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Physical Therapist Weighs In On Chiropractic

choosing a chiropractor

About 11 years ago, I graduated from physical therapy school at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Coming out of PT school, I had experience with a lot of health care professionals like medical doctors, pharmacists, occupational therapists, nurses, etc. But, there was one doctor with whom I had minimal experience chiropractors.

To be fair, I had been treated by a chiropractor for neck pain while in college, but I never went back after the first visit. Quite honestly, it wasn’t a great experience. He X-rayed my neck, showed me how it was straight compared to someone else’s and said that I needed about 60 visits over the next year to get it to curve again (and this was a guy who used to be a chiropractor for the San Francisco 49ers)! Really Sixty visits to straighten my neck I needed to come every day for 2 months to start?

Flash forward to today. I have been with Sport and Spine Rehab for 16 years and now my experience with chiropractors is immense. As such, I have learned a lot about what makes a good chiropractor and what doesn’t.

You know how there are many types of restaurants: Mexican, Chinese, American, fast food, sit down, fine dining, etc. Well, there are many types of chiropractors too. It should be obvious when you think about it. Every line of business has a wide variety of offerings¬† especially health care. The point here is simple: not all chiropractors practice the same way and therefore you shouldn’t write off chiropractic care based on an experience with one.

Here are 5 tips for choosing the right chiropractor:

  • Find one that is evidence-informed. They should use rehabilitation and exercise as an integral part of their treatment. There is a litany of evidence showing that combining manipulation with exercise for a wide variety of neck and lower back pain is better than doing one or the other in isolation.
  • They shouldn’t put you on a pre-paid payment plan. Having a treatment plan of 8-12 weeks and 20-30 visits are both acceptable and can be expected based on all of the research conducted thus far in the scientific literature; however, this should be modified if you are progressing better than expected.
  • Go to a chiropractor that doesn’t spend all day drawing lines on x-rays. This is not to say that all analysis of x-rays is bad, but rather to say that the spine is a dynamic (moving) structure that may be in one place during the millisecond that the x-ray was taken, but could be in another position 5 minutes later. The best doctors use x-rays as a guide and to rule out serious conditions, not as a foundation for the reason to treat an abnormal curve of the spine.
  • Your chiropractor should work with the medical community extensively. This does not mean that they need to work with your doctor (unless you have an HMO), but they should work with other medical professionals like medical doctors, physical therapists, etc.
  • Choose one you like. Here’s the funny thing about healthcare nowadays we, as consumers, are starting to make decisions a bit more like we choose a restaurant or grocery store when we choose which doctors we will see. You should like the staff, feel comfortable in the surroundings, and enjoy your interactions and time with the doctor.

The bottom line: don’t write off chiropractic care based on one experience that you or a friend may have had with one particular doctor just don’t go to that one anymore! Chiropractors are generally phenomenal people offering a drug-free, conservative, evidence-based approach to the treatment of aches and pains that millions of us deal with on a daily basis. Good luck out there!

Written By:

Dr. Barton Bishop, PT, DPT, SCS, CKTI, TPI CGFI-MP2, CSCS
Chief Clinical Officer, Sport and Spine Rehab