Finding the right chiropractor to suit your individual needs can be a difficult task, particularly if you have never been to a chiropractor before. There are many different chiropractic treatment techniques as well as different philosophies and approaches to case management. Sadly, some new chiropractic patients are dipleased with their initial chiropractic experience because they chose a chiropractor whose approach was not consistent with the patient's wants and expectations. For those who have a bad first experience with chiropractic, there is a tendency to assume that all chiropractic treatment is the same and they may decide never to try chiropractic care again. This is unfortunate, because a large number of people who avoid chiropractic treatment altogether could benefit tremendously from the right "style" of chiropractic, and in fact might get superior health benefits to what can be achieved with any other form of treatment.
To find the right chiropractor, there are some simple steps that the individual can take to dramatically improve the chances of having a good experience and good clinical outcome. It may actually be easier to begin with discussing the things not to do when searching for a chiropractor.
What many people do when they first decide to try a chiropractor is they look in some sort of directory, such as the yellow pages, their insurance provider list, or they search online for the closest chiropractor. Because those new to chiropractic don't realize the vast differences in technique and patient management philosophies among chiropractors, the initial choice of a chiropractor usually comes down to considerations such as location, insurance coverage, and cost per visit. In actuality, these are probably the least important considerations overall in determining whether a given chiropractor is going to be a good choice for a given individual.
The most important factor to consider when choosing a chiropractor is probably the treatment methods that he or she utilizes. The primary treatment that makes chiropractic different from other types of health care is the "spinal adjustment", which is also called "spinal manipulation", and there are many different ways that this treatment can be performed. These ways range from moderately forceful manual thrusts that produce cracking noises from the joints to low-force methods that may be performed using an instrument that gently "taps" on the joints, or uses wedges to reposition the body to allow gravity to correct joint alignment. There are also techniques that are somewhere in-between in terms of the force applied that use special "drop" tables that have sections that drop down when the adjustment thrust is made to help "bump" joints back into alignment and proper mobility.
The forceful manual techniques may produce some brief discomfort, and they are generally not a good approach for patients with fragile bones (such as from osteoporosis), or for those patients who are fearful and have difficulty relaxing for the treatment. Even so, when appropriate, these methods tend to provide faster relief of pain and other symptoms than the low-force methods. A chiropractor who is experienced with manual adjusting techniques (such as Diversified or Gonstead technique) is often a good choice for younger, generally healthy patients who are not afraid of feeling and hearing their joints pop. Older patients and those who are anxious about the treatment will typically find that a chiropractor who uses a low-force method (such as Pro-Adjuster, Activator, or Sacro-Occipital Technique) or a medium-force method (such as the Thompson drop-table method) a better choice.
In addition to the spinal adjusting technique, chiropractors may offer a variety of other treatment methods, such as electrical muscle stimulation, ultrasound, massage, and rehabilitative exercise. Depending on the methods used, the total treatment time and cost per visit can vary dramatically from one chiropractor to another. While longer visits do not always translate into better results, in many cases, a chiropractor who spends more time per visit will require fewer visits. This can be a big consideration for both time and out of pocket expense.
A second major consideration is the doctor's philosophy and approach to patient management. Some chiropractors primarily provide treatment for symptomatic relief, while others believe in providing some degree of rehabilitation of underlying problems, and still others do long-term treatment to permanently correct skeletal alignment as much as possible. The differences in these approaches are considerable when it comes to the frequency and duration of treatment prescribed and the patient's out of pocket cost for treatment.
So, before you choose a chiropractor, it is strongly suggested that you take the time to consider what your goal of treatment is. You need o decide whether you are dedicated enough to invest the necessary time and money to do long-term corrective and preventive care, or whether you simply want a doctor who is willing to provide "patch" care to allow you to feel better and get on with your life for the time being. Neither approach is wrong or right, it just depends on what your needs and desires are at this particular point in your life.
Once you know what it is you want in terms of treatment techniques and your goal for the outcome of your treatment, you are then in a position to interview and select a chiropractor. It is recommended that you call or visit a few chiropractors first before you commit to scheduling the initial evaluation. Most chiropractors will be happy to speak with you on the phone and/or provide a no-cost consultation in person. It may take you a little time and effort to find the right chiropractor for you, but the results of making your choice carefully can be well worth it.