Choosing the right chiropractor for you and your family
There is a chiropractor out there who is perfect to help you when you are hurt and in pain. Actually finding the right chiropractor for you can be a bit tricky. Chiropractic is a profession with a wide variety of practice philosophies and techniques, which makes it a challenge to select the best chiropractor for you. Before I go on, I will say that, while this article may seem self-serving (I am, after all, a chiropractor), I do not care where you go to be healed, so long as you find the right healthcare provider for you. If you come to my practice, then I will do my very best to help. However, the main point of this article is to give you the tools to choose a good chiropractor wherever you go.
Step 1. For me, the best way to begin the search for any healthcare provider is by asking for recommendations from friends, family and other healthcare providers (in the case of chiropractors, you could ask your primary care physician, physical therapist or spine specialist). A good question to ask is "If someone in your family needed a chiropractor, who would you recommend?". Be prepared for negative comments from some medical providers regarding chiropractic (some medical providers don’t know anything about chiropractic, but the chiropractic profession is working on that). You should also ask how the chiropractor runs his/her practice (e.g. cash-based versus insurance, types of treatment, etc.) and how he/she interacts with patients. Exercise caution, however, because one person's definition of the best chiropractor may be quite different from another person's definition. While recommendations can be valuable, it is important to find a chiropractor who can meet your individual and specific needs. In general, if multiple people recommend the same chiropractor, then chances are good that the chiropractor may be a good choice. A good approach is to draw up a shortlist of 3 or 4 chiropractors who meet your criteria. This list can be whittled down by interviewing prospective chiropractors, as discussed below.
Step 2. One step people frequently miss out as part of their initial search is looking at their state chiropractic board website. In Nevada, the place to look is the Nevada Board of Chiropractic Physicians (http://chirobd.nv.gov/ - there is a nice big “Verify a License” button of on the front page you can use). The website should indicate whether or not the chiropractor is licensed (never go to an unlicensed chiropractor!) and whether or not there has been any disciplinary action against the chiropractor.
Step 3: Looking at the chiropractor’s website can be helpful in finding out how the chiropractor runs his/her practice, fees, etc., but it is usually best to conduct a telephone interview or request an in-office consultation to learn more about the chiropractor, the practice, and techniques used. Often the treating chiropractor will request a personal consultation to discuss these details. For most people, it is important to feel comfortable with the chiropractor and to have an overall positive treatment experience. Feeling comfortable may depend on a lot of personal preferences, including details such as how long a patient may typically have to wait in the waiting room or the location of the chiropractor’s office.
Questions to consider about rapport and experience with a chiropractor and/or staff during an initial interview may include one or more of the following:
Are the chiropractor and staff friendly and courteous?
Does the patient feel comfortable talking with the chiropractor?
Does the chiropractor fully answer all questions asked by the patient?
Does the chiropractic doctor listen to the patient's complete explanation of symptoms and treatment concerns/preferences?
How many years has the chiropractor been in practice?
Selecting any health care professional for treatment is something that should be done with care. Do not feel compelled to be treated by the first chiropractor you interview - many people interview several chiropractors before finding one best suited to treat their needs. The bottom line is that the chiropractor's role is to recommend a course of care for the patient, and it is the patient’s decision whether or not to accept that doctor's recommendations. Patients should never feel like a doctor is pressuring them into a treatment or payment decision.
There are certain things to be wary of when choosing a chiropractor, besides the lack of licensing and the presence of disciplinary actions mentioned above. My list of major things to avoid is quite short and simple:
1. High pressure marketing – My number 1 pet peeve. We’ve all seen it in daily life, especially while shopping for a new cell phone or a car. It is annoying when you are shopping, and you should never have to deal with it when seeking treatment. Looking at the chiropractor’s website and/or Facebook page or giving the chiropractor’s practice a quick phone call will give you an idea if the chiropractor is more into marketing himself/herself than helping get people well. Pushy front office staff is a dead giveaway. Do not fall for the hype! Normal, every-day marketing is fine (how else would a chiropractor attract new patients?), but there is a limit. Offering a discount on new patient exams is reasonable, browbeating you to come in on a monthly or weekly basis whether you need it or not is not professional.
2. Payment plans – This is a joint first pet peeve of mine. The chiropractor may recommend that you pay up-front for a course of chiropractic, and tell you that this will keep you well and aligned, and will save on chiropractic treatment costs. This can lead to over-treatment, and typically does not result in any savings. While you should get chiropractic treatment when you need it, you should not be cajoled into undergoing care when you don’t.
3. “Cure-all” chiropractors – there are chiropractors out there who say they can cure practically any human disease short of death. While chiropractic is extremely effective in treating many musculoskeletal issues, it is not a panacea. Avoid such chiropractors like the plague (a disease that, ironically, chiropractic also cannot cure).
4. “Every patient needs X-rays” – No, they don’t! Imaging studies should be ordered when medically reasonable, to rule out fracture, dislocation or any other injury or condition that would preclude the patient from undergoing chiropractic manipulation. Some chiropractic adjusting techniques require that X-rays be performed, and you should discuss this with the chiropractor before you consent to treatment. Indiscriminate use of X-rays does not aid in diagnosis or treatment, and you could do without the radiation exposure.
5. Report of findings - you have gone to the chiropractor, the chiropractor has taken a history, done an exam, and possibly performed X-rays, and you now expect to begin being treated. The chiropractor then tells you that you need to come back in a couple of days so he/she can look at your findings and can work out a treatment plan. The chiropractor may call it a “report of findings”. It is purely a marketing tool pushed by chiropractic marketing companies. A chiropractor should be able to work out a treatment plan on the spot, except in very rare cases. The purpose of a report of findings is to sell you on an extended course of care and to hype up the chiropractor’s practice. It is an example of high pressure marketing, but is unsettling enough to warrant its own mention. Run, and don’t look back.