Serving Chiropractors and Their Patients

WCA’s 2017 Legislative Initiative Into Accupuncture

In April, 2017, the Wisconsin Chiropractic Association (“WCA”) submitted proposed legislation which primarily addresses four matters.  Before addressing an aspect of the Bill which is controversial, it should be noted that three of the matters are not widely disputed within the profession and; in fact, seek to legislatively confirm activities which are already practiced by state chiropractors.  Those legislative matters involve: (1) the ability to perform physical examinations for athletes participating in school athletics, (2) ability to delegate patient services to other licensed health care providers and, (3) administrative code changes confirming the ability to perform DOT examinations and “invasive laser applications”.

It is a fourth matter, relating to a doctor’s new ability to become a “chiropractic acupuncturist”,  which raises new concerns for the profession and demonstrates the WCA’s continuing efforts to expand the doctor’s scope of practice into more evasive forms of patient care.  Following on the footsteps of last year’s failed effort to create a brand new range of service provider within the profession who could administer pharmaceuticals and perform even more evasive treatment –  known as a “Primary Spinal Care Practitioner”- the WCA is now attempting to formulate a method by which chiropractor’s could perform their own “brand” of acupuncture.  The Bill would allow the D.C. to complete 200 hours of approved, post graduate education at  an accredited college, pay a fee for this certification, and then go onto practice what is called “chiropractic dry needling”.  This new found practice is vaguely defined in the proposed law as puncturing the skins with needles at trigger points to “treat neuromusculoskeletal pain and performance”.  The WCA proposal would require continuing education requirements in order for the doctor to maintain the acupuncture certification which will; in all likelihood, be made available (at a cost) by the WCA.

There are at least four major reasons for doctors to object, or at least have major concerns, to this WCA proposed legislation.  First,  this new practice area would be confusing to the public  since it allows chiropractors to engage in a new and unknown form of treatment which deviates substantially from the  well known definition and scope of chiropractic.  In fact, the Bill suggests that licensed acupuncturists can continue to perform traditional “oriental” acupuncture, while D.C.’s can engage in “dry needling” and other, ambiguously described “secondary therapeutic techniques.”  Second, the technique of “dry needling” involves a procedure that invades the patient’s skin to a degree which is strictly prohibited now by administrative regulations.  Third, the Bill is an blatant  intrusion into another field of healthcare commonly practiced by a separate profession which has more than satisfactorily met the unique needs of its patients.  It is hypocritical for chiropractors to take this approach with another profession when it has a long history of combating the efforts by other healthcare professionals to invade the unique and valuable scope of practice exercised by chiropractic.

Finally, and probably most direct to the intent for the legislation, is a concern that this new practice area is an ambiguously referenced procedure or technique which will form the gateway to the future expansion of chiropractic into fields of healthcare which is unnecessary, unknown,  and effectively diminishes the existing significance and value of chiropractic science. There are other options for the D.C. which maintain the value of chiropractic such as delegating care to a licensed acupuncturist or educating patients on the value of both health care disciplines as viable and self standing alternative forms of healthcare.