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Choosing the Best Chiropractor

Chiropractors are, by far, the doctors of first choice when there is back or neck pain.  They are spinal specialists.  Really most orthopedic injuries, even of the extremities that do not require hospitalization or immediate surgery are within the realm of Chiropractors to most cost-effectively resolve the problem.  Chiropractors should also be the first to be seen when someone has repeated headaches.  These are usually tension or cervicogenic headaches. 

Family physicians are usually the poorest first choice since their main focus is on diagnosing and treating illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, infections, etc.  Their knowledge of orthopedic rehabilitation is usually quite weak.

Finding the best chiropractor for yourself or family member isn’t always the easiest thing to do.  This is true with family physicians, dentists, optometrists, physical therapists or any health care provider.  Every patient is so unique and many health problems can be quite unusual or complicated.  Children and the elderly require a gentle approach.  Big, burly construction workers need more assertive treatments.  What is good for one person may not work well with another.  There are also dozens of different chiropractic adjusting techniques and many different forms of physiotherapy modalities along with a wide array of therapeutic exercises.

            How do you choose?  Start investigating.


First acquiring a list of potential candidate chiropractors

Ask friends or family members if they have had a good experience with a particular chiropractor…or a bad experience, but be wary of testimonials (particularly on chiropractor websites) since they are of a small sample size, carefully chosen or coached…or totally made up out of thin air.

Check with your insurance company for which chiropractors are providers with your policy.  Insurers will usually only volunteer three chiropractors in your zip code even if they have 50 providers.  So don’t just limit yourself to the first three they provide.  Some insurers also do a devious trick of giving out the names of chiropractors in towns far away and withholding the names of chiropractors who are closer as a way to discourage care and save money on reimbursements.

Do a Google, Yelp or other internet search but be wary of online reviews.  They only represent a small fraction of patients any doctor has seen and is therefore a very poor sample size on which to weight a decision.  Negative reviews may also only represent a fraction of a percent of patients seen, so take these with a grain of salt.

There is something to be said about experience, not that new graduates should be avoided. They usually have good up-to-date knowledge from their recent studies.  But skills and knowledge built of years of patient care are valuable.  And yet you might not want your chiropractor to have one foot in the grave either.

One additional piece of information that might prove valuable is to call different chiropractic offices and ask the question: Which Chiropractor does your Chiropractor go to outside your own office?  If some of these answers point to the same doctor that says something of what other Chiropractors value.


Once you have some potential Chiropractors here is how to weed out the list.

Ask the potential chiropractor if he has experience and success in dealing with your particular health problem.  That might weed out a few.

Check with the state regulatory Chiropractic Board to see if the chiropractor you are thinking of seeing has had any disciplinary sanctions against him.

Be wary of the chiropractor that gives you an up-front bid for thousands of dollars to fix a health problem, like sciatica.  It might be corrected much less expensively in a pay-as-you-go payment plan without the extensive, worst-case-scenario treatment proposed.

There is distinct value in chiropractic manipulation done by hand rather than an instrument.  Instruments such as the light tapping of an Activator adjusting device are often used by chiropractors, more to reduce stress on their hands, wrists and shoulders rather than as the “best” treatment for the patient.  Sometimes they are appropriate with infants and the very frail.  There are however assertive instruments such as the ArthroStim that can be useful in particular circumstances.

Does the potential Chiropractor appear to be fit and live a healthy lifestyle or did he hand you his business card as you helped him into a taxi after last call at a dive bar?

For a large number of orthopedic problems therapeutic exercises are not only an important component of recovery in a crisis, but also essential in preventing future injuries.  Find a Chiropractor who is knowledgeable on the subject of exercise prescription.  Some Chiropractors have their own gym which is convenient.

Another large number of orthopedic problems are greatly helped with deep tissue therapeutic massage.  Finding a Chiropractor who highly recommends therapeutic massage may be very important in cost-effective correction and rehabilitation of injuries.  Some Chiropractors have massage therapists in their offices.  Some refer to massage therapists in the community.  Good, ethical chiropractors will also provide patients with less expensive self massage options using tools such as Theracanes, Backnobbers, Therapeutic Massage Wands and Therapeutic Massage Balls.

Some Chiropractors use just one adjusting technique.  This is not usually a good option.  When the only tool you have in your kit is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.  Good Chiropractors become skilled in multiple techniques so they can be applied appropriately on each patient depending on that patient’s unique needs.

The same can be said for the physiotherapy equipment the Chiropractor has at his disposal.  Varied equipment means having the ability to apply these when needed.  But be wary of high cost cold laser therapy.  There are equivocal results in the scientific literature showing possibly some benefits but not more than with traditional less expensive physiotherapy modalities such as interferential current or ultrasound.

For low back issues a Chiropractor who uses Flexion Distraction Tables may prove valuable.  It is a gentle, but powerful technique with good research data on its validity.  It is well tolerated by most patients and is particularly helpful with disc injuries.

Be wary of Chiropractors who claim to be able to accurately diagnose what you are allergic to with muscle strength testing.  Decades of studies have proven this to be false.

Homeopathy may also be quite questionable and results due only to placebo effect.

This should arm potential chiropractic patients with more knowledge to make wiser decisions about choosing the best Chiropractors.


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