I am entering my ninth year as a licensed chiropractic physician. I don’t know everything, which is why they call it practice but I have heard and seen quite a bit. If there is one thing I have learned, it is to stay in my lane as a chiropractor. (Which by the way does not only apply to chiropractors.) For my practice this means conservatively treating neck pain, low back pain and headaches. That is not all we do but it is what we do best. With that said, there is a lot of information out there about chiropractors, mostly good but some bad. As a consumer, I am sure it is difficult to discern between fact and fiction.
It is not uncommon to have skeptics walk into our office. I’ve had many new patients come to me and say, “I’ve been to a chiropractor before but it didn’t really work.” Or, “I went but they wanted me to sign up for a year-long treatment plan.” Or my favorite, “I went to a chiropractor but they never adjusted me.” These types of circumstances can give chiropractic a bad reputation. I like to tell patients that finding the right chiropractor is kind of like shopping for a car. There are a lot of variations so you need to find the one that fits you, your lifestyle, and your budget. Now let me guide you through a few factors worth taking into account when choosing a chiropractor that is right for you.
- Long Term Treatment Plans. If your chiropractor tries to sign you up for a care plan costing thousands of dollars, that lasts several months and tells you as long as you are properly “aligned” the body will take care of itself, please find a new one. Even worse, if he/she does this all before your first treatment and seeing how you respond to care, please fire them and find a new one. Your treatment, in most instances, should be dictated by how you respond to care.
- Think Twice Before Coming Back for a Second Visit. If your chiropractor doesn’t treat you on your first visit because they need time to read over your x-ray and develop a “specific” treatment plan for you, please fire them…… they are lying. They are lying. Sorry, I want to make sure you don’t misunderstand me, they are lying. Chiropractors are well trained coming out of school to examine, diagnose, treat, and read x-rays. Except for instances where all of the information isn’t available, such as needing a recent MRI report or a previous physician’s records, your chiropractor should be able to provide you with some relief on your initial visit. What they are doing is called a “second day report of findings.” It’s a marketing strategy used to try to build up the importance of treatment and extort more money out of the patient.
- Tunnel Vision. If your chiropractor is only fixated on adjusting your spine and not combining the adjustment part with crucial muscle treatment and management guidance, fire them and find a new one. The audible “pop” is only one piece of the pie. A valuable chiropractor in most cases will combine manipulating the spine with addressing the involved muscles and provide you with self-management strategies. These strategies could include strengthening exercises, stretches or lifestyle modifications to improve the long term outlook of your present condition. The adjustment is pretty awesome, but it does not cure everything.
- Beware of Pill Pushers. If you go in for pain but all your chiropractor does is try to sell you a bunch of supplements and never actually assesses your posture or recommends exercises to help you self-manage your condition, fire them and find a new doctor. One shouldn’t discount the importance of diet and in some cases supplementation, but buyer beware if your new chiropractor is more concerned about up-selling you on pills than physically treating your condition.
- Free X-Rays are a Scam. Do not go to or accept care from a chiropractor who is offering free x-rays. It will cost you much more time and money in the end. This tactic is often used to point out insignificant subtle details about a patient’s spine to scare them into needing thousands of dollars of unnecessary treatment. X-rays are necessary, when they are medically necessary. This conclusion is reached following a thorough history and discussion with the patient along with a proper physical examination.
Yes, the body heals itself and yes adjustments go a long way in helping you maintain optimum health. Yes, a (reasonable) treatment plan is needed in most cases, but this can only be determined after a proper diagnosis and measuring how a patient responds to care. Many chiropractors talk about getting to the source of the problem and then all they do is “crack” your spine every which way. There is more to the puzzle.
Once the doctor and patient have a clear idea as to what is causing their symptoms, empowering the patient to contribute to their health through self-management of their condition is paramount. Going to the chiropractor 80 times per year is not normal and pretty unethical if you ask me.
We are by no means perfect at our office, but first and foremost we put the patient first. We want our patients to get better and back to their “normal” lives as quickly as possible. Our ultimate goal is to reduce pain and optimize overall health. This is done by providing high quality, patient-centered care.
Just like buying a car, it’s hard to know if you like one if you don’t actually test-drive it. Be cautious when choosing a chiropractor, ask questions, and listen to your instincts. If you feel like your doctor is not putting you first, fire them and find a new one.
Here is a link to the ACA, who provides some evidence based use cases for chiropractic.
Dr. Robert “Bo” Andel