Is it time to call a chiropractor? The right chiropractor can help you cope with back and neck pain, but don’t assume that just any chiropractor is the right one for you.
These suggestions will help you find the right doctor and get the most out of your chiropractic visits.
Once you've decided on a chiropractor, consider your first appointment to be like a job interview, to make sure the partnership will be a good fit.
Plan to ask your chiropractor these questions at the first visit or consultation:
- Do you offer free consultations? Ask the person who is making your appointment if the chiropractor offers a free consultation so you will know if the rest of your questions will be answered at no expense to you. If your chiropractor does not offer a free initial consultation, it is not necessarily a reason to cross him or her off your list, but it never hurts to ask.
- See Questions to Ask About Chiropractic Techniques for more on this topic.
- Further reading: Spinal Mobilization: Gentle Chiropractic Techniques
How long will my treatment last? Be wary of chiropractors who put you on a strict treatment plan including an exact time line of how long they think your treatment will take. This may be a sign that they are more interested in making appointments than helping you heal.Also, be aware of any chiropractor who asks for an up-front lump-sum payment.
- Further reading: Getting an Accurate Back Pain Diagnosis
- Read more: Chiropractic Treatment Plan
- What are the estimated costs? Before you agree to the chiropractor's treatment plan, ask him or her to estimate the total cost. It can be difficult to decide whether or not the costs are competitive, but at least you will know what you can expect to pay. Consider calling around to other clinics to compare costs. You could even post on our chiropractic forum to see what other community members are paying for their treatments.
- How is billing handled? You may have to submit your own claims, which can become cumbersome. Some insurance will only cover certain procedures. If a procedure is not covered, many clinics will offer discounts for cash payments. Ask how the clinic will handle procedures that are not covered by your insurance.
- Do you have references? Don't be afraid to ask the chiropractor to give you references. Any professional who is proud of his or her work will be happy to offer you the opportunity to speak with happy clients. Follow up with phone calls to the patients to ask about their experience with the particular chiropractor. (According to HIPAA, it is illegal in the United States for any doctor to give out names of patients, but he can ask patients to sign a release.)
- Under what circumstances would I need to see a different practitioner or spine specialist? If you fail to improve under the chiropractor's care, you will probably need to see a specialist. Does your chiropractor acknowledge this and agree? At what point will he or she decide it is time to refer you to a specialist?
- You can learn more about how to know it's time to see a specialist by referring to When to See a Surgeon for Low Back Pain
- More on what chiropractors treat: Chiropractic Treatments for Lower Back Pain
Many people who visit our site have already been to see a chiropractor. For those of you who have never seen one, and who are not sure how to go about finding the right chiropractor for you, consider this practical advice:
- Ask friends and family for a recommendation. It goes without saying that this is the gold standard we all use to find a best babysitter, restaurant, etc. For me personally, I have a handful of friends I can always trust for great recommendations because we have similar values and standards.
- Get insider information. Doctors may have the advantage of "insider" information. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor what he or she has heard about a particular chiropractor. While your doctor may not want to "bad mouth" any other professional in the area, you can take note of his or her non-verbal cues if you ask about a certain chiropractor.
- Google the chiropractor. Hopefully, all you will see are his or her published marathon times, but if he or she has been in trouble with the law, you will most certainly find it on Google.
- Check if the chiropractor is licensed to practice by your state. Before a chiropractor can become licensed to practice, he or she must pass rigorous state and national exams. Go to the Chiropractic Licensing Boards website to look up a chiropractor by name. Or you could rely on HealthRcovered's database, which does a thorough check on all listed chiropractors.
- Check to see if he or she accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (or a similar association in countries outside the U.S.): www.cce-usa.org.
- Has he or she been disciplined by the state? There are enough chiropractors to choose from. If the one you are considering has been disciplined by any board, find someone else: www.healthguideusa.org.
Looking for a Chiropractor?
Find a Chiropractor in
A little extra work can go a long way when you are choosing a chiropractor. These practical guidelines can set you in the right direction for making the best choice.
- Shekelle PG. "Editorial: What role for chiropractic in healthcare?" New England Journal of Medicine, 339(15):1074-1075, 1998.