Chiropractic is an alternative health practice based upon the belief that manipulations to the spine can heal a variety of conditions from chronic or acute back pain to headaches and fatigue. There are approximately 60,000 licensed chiropractors practicing in the United States today.
Chiropractors treat an estimated 30 million patients a year. Next to medical physicians and dentists, chiropractors are the largest class of primary health care providers in the United States.
Tips For Choosing a Good Chiropractor
Finding a good chiropractor to work with can be challenging, particularly if you are new to chiropractic therapy in general, or have relocated to a new home. Here are some criteria that will help you evaluate potential chiropractic candidates, and find the chiropractic doctor to work with who's right for you.
Education and Licensure
Legitimate chiropractors undergo extensive training. Chiropractic licensure is regulated at the state level, though each state has a different set of requirements. All states require chiropractors to complete at least two years of undergraduate coursework and four years at an accredited chiropractic school. Applicants must successfully pass some combination of the four-part National Board of Chiropractic Examiners exam or an equivalent state board examination. In every state except New Jersey, chiropractic licensure depends upon the completion of yearly continuing education coursework. You shouldn't use a chiropractor that is not licensed by the state.
Word of Mouth
Referral is always the best way to find a health care practitioner. Do you have friends, neighbors or coworkers who use chiropractors? What practitioner do they recommend? When people are good at what they do, the word spreads quickly.
Skilled chiropractors work with patients who are eager to refer them. Don't be afraid to ask any chiropractor you're considering working with for referrals.
The First Session
The first session is the diagnostic session, which generally takes about an hour. Treatment usually begins with the second session.
Chiropractors are taught techniques for taking medical histories, performing physical examinations and making proper diagnoses. The treatments they recommend should follow established protocols. If they don't do these things, find another chiropractor.
The medical history your chiropractor takes from you should include information about all past and present illnesses and injuries. During the physical examination, he or she should check your posture and reflexes, and perform other tests to evaluate your spine and your joints.
At the end of these processes, your chiropractor should be able to make an informed diagnosis and suggest a treatment plan. The treatment plan should not be open ended. A typical treatment plan involves two to three sessions a week during the acute phase of the presenting condition, and weekly sessions thereafter as you improve. You and your chiropractor will evaluate your progress together. If more sessions are needed, it will be a joint decision.
Chiropractic care involves the chiropractor's hands directly on the patient's back. Although treatments may be standardized, every practitioner does this in a slightly different way. A chiropractor may be perfectly competent, but if his or her hands-on techniques do not feel right to you, then this is not a practitioner that you should continue working with.
Be equally wary of a chiropractor who guarantees results or who treats conditions that are outside the accepted scope of chiropractic intervention. Guaranteeing results is actually outside chiropractic's ethical code. A reputable chiropractor also knows his or her own limits, and will refer you to another health care provider if your diagnosis suggests that another type of health care would benefit you more than chiropractic.
Byline: Susan Withers writes about all things health-related, whether it be insurance or medical coding and billing salary.