Naprapathy is a graduate health field, focused on treating connective tissue disorder. It incorporates tissue manipulation, nutritional counseling, and supportive modalities. Naprapathy is sometimes compared to myofascial release. A good deal of attention is given to the fascia, the network of connective tissue surrounding the muscles, blood vessels, and other structures. However, naprapathy is much more comprehensive than a single bodywork modality.
Chiropractic medicine is sometimes offered as a point of comparison. Chiropractors focus on the alignment of the spine as a critical component of health. Naprapathy is based on the belief that the fascia is the source of chronic misalignment. Surprisingly, the two professions began at almost the same time. Naprapathy represents a split with regard to underlying cause. The term ‘neuromyologist’ is sometimes used for practitioners.
Naprapathy originated in Chicago and has traveled a long way, spanning continents. Practice, though, remains regional. In the United States, naprapathy is an established health profession in Illinois and New Mexico. Naprapathy is widely practiced in Scandinavian nations and indeed has entered the mainstream. More than one in three Swedes have reportedly received a naprapathic treatment (https://naprapathogskolan.se/english/).
A visit to the website of the American Naprapathic Association reveals that most licensed and Board Certified Doctors of Naprapathy are located in Illinois (http://www.naprapathy.org/Find_a_Naprapath.html). The president of the National College of Naprapathic Medicine has told ABC News that naprapathic practitioners trained in Illinois and New Mexico do practice in other states and may hold other licenses such as massage therapist (https://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/story?id=6557926&page=1). The National Provider Identifier Database lists a number of naprapaths in states other than Illinois and New Mexico. It is important, of course, to stay within the professional practice laws of one’s own state.
The scope of practice can be relatively broad. The American College of Physical Medicine, an Illinois-based organization, state that naprapaths are trained to evaluate structures such as muscles, ligaments, and spine. They utilize orthopedic and neurologic tests as well as their own physical examination; they may even order advanced tests of nutritional status. They have training that allows them to recognize serious healthcare conditions and may refer patients back to their own primary care doctors (http://www.acopm.org/wrappers/pages.php?ID=24).
The American College of Physical Medicine states that some health care plans will cover naprapathy (https://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/story?id=6557926&page=1)
Students may enter naprapathy programs with education at the bachelor’s level and, in some cases, at the associate’s level.
Topics of study may include the following, among others: anatomy, pathology, kinesiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, neuroscience, ethics, nutrition and diet, neurologic assessment, injury assessment and naprapathic techniques. The study of nutrition can be more extensive than in many graduate level health profession programs. The National College of Naprapathic Medicine curriculum includes three classes in the science of nutrition and diet and one in the clinical nutrition approach to wellness (http://napmed.edu/doctor-of-naprapathy/full-time-program). Nutrition is integrated into other advanced courses.
Achieving Licensure in the United States
There are many similarities between Illinois and New Mexico licensing standards.
Illinois naprapaths are licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (https://www.idfpr.com/profs/napr.asp). Illinois mandates two years of general college and a four year degree in the discipline. Although the degree is termed four year, state regulation allows for it to be completed in as little as three years; the last year is clinical practice. The curriculum is to be at least 130 credit hours with 66 hours of basic sciences and 64 hours of clinical sciences. Basic sciences include subjects such as anatomy, pathology, and neurology; there is to be a connective tissue specialization. The internship is to include at least 1,000 hours of clinic practice and 350 full-credit evaluations. First-time licensure is by examination.
New Mexico naprapaths are licensed by the New Mexico Medical Board (http://www.nmmb.state.nm.us/licensing_info/naprapathic_doctor_licenses.html). An applicant will need a two year degree or equivalent approved program and a four year naprapathy degree. Again. this may be completed in as few as three years. The program is to consist of at least 132 credit hours with 66 credit hours in basic sciences and 66 in clinical naprapathy. Basic science coursework is to emphasize the connective tissue. Examination by the National Board of Naprapathic Examiner is required of all candidates except those licensed in another state or in Sweden, Norway or Finland.
The Future of Naprapathy
There is less research base for naprapathy itself than there is for manual therapies; the latter may be employed in other professions such as physical therapy and massage therapy. Some naprapathy research has been carried out in Scandinavia. A Swedish study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders found naprapathic manual therapy more effective for patients with non-specific neck or back pain than evidence-based physician treatment (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836280/).
What is the future of naprapathy? This depends on the work of different groups, those committed to research and those committed to advocacy. A single individual, though, can make a big difference. Dr. Nuzzo is credited with establishing the naprapathy profession in New Mexico.