Friends and family often ask me: “How do I find a good chiropractor near me?”
Here’s what I tell them.
Besides the obvious (ask for referrals, read online reviews, visit his or her office for a consultation), here are some of the questions I tell people to ask when they’re looking for a chiropractor.
1. What school did they go to?
Here’s the A-list of chiropractic schools:
- Palmer (all campuses, Palmer West and Palmer Florida)
- Life (and Life West)
The schools listed above are superb. They teach their students what it means to be a chiropractor and train them to be excellent adjusters. For example, at Palmer College of Chiropractic, where I went, we had our hands on spines from the very first trimester and straight through for the next four years. We learned how the spine feels, how to find the specific problem area, how to make a specific adjustment, how the body is supposed to move, and what the spine feels like when the it is lined up the right way. We were taught very specific techniques for adjusting different parts of the spine.
Bonus fact: The number of classroom hours to earn a Doctor of Chiropractic degree and a Medical Doctor degree are virtually the same.
2. Does the chiropractor feel comfortable taking care of kids and families?
Even if you don’t have a child or other family members, this is a good question to ask because it gives you an idea if the chiropractor was trained well. No one is more difficult to take care of than a young child. Their bones are smaller, they’re squirmy, and they can’t give you as much feedback. So you really have to rely on your hands and your intuition. Chiropractors who are comfortable adjusting babies and young children are likely to feel comfortable taking care of all kinds of people and all kinds of health challenges.
Bonus fact: The youngest person I ever adjusted was 24 hours old.
3. Does the chiropractor actually adjust the spine?
Believe it or not, some chiropractors don’t actually adjust the spine. Instead, they only do therapies like ultrasound or muscle stimulation. Some chiropractors practice more nutritional counseling than actual chiropractic. And some chiropractors try to act as if they are medical doctors and want to diagnose every health condition under the sun and refer you out to specialists. I’m not opposed to taking advantage of other therapies and medical care. It’s just that, most times when people ask me for help finding a chiropractor, it’s because they want a good chiropractor—one who is well trained to make good, specific chiropractic adjustments. If they wanted a nutrition counselor, they’d ask for that. If they wanted a medical doctor to diagnose their cardiac concerns, they’d ask for that. So it’s frustrating when I refer friends of family to see a chiropractor and they end up in an office where the chiropractor doesn’t rely on specific, manual adjustments and doesn’t know how to be a chiropractor!
4. Does the chiropractor take X-rays?
Many chiropractors do not take X-rays. I really don’t understand why. I used to have a sign in my office that said: “To see is to know. To not see is to guess.” I don’t want to guess! And you don’t want your chiropractor guessing either. Look for a chiropractor who will take your X-ray, analyze it carefully and—this is key—carefully explain it to you so you can understand what’s going on. You should be able to see on your X-ray exactly where the problem areas are and if you’re making progress.
There are many reasons it’s important for chiropractors to take X-rays. Here are 3:
- Chiropractors who take X-rays can be much more specific about where and how they adjust.
- An X-ray will often reveal structural anomalies, disease, fractures, birth defects, arthritis and degeneration that you wouldn’t know about if not for the picture. It can be dangerous to adjust a person when you don’t know what’s happening on the inside.
- For the patient, an X-ray is how you can see if you’re making progress. In our office we take a high definition, motion X-ray that makes it really obvious to patients where the problem areas are. I sometimes tell my patients I can turn them into X-ray experts within 30 seconds.
5. How long do typical appointments last?
In some chiropractic offices, your appointment might last an hour or more. Before your adjustment, the chiropractor might have you doing traction, ultrasound, muscle stimulation and any number of other therapies. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with these therapies, but they’re often over-used because it helps pad the bill. But some of the things can easily be done at home, which saves you time and money. On average a chiropractic appointment shouldn’t last more than 10 or 15 minutes. In my office, patients often go directly from the front door to the adjusting table. Other people benefit from stretching before their adjustment. A little goes a long way. Just a few minutes on a stretching machine or traction table is all that’s needed. You’ll want to find a chiropractor who is not going to charge you for what are called “passive therapies.” He or she should be willing and able to teach you stretches and exercises you can do on your own, saving you time and money.
6. Does the chiropractor put you on a care plan to achieve objective goals?
When injuries occur or problems develop with the alignment of the spine, the body immediately starts to heal. But sometimes it will heal the wrong way. When that happens, you need enough time to change not only how you feel, but also to address the long-term effects of your problem: the ligaments, discs and cartilage. Otherwise, you may get out of pain but the problem will come back or get worse without you realizing it. This is a common problem. A lot of chiropractors will just adjust you for 5-10 visits and tell you to come back when you have a problem again. That doesn’t make any sense! It would be like a dentist saying, “Don’t worry about coming in again or taking care of your teeth until they start hurting.” Soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons) take 6-18 months to completely heal. If you want to really fix your problem, look for a chiropractor who will put you on a care plan with objective goals.
7. Are the chiropractic office financial policies reliant on insurance?
You might think a “yes” answer here is a good thing. Maybe. But there’s also a downside you’ll want to be aware of. When the chiropractor participates with your health insurance company, your care might be dictated by the terms of your policy rather than your needs. In many offices, the number of visits you “need” magically corresponds with the number of visits the insurance company covers. Most insurance only covers the very minimum level of care—emergency care. The insurance companies are not interested in long-term benefits, correction or prevention. The number of visits that insurance companies in North Carolina authorize are far short of the amount of time it takes soft tissue to fully heal. Chiropractic care is an investment in your health. It’s a bad idea to let the insurance company dictate how much care you need. (They will always be wrong.)
Bonus fact: Insurance coverage for chiropractic is so lousy in North Carolina that in our office we can often provide care to people at a price cheaper than their co-payments.
Dr. Martin is a structural chiropractor in South Durham, NC. If you live in the Triangle, he’d be honored to care for you. If not, he hopes these questions will help you find a good chiropractor wherever you may be.
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