Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
Should a Nurse Practitioner Study Chiropractic?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

I am a nurse practitioner working in a rheumatology practice. I am considering chiropractic because, so many times, the medical model doesn't seem to work for many of the conditions we treat. I thought it would be great to combine chiropractic and medicine in treating a number of musculoskeletal problems.

I have been in contact with a few chiropractic schools. When I tell them that I am in allopathic medicine and believe in it, I receive answers like maybe I should rethink my interest in chiropractic. It is as if one is not to believe and practice both.

Would it be wise for me to study chiropractic? I am struck by the way that many chiropractors do not seem to believe in medicine and that many people in medicine are not willing to accept chiropractic. You seem to be a level-headed person who accepts both. Why aren't there many other chiropractors like you? If you have any advice for me, I would love to hear it.

Answer

I would not encourage you to seek a degree in chiropractic in order to combine nursing and chiropractic care. The basic theory of chiropractic and its fundamental nature would not be compatible with what you have learned in nursing school. While it is admirable that you wish to combine the two disciplines in treating musculoskeletal problems, you would be at odds with many chiropractors who believe that adjusting the spine is the key to restoring and maintaining health.

While there are many instances in which it is in the best interest of the patient to combine physical treatment methods with appropriate medication and other medical treatment methods, this can best be done by osteopaths, physiatrists, and physical therapists, many of whom include manipulation in their treatment armamentarium. Some chiropractors have been successful in limiting their practice to the care of mechanical-type musculoskeletal problems, referring outpatients who need medication or medical attention. But such chiropractors are a minority ­ often at odds with their colleagues—and must seek medical recognition and support on an individual basis.

Because of your degree in nursing, your expertise in rheumatology, and your interest in musculoskeletal problems, I would suggest that you consider training in physical therapy where your school credits and your allopathic views would be acceptable. Since physical therapists now graduate with a master's degree, your nursing and undergraduate credits should shorten your course of study and build on what you already know and practice. In most states, patients have direct access to physical therapists during the first month of treatment. There are increasing numbers of physical therapists with doctorate degrees, many of who offer manipulation in a portal-of-entry practice. Osteopathy might be another option but would require a longer course of study.

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Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic's history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.

This article was posted on December 8, 2002.