Selecting an appropriate healthcare professional is important, and choosing a chiropractor is no exception.
As with medical doctors and other healthcare professionals, chiropractors have many different styles, techniques, and even philosophies. The two main types of chiropractors are “straight” and “mixed”. Straight chiropractors “consider vertebral subluxations to be the cause of all disease”. Mixed or “mixers” are now the majority of chiropractors and they are open to many techniques such as massage, exercise, and other therapies.1 Some chiropractors focus on symptom relief to “decompress the joints, free fixations, and reduce pain”, while others focus on the “misaligned vertebrae, which interferes with the nerve impulses” (subluxations).2 Some practice their methods using instruments, and others adjust spines with hands-on manipulations, such as ones that make the “popping” sounds. It is not uncommon to visit a chiropractor a few times a week for a few weeks, and then taper off care over time. Patients may feel relief in the first few sessions, but it will take time to stabilize their condition.3
Choosing a Chiropractor
The American Chiropractic Association recommends referral as the best method of choosing a chiropractor. Another healthcare provider, friends, family, or co-workers may all have suggestions for choosing a chiropractor. Another option would be to search a directory.4 Patients can then interview a prospective chiropractor, either over the phone or through a consultation in the office. This will help the patients decide if they are comfortable with the proposed methods and the chiropractor’s personality and office. Patients need to be able to feel free to discuss healthcare questions and concerns with the chiropractor, and the professional needs to be able to answer questions fully and listen carefully. Years of experience matter, and some patients may also want chiropractic treatment that specializes in certain areas, such as sports, neurology, rehabilitation, nutrition, or orthopedics. Patients can also see if there is disciplinary action against the chiropractor by reviewing information from the Chiropractic Regulation & Licensing Board of their state’s website.5 There are also chiropractic reviews available online. Chiropractors may be covered by insurance, or they may offer discounts or sliding scale fees for patients.6
What to Avoid
According to G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN, patients should be wary if chiropractors use questionable diagnostics, such as relying only on muscle testing. A patient who is “out of shape” should be referred to “a therapist, a gym” or should be prescribed a “strengthening program”. If there is a disease or nerve problem, the patient should be referred to an orthopedist or neurologist for a second opinion. Dr. Andersen also suggests that “marketing gimmicks” at “health fairs, swap meets, and shopping malls” providing free “postural analysis” should be avoided. If a patient has poor posture, but no pain, an exercise program may be beneficial instead. Other red flags include “excessive supplementation”, “excessive x-rays” and “excessive visits”. If a chiropractor recommend a 12 month treatment plans after the first couple of visits, Dr. Andersen says that is another warning sign. Good chiropractors should be willing to work with other professionals, as well. They should provide relief in as few treatments as possible. X-rays would be limited, and supplements and nutritional advice may be given, without pressure to buy vitamins from the chiropractor.7