What to Look for When Choosing a Chiropractor

Question: What should I look for when choosing a chiropractor?
—Tannerie Woods, PA

Answer: Choosing a chiropractor may, at first, seem bewildering. But the task can be simplified by using a series of steps to narrow down the candidates.

  1. Try to get a referral. Friends, neighbors, family, and especially your primary medical doctor may recommend a chiropractor.
  2. Check if any of the recommended chiropractors are covered by your insurance plan. If you receive a strong recommendation for someone not on that list, you might consider out of network benefits or even private payment.
  3. Man looking at information on a tabletDo a quality check for credentials by accessing your state licensing board's website to confirm qualifications and any possible disciplinary action.
  4. Research the condition(s) for which you are seeking treatment. There are any number of credible websites and library resources offering information on conditions like back pain, sciatica, herniated discs, and other musculoskeletal conditions commonly treated by chiropractors.

    I would suggest avoiding individual practice websites for this. Instead, focus on credible, independent sources of information. Afterwards, jot down a list of questions for your chiropractor to answer about your condition.
  5. Visit the practice website. Many chiropractors have websites, and these can be informative. Are they patient-oriented? Are they consistent with the scientific evidence you have learned about your condition?

    Read your doctor's resume. Don't pay a lot of attention to marketing tools, such as testimonials. Look instead to confirm that the doctor:
    • Treats musculoskeletal conditions only
    • Requires x-rays only when medically necessary
    • Does not emphasize proprietary supplement sales
    • Does not encourage long treatment regimens or excessive visits
    • Does not make scientifically unsupported claims about the value of wellness adjustments or preventive care

    A quick glance in the phone book may provide additional screening information. But remember: not having a website or phone book ad is no reflection of a chiropractor's qualifications, nor does the size of such an ad reflect qualifications.
  6. Finally, you may want to make a few phone calls, perhaps starting with the chiropractic office closest to you. Ask about appointment availability, insurance coverage, hours, etc. This is to see if you are treated with patience, courtesy and respect by the doctor's office.

At this point, you will likely have one or only a few candidates. Here are some tips to look for in your initial and subsequent encounters with the chiropractor:

  • Does your chiropractor give sufficient time to you the first visit and on every subsequent visit?
  • Does he or she appear eager to help you get better as quickly as possible and to empower you to take care of yourself in the future?
  • Do you feel comfortable with your new chiropractor?
  • Are you getting better as a result of the treatments and not just the mere passage of time? (When effective treatment is given, most patients will see a significant improvement within the first several weeks of care, and sometimes even sooner.)
  • Is treatment physically comfortable? (Occasionally there may be some minor treatment soreness or even increase in symptoms after a treatment. This should not last more than a day or so, and improvement should be obvious with further care. If this happens, be sure to let your chiropractor know.)

The following may be warning signs:

  • Unnecessary repeat x-ray studies
  • Months of endless care without re-examination
  • No improvement or even worsening does not result in reexamation or referral elsewhere
  • Pre-sold treatment "packages"
  • Pressure to sign up for or attend maintenance or preventive care programs.

Most importantly, your new chiropractor should be willing to refer you to another healthcare provider if chiropractic treatment is not producing positive results in a timely fashion.

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