The key to finding the right chiropractor is getting the right name from someone you trust. Consider asking your regular physician for a referral; this will easily keep him or her in the treatment loop. Otherwise, you can ask friends or family to suggest a local practitioner, or you can check with your insurance carrier. If managed care, you will want to contact them anyway to find out whether they will cover a visit, and if so, you can request their list of affiliated chiropractors.
Additionally, professional organizations such as the American Chiropractic Association can offer a list of members in your region. Call them at 703-276-8800 or visit www.amerchiro.org.
Once you have a name or two, contact the Chiropractic Board of Examiners in your state to verify the chiropractor’s education, credentials and license, and see if he or she has any record of disciplinary actions taken against them—a step that should be taken when considering visiting any medical practitioner.
Tips Prior to Your First Visit
Chiropractic care is not a one-way street—your chiropractor should explain to you his diagnoses, any procedures, and what you as a patient should expect from the treatment, thereby regarding you as a partner in your treatment, therapies, and general well-being.
Some final tips:
• When calling to schedule your first appointment, inquire into whether they offer a free initial consultation or perhaps a discount for one’s initial visit.
• Keep in mind that your chiropractor needs accurate information from you concerning health and medical history, including any medications you might be taking, in order to make the right diagnosis. You risk your own health by withholding this kind of information.
• Bring a list of questions with you, ones you might otherwise forget when in the exam room. You might include questions such as whether the chiropractor will work in a complimentary fashion with your regular doctor should this be necessary.
• Another question might inquire into how many treatments the chiropractor thinks will be necessary before you begin to feel better. While no health practitioner can make perfect predictions, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
• To that end, if back or neck pain does not improve after a few weeks’ treatment, you should consider getting another opinion on your condition, either from another chiropractor or from a medical doctor.
• Chiropractic care in the form of spinal adjustments is not recommended for patients who have suffered a severe spinal injury that features symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the limbs. It is also not recommended for patients with health problems relating to weak bones, such as osteoporosis. Issues like these are why you need to be open and honest when seeing a chiropractor for the first time.
Once regarded as little better than snake oil salesmen by medical doctors, today chiropractors and their practice enjoy widespread approval among physicians and patients. Americans in the millions seek chiropractic treatment for back, low back, neck, head, and joint pain, often as complimentary care after being referred by their regular physician. Insurance companies often cover chiropractic treatment, and it can sometimes be found in hospitals as well.
In short, chiropractic has come of age.
Chiropractic: A Brief Description
A Doctor of Chiropractic medicine (DC) gives tremendous importance to the spine and many of the treatment’s applications center on the idea that a number of the body’s organ systems, such as the muscular, nervous and skeletal systems are affected when the spine isn’t functioning as it should, and such a state can reduce resistance to not just aches and pains but other illnesses too.
Consequently, spinal adjustment—returning the vertebrae of the neck and spine to normal positions with gentle manual thrusting—can bring relief to the limbs and to internal organs, as well as provide therapeutic relief from a number of health problems, such as headaches (including some types of migraines), menstrual cramps, allergies, asthma, stomach problems, spastic colon, and chronic pain emanating from the neck and lower back. Chiropractic has also been used to help patients with asthma and emphysema in an effort to relieve tension in the chest. Additionally, the therapy may be useful in allowing proper ear drainage, which may go some distance in relieving common ear infections in children, known as otitis media.
Chiropractic doctors do not prescribe drugs and do not perform surgery; in fact, like many other forms of alternative medicine their practice depends upon the body’s own ability to heal itself and it takes into consideration the whole patient—his or her lifestyle, stress factors, diet, genetics, exercise, sleep patterns, the works.
In order to be licensed by a state licensing board, a chiropractor needs either two years of undergraduate education or a bachelor’s degree (depending on the state), and they must complete of a four-year chiropractic college course. On completion, they receive the degree of Doctor of Chiropractic. Many states require chiropractors to complete a certain number of hours of continuing education annually to maintain their license.
Straight or Mixer
In general, there are two types of chiropractors: Straight or Mixer. Straight chiropractors typically stick to spinal adjustment. Mixers adjust the spine but also suggest to their patients a variety of lifestyle changes—such as exercise and diet—they can make in an added effort to be in the best possible shape.
On first visit to a chiropractor, a patient should expect to give an extensive medical history and undergo a physical, neurological, and orthopedic exam. This will probably include a close assessment of one’s posture, reflexes, muscle strength and joint motion. The practitioner may take X-rays in an effort to determine where any vertebral dysfunction may be, as well as to rule out disorders that would require a medical doctor, such as tumors or fractures.
Depending on the diagnosis, a chiropractor may order lab tests, offer dietary recommendations, apply ultrasound techniques, electric or heat therapies, or use braces, tapes or straps, as necessary.
Extent of Treatment Capabilities
There are a number of health issues which chiropractors are not licensed to treat. They include chronic health problems such as diabetes or hypertension, all forms of cancer, internal injuries, flesh wounds such as lacerations, and bone fractures. A reliable, licensed chiropractor should refer these and other more serious health concerns to a physician.
Chiropractors are not licensed to write patients prescription medication (only over-the-counter medication) and they are not licensed to perform procedures considered invasive, which includes not just surgery, but also injections and transfusions.