How to Choose the Right Chiropractor

A reader asked me how she could find a good chiropractor in her city.

That’s a good question.

A good chiropractor can be an important member of your health team.  Nothing can get to the root of certain health issues as quickly and effectively as chiropractic.

In fact, I believe that if we are to find a solution to the health care morass we’ve gotten our country into, it would entail weaving the guiding principles at the core of chiropractic (and the safe, proven techniques used to implement them) into the foundation of health care delivery.

Unfortunately, the actual ways that chiropractic ideas are implemented in different chiropractic practices are extremely varied.  There are virtually no “standard” chiropractic methods.

There are some really great chiropractic doctors out there.  I won’t share with you the second half of the preceding sentence – you can guess.

Since I have a high opinion of my own health care approach, and thirty successful years in practice, I’d like to offer you some tips on how to find a good chiropractor in your community.  I’ll suggest some questions you can ask your prospective chiropractor before or during your first visit, and how you can evaluate the response you get.


“How will we know that the treatment is helping me?”

There should be an ongoing plan to evaluate your response to the treatment and the opportunity to modify the treatment approach if it isn’t working.  The monitoring plan should include feedback from you about improvement in pain and daily functionality.

In addition, your chiropractor may want to use “objective” tests in addition to your self-report, and include such methods as measuring range-of-motion, testing muscle strength, or one or more of many other possibilities as they are relevant to your situation.

“How long will it take to figure out if the treatment is helping or not?”

The answer should be longer than one day and shorter than 3 weeks and sound reasonable based on the severity and chronicity of your problem.

“If the treatment doesn’t seem to be helping, what type of further referral might you typically make?”

There should be at least a hypothetical mention, however remote the likelihood, of referral to another type of medical professional.

“What value do you see in X-rays for a case like mine?”

There are two basic ways that Xrays are used in chiropractic practice.

One way of using Xray is as a diagnostic screening tool that parallels the use of Xrays in medical practice.  My experience is, if Xrays are used for this “medical” purpose, they’re only rarely necessary in chiropractic practice.

But there are many chiropractors who have a different purpose in mind for taking Xrays – to reveal details of spinal alignment.  Presumably, the information about spinal alignment can then be used in planning the chiropractic treatment approach.

My opinion is that this is a bad reason to take Xrays.

Because the radiation in Xrays causes harm (to a tiny degree, but it’s harm nonetheless), the burden of proof is on the practitioner to show that the information on the Xray leads to improved results.

I’m skeptical that chiropractors who use Xrays to reveal the details of spinal alignment achieve better clinical results on average than chiropractors who don’t.

“How relevant do you feel the fundamental chiropractic concept of ‘spinal subluxation’ is to my situation?”

Some chiropractors use the term “subluxation” to refer to areas of spinal joint mechanical dysfunction or misalignment that also create negative feedback circuitry in the nervous system.

There are doctors of chiropractic who believe that the sole purpose of chiropractic is to identify and correct these spinal subluxations.

In my view, the concept of “subluxation” has some usefulness (though I prefer the term “spinal joint dysfunction”).  But eliminating subluxations as the one and only purpose of chiropractic? That’s oversimplified.

“What about the role of therapeutic exercise?”

The answer should emphasize the importance of rehabilitative exercise as an indispensible part of maintaining health (though there are cases in which the patient should avoid exercise in the short run).   The chiropractor doesn’t necessarily have to get involved in the exercise prescription himself/herself, but there should be some level of respect for – even insistence on – doing the right exercises in the long run.

Hope this helps you gain confidence in the doctor of chiropractic you ultimately choose.  She can make a positive difference in the future of your health.  Here’s a link to my practice website where you can learn more about the way I practice.

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About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods. His website, askdrlavine.com, provides more information about his approach. Please contact him at drlavine@yourbodyofknowledge.com or at 212-400-9663.
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One Response to How to Choose the Right Chiropractor

  1. When looking for a chiropractor, a good place to start is to ask your primary care physician or spine specialist for the names of chiropractors who appear competent and trustworthy. It also helps to ask friends, co-workers and neighbors for recommendations.

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