians must prescribe medications.

This has essentially split New Mexico’s chiropractors into two tiers, known as “Advanced” and “Regular.” Those that go through the additional training are allowed to prescribe certain types of medication, including injections for some musculoskeletal conditions and even some non-musculoskeletal conditions.

Other than those in New Mexico, chiropractors in the US aren’t able to prescribe prescription drugs. Like other medical laws, the laws for chiropractic care vary by state. So a chiropractor’s scope of practice here in Alaska is slightly different from a chiropractor in Michigan.

When Can Chiropractors Prescribe Pain Meds?

Chiropractors (aside from some in New Mexico) can never prescribe pain meds. In fact, many people go to chiropractors for pain relief without the use of dangerous pain medications, like opioids. One study showed that, among New Hampshire residents with non-cancer back pain, those receiving chiropractic care were 55% less likely to fill an opioid prescription than those who weren’t seeing a chiropractor.

This is only one of many studies showing the benefits of chiropractic care for pain relief. After all, this is one of the objectives of chiropractic care: to relieve pain without the use of drugs (particularly dangerous ones). However, your chiropractor may suggest the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that you can purchase over-the-counter.

Muscle Relaxers, Antibiotics, and Supplements

You may be curious to know if your local chiropractor can prescribe other medications such as antibiotics or muscle relaxers. The answer, in most places, is no.

Once again, New Mexico is the possible exception to this, with some chiropractors able to prescribe certain types of medication once they’ve received special training.

Antibiotics, which many experts today believe are chronically overused, are used to treat bacterial infections in the body. Bacterial infections generally fall outside the range of chiropractic’s scope of practice.

Muscle relaxers may help in cases of severe muscle spasms, but chiropractors have other ways to get the muscles to relax while addressing the underlying cause, which muscle relaxers don’t do. 

Some chiropractors may suggest the use of certain supplements. Again, this may or may not be included in the scope of practice for chiropractors in certain states and jurisdictions. Generally, those chiropractors that suggest the use of supplements are also licensed nutritionists. And since supplements are not controlled like prescription medication, they don’t need to be prescribed by any doctor, chiropractors included.

Can Chiropractors Give Injections?

At the time of this writing, chiropractors in four states are able to give certain types of injections. New Mexico, Utah, Oklahoma, and Idaho are the four states that allow this, after the chiropractors go through training.

These are generally limited to nutritional injections, which are quick ways to get vitamins, supplements, and minerals into the body.

Chiropractors and Other Injections

However, you may have seen your local chiropractor advertising other types of injections, such as steroid, trigger point, and other orthopedic injections. Most of the time, the actual injections at these chiropractic clinics are done by medical professionals such as nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants.

This is a way for chiropractors to provide a wider range of services to help their patients. And many of these chiropractic services are covered by insurance.

Given that many pharmacists are allowed to give certain injections, and many patients with minimal training are expected to give themselves regular injections, it’s not surprising that more chiropractors are expanding their scope of practice in this way.

By offering injections that have been shown to help various issues that plague the human musculoskeletal system, chiropractic partnerships with registered nurses and physician’s assistants give patients more options when it comes to their treatment. 

Chiropractic as Part of Complete Care

While chiropractors in New Mexico can prescribe some drugs, and chiropractors in four states can give vitamin injections, the tenants of chiropractic care remain unchanged. Chiropractors aim to provide pain relief, improve range of motion, and reverse injury as much as possible without the use of drugs. This is one reason why chiropractic care has extremely low rates of adverse effects among patients.

Not only that, but the outcomes are often better for patients who receive chiropractic care. A double-blind clinical trial showed that chiropractic adjustments outperformed both placebos and muscle relaxants for back pain relief.

But that’s not to say that there’s no room for certain drugs and injections when appropriate. Those chiropractors that don’t have the ability (or the inclination) to prescribe drugs are quick to refer their patients out to physicians who can prescribe drugs or provide alternative treatments. It’s all about what’s best for the patient. This is why chiropractors and physicians often work together to get their patients the best results possible.

The bottom line? Chiropractic care works. And it does so without dangerous or addictive drugs that have unwanted long-term side effects. It’s natural, safe, and effective at dealing with musculoskeletal conditions and providing long-term relief.

Can Chiropractors Write Prescriptions: Conclusion

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. For specifics, you’ll need to ask the chiropractor.

However, this ability doesn’t change the central tenants of care on which chiropractic rests. Unlike many physicians, who seem to use prescription drugs as a cure-all, chiropractors try to treat any issues with natural and safe remedies first. If these options aren’t working or don’t seem appropriate, they may write a prescription or refer the patient to someone who can, if their medical training and judgement suggests to them this is the best option.

Expert Chiropractor in Anchorage

If you’re experiencing back pain, contact us at Better Health Chiropractic Anchorage for pain relief without dangerous drugs or risky procedures. Our 20+ years of experience can help you today!


The portrait of Dr. Brent Wells.

Dr. Brent Wells

About the Author

Dr. Brent Wells is an actively practicing chiropractic physician that has personally led over 10,000 Alaskans to more active, pain-free lifestyles since 1998. He is the founder of Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Anchorage and Juneau where he brings a progressive and highly innovative approach to chiropractic care. Dr. Wells continues to further his education with ongoing studies in spine conditions, neurology, physical rehabilitation, biomechanics, occupational ergonomics, whiplash, and brain injury traumatology. He is also a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.

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