Do Patients Need a Referral to Receive Chiropractic Care?

When we’re seeking relief from persistent back pain, most of us start with a visit to a primary care doctor, who might prescribe painkillers or muscle relaxers before referring us to a chiropractor or other specialist.

Each year, between 12 and 14 percent of U.S. adults will visit a physician for back pain. All in all, musculoskeletal complaints account for 10 to 15 percent of all visits to primary care physicians—and they’re only expected to grow as an increasing percentage of the population becomes elderly and more prone to back or joint problems.

Do I need a referral for chiro care?

As a result, “the United States faces a growing shortage of primary care providers,” says the Academic Consortium for Complementary and Alternative Health Care. To help relieve the burden on primary care physicians, it recommends more patients rely on their chiropractors (among other alternative health-care providers) for primary care.

In fact, chiropractors are “already frequently accessed by significant numbers of people as their first-choice, primary provider of care,” the consortium said.

In fact, all 50 states recognize doctors of chiropractic as primary care providers. That means patients with back pain or other musculoskeletal complaints can go straight to a chiropractor for diagnosis and treatment—without a referral from a medical doctor.

Many people are surprised to learn that chiropractors are trained to serve as primary care physicians. They can diagnose, make treatment recommendations and, if needed, refer patients to other specialists. In fact, patients with back pain who do visit a chiropractor first enjoy several benefits, including:

Fewer appointments.

Instead of visiting a medical doctor for back pain and then getting a referral to see a chiropractor, patients can make one appointment for both diagnosis and treatment. That’s less time driving around and sitting in waiting rooms. It also means that if something new arises during treatment, you can re-evaluate your treatment plan on the spot without having to go back to your primary doctor.

Holistic healing approach.

When a patient sees a general practitioner for back pain, the doctor might prescribe painkillers or muscle relaxers to alleviate the symptoms. In some cases, surgery might also be recommended. Chiropractors don’t use surgery or pharmaceuticals in their practice, which positions them to employ natural, conservative healing methods first before resorting to more aggressive treatments. They’re also trained in biochemistry and nutrition to help patients support their overall health through diet.

Back pain can originate from a variety of causes, but it usually responds well to spinal manipulation, physiotherapy and nutritional support—all of which a chiropractor excels at. Instead of making a primary care appointment to get a referral, patients experiencing musculoskeletal problems can go straight to a chiropractor for both diagnosis and treatment.

7 thoughts on “Do Patients Need a Referral to Receive Chiropractic Care?

  1. According to me, patient should go directly to the chiropractor instead of getting referral from the medical doctor. If you are suffering from skeletal pain then one must go directly to the chiropractor without wasting any time.

    Jerry E. Lindsay

    • I completely agree with Jerry. Most people will go to a primary doctor for all conditions and wait to be referred out, but if your condition is from skeletal pain a chiropractor will know the best treatment plan.

      Cole Chiropractic

  2. Molly, it sounds like a surprising fact to know that musculoskeletal complaints account for 10 to 15 percent of all visits to primary care physicians. This information that was mentioned in the article had me thinking about my uncle. Mostly because of his back problems and how he might have to see a chiropractic physician to help him straighten out his back.

  3. I really like that chiropractors have more natural remedies to pain than other doctors! I do believe there are times when you need to take medication. But, if you can be healed without it is great!

  4. I wasn’t aware that chiropractors were also trained to help patients support their overall health through diet. There seems to be a lot more you can learn from going to a chiropractor than I thought. I’d had the misconception that you need to be referred to get treatment, but since that isn’t the case, it seems beneficial to schedule an appointment.

  5. Chiropractic care may the the #1 form of “alternative health care,” but on the whole, chiropractic care is often misunderstood and under-utilized by those who would most likely benefit from it. This means that we have fewer chiropractors than our society needs.

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