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October 2021

Med Law. 1997 ; 16(3): 437-49.

Legislative approaches to the regulation of the chiropractic profession.

Chapman-Smith DA.

Traditional and complementary health care services have a growing and significant role in both developed and developing countries. In the United Kingdom the British Medical Association (BMA) has identified five complementary approaches to health care that should now be regarded as "discrete clinical disciplines" because they have "established foundations of training and have the potential for greatest use alongside orthodox medical care". These are acupuncture, chiropractic, herbalism, homeopathy and osteopathy. The BMA recommended that there should be legislation to regulate these disciplines and the Chiropractors' Act enacted in the U.K in 1994. The chiropractic profession was founded in the United States in 1895, and the practice of chiropractic has been regulated in the United States and Canada since the 1920s, in Australia since the late 1940s, in New Zealand and South Africa since the 1960s, and more recently in Asia, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere. Figure 1 lists the countries which currently recognize and regulate the chiropractic profession. Many countries, such as Japan with approximately 10,000 chiropractors with different levels of education, and Trinidad & Tobago with 5 chiropractors who are graduates of accredited chiropractic colleges in North America, are considering legislation. Croatia, with 3 chiropractors, is preparing legislation. Cyprus, with 6 chiropractors, has legislation. Even in countries such as these, where the profession is small, there are compelling public interest arguments for regulation. This is especially true in the 1990s. One reason is the growing incentive for lay healers and others without formal training to use the title "chiropractor" as chiropractic practice gains increasing acceptance. The majority of chiropractic practice involves patients with non- specific or mechanical back and neck pain. The chiropractic approach to management, which includes spinal adjustment or manipulation, other physical treatments, postural advice, rehabilitative exercises and early return to activities, formally only had empirical evidence of success. Now there is firm scientific support. Recent national, evidence- based, multi-disciplinary guidelines in Canada (neck pain), the United Kingdom (back pain), and the United States (back pain) support these methods as a first line of management for most patients. Another reason for regulation is that international standards of chiropractic education and scope of practice have been established by appropriate chiropractic organizations, including the World Federation of Chiropractic which represents national associations of chiropractors in 63 countries. This paper now reviews current legislation worldwide.


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