You’ve got back pain — or shoulder or leg pain, or even a headache — and you’re looking for a doctor of chiropractic (DC) to help with your problem. How do you choose? Selecting the right healthcare provider for your needs is important. Consider the following suggestions to help you narrow the field:

What qualifications should my chiropractor have?

The first step is to ensure that your chiropractor graduated from a school accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (CCE). The CCE (www.cce-usa.org) is the national agency that accredits chiropractic colleges in the United States. It is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Second, make sure that the chiropractor that you’ve selected is licensed in your state. To find your state’s licensing board, go to www.fclb.org and click on “Chiropractic Boards.” (You can also contact the state board to see if any sanctions have been placed on a doctor for state law violations.) In addition, you can find out if a chiropractor is a member of the American Chiropractic Association by visiting www.HandsDownBetter.org and clicking on “Find a Doctor.”

How do I choose the chiropractor that’s right for me?

The best source for finding a good chiropractor is often a referral from a relative or friend who has had good experiences with a doctor. Referral from another healthcare practitioner is also generally helpful. Just as you wouldn’t continue to see a medical doctor who refused to refer you to a good chiropractor for problems with your musculoskeletal system, you should also refrain from selecting a chiropractic doctor who refuses to send you to an MD when necessary.

A good chiropractor might offer you safer and more effective non-drug and/or nonsurgical approaches to your problems.
The chiropractic profession believes in a conservative approach to health care (using non-drug, nonsurgical methods, when appropriate, as firstline therapies) and holism (considering the body as an interdependent whole, rather than focusing only on a single part that is causing pain). Remember that any good chiropractor will address the physical, social, and psychological aspects of your problems with conservative approaches, as appropriate.

What are the benefits of chiropractic care?

Research shows that proper maintenance of your musculoskeletal system is important to your health. We suspect that pain in the joints caused by a reduction of normal joint motion is a common reason for many nonsurgical musculoskeletal problems. Most chiropractors address these problems with spinal manipulation, exercise, and other types of active treatment.

Your chiropractor will focus on helping you prevent future episodes of pain and disability, rather than suggesting that periodic, ongoing adjustment of your spine alone will solve your health problems. Depending on your case, a chiropractor may teach you how to maintain your musculoskeletal system through exercise, good posture/adequate movement, and good lifting techniques. He or she may also describe good health habits, such as the elements of a healthy diet. A good chiropractor will evaluate your condition and inform you of your progress at each visit.

What diagnostic procedures are appropriate?

Your chiropractor has many well-documented diagnostic procedures to help evaluate your condition that include
asking you questions about your health and giving you a physical examination. Chiropractors may use X-rays to help
determine the health of your musculoskeletal system and to see if your body has developed any serious conditions
that should be managed by another provider.

There are specific well documented reasons for performing X-rays. A reputable DC will X-ray only the patients who
require it. Feel free to question your chiropractor about the need for X-rays in your case, about the percentage
of patients who require such screening in their office, or about any other diagnostic or treatment procedure that
is unclear to you. Remember that it is not a good idea to X-ray you periodically to see if changes in your vertebral
misalignments have occurred.

Musculoskeletal problems can exist for many reasons and can occur in any part of the system. A good chiropractor will
evaluate your overall health, in keeping with their holistic approach, and will formulate a diagnosis for your condition,
as required by most state laws.

What diagnostic procedures are appropriate?

Any good healthcare provider will work hard to get you out of the office and functioning independently as quickly as possible. Joint manipulation is a wonderful noninvasive procedure in the hands of a skilled doctor of chiropractic. It has been repeatedly shown to reduce pain and help patients function better in daily life. However, it has not been shown to prevent problems. 

A good chiropractor can help you prevent musculoskeletal system problems by teaching you how to engage in regular exercise, maintain good posture/movement, and practice other healthy living habits.

There are many good chiropractors available to help you manage your neuromusculoskeletal system with sound, well
documented procedures. As with any other healthcare decision, remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Choose a chiropractor you are comfortable with, who addresses your health concerns, and who uses sound principles of modern health care in helping you manage your problems.

Content credit: Lawrence H. Wyatt, DC, DACBR, FICC

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