Get the Most out of Your Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic is the largest form of "alternative" medicine in the United States today. Because of it's rapid growth in popularity there now seems to be a chiropractor on every corner. I know the town where I currently practice there are at least another 7-8 chiropractors who also see patients on at least a semi regular basis.
To compound matters no two chiropractors practice the same. Some chiropractors just adjust the spine, some provide rehab and massage, some have a large focus on nutrition. Finding what works and what doesn't can seem like an insurmountable task.
When I have a patient who is moving out of town and wants to know how to find a good chiropractor there are some common traits you can use to help filter out the good from the bad.
1) Where Did the Doctor go to School?
Your doctor's school will tell you a lot about the doctor's philosophy toward patient care. Most chiropractors have their own business website, and inevitably an "about the doctor" section that will give you some back ground information and more likely than not where they did their schooling. I am not going to single out one school specifically because I personally know doctors from almost every chiropractic school who are good at what they do. I do recommend researching the school's philosophy however to see if it makes sense to you.
For example, I am I proud graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic. If you go to Palmer's website (www.palmer.edu), specifically under the "What is Chiropractic" section, you can capture an idea of their philosophy they teach their students. 
If you read Palmer's description closely you will see there is no reference to "pain" in their description, but you will see "natural healing" focused on the nerve system. Philosophically speaking I think that describes my practice very accurately.
I have many patients "in pain" that get excellent results, but my goal with each of my patients is greater than just "pain relief." If your expectation coming into my office is get cracked once get out of pain and never have to come back, your probably going to be disappointed with my care. If you want a doctor who will help you get out of pain, correct the underlying structural problem that caused your pain, then help you make lifestyle choices to prevent the problem from returning (i.e. natural healing) you will probably have a great experience.
2) Does Your Doctor Require a Thorough Exam?
Nothing is more frustrating to me than someone who has never been to my office getting angry at me for needing to do an initial exam. I had a patient once who told me "If you can't just crack me today without an exam or x-rays I might as well leave right now." So I told the gentleman it was nice meeting him and if there is ever a way I can help him in the future please let me know.
Most people don't understand everything that goes into determining if chiropractic care is right for you at that moment. I had a patient walk into my office complaining of lower back pain. After performing my usual examination and shooting lumbar spine x-rays I determined that his lower back pain was being caused by an abdominal aortic aneurysm! I told the man he was in the wrong office, immediately sent him to the emergency room, and he was in surgery later that day. If I hadn't done my exam I would not have been able to make the referral that ultimately saved his life.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm, bone cancer, prostate cancer, other organ cancer, and kidney disease or kidney stones can all cause low back pain among other things. Chiropractors are trained to determine if your back pain is being caused by a spinal misalignment causing nerve stress or by something more immediately life threatening where you may need a referral.
When you make your first appointment with your doctor if there is not some kind of thorough exam process to determine what is causing your pain symptoms, I would be very skeptical.
3) Don't Pick Your Chiropractor Based on Your Health Insurance Network
Most chiropractors (including myself) are "in network" with several various health insurance companies. The benefit to the chiropractor is that the patient is more likely to come to your office because of the discounted fees and the benefit to the patient is there is potentially less out-of-pocket cost (although with the current high deductible health care model it is sometimes cheaper to ask your doctor if they will offer a discount of services for cash). When asking new patients how they heard about my office it isn't uncommon for me to hear that my office was found on that person's insurance website.
If given the choice, most doctors of chiropractic would rather not accept health insurance. Heath insurance companies generally require more paperwork, require us to reduce our fees to be "in network," and restrict how often the patient can see us and determine what type of therapies we can utilize in the patient's recovery. I don't know about you, but when it comes to my health or the health of my loved ones, I want my doctor to do everything he or she can to get me well. I don't want someone in an insurance company cubicle deciding if I am "sick enough" or have a good enough policy to qualify for care.
Many of the chiropractors who mentored me while I was in school don't accept heath insurance period. For some people not accepting their insurance would automatically disqualify someone from being their doctor. But think about that for a second. Unfortunately chiropractic is also a business. If a doctor doesn't accept insurance they still have to be able to pay for equipment, staffing costs, other various forms of business overhead, and have enough left over to support their family. If someone appreciates their care enough to pay a higher price for care out of their own pocket than the cheaper chiropractor down the street who does accept insurance should say a lot for service the doctor is able to provide.
I understand that in today's "Obamacare" environment cost of care is at least part of the equation for most. If the bottom line is who is going to give me the best care and help me reach my full health potential, asking your chiropractor how many health insurances they don't accept may be more telling.
Personal referrals are by far the most common way people find my office. So probably the first thing I would recommend is asking friends and family who their chiropractor is, and if they have had a good experience in the office.
If you are moving to a new town and don't know anyone things could get a bit more tricky. Many towns now have networking groups on social networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn where you can ask for specific referrals, which can be a great place to start.
Depending on how long you have lived in the town, another option is ask another health care professional such as your dentist, optometrist, or medical doctor who they would recommend. If you were to ask your medical doctor what chiropractor they recommend 10-20 years ago you would probably would get a lecture on why you shouldn't get adjusted. Today the research is backing what chiropractors have been saying for over 100 years, and other professions are taking notice. My practice has several M.D.'s who not only refer patients, but are also patients themselves. Other patients have been referred to my office by surgeons after being told they were not a candidate for surgery until they failed conservative chiropractic care.
Another great resource is your state's chiropractic association. Most state associations have an area to search for a provider close to where you live or work. If you wanted to take it a step further I would recommend even calling the office of the state association. The people at the office of the association generally know some of the top doctors around your state.
5) If at First You Don't Succeed, Try Try Again
It's hard to believe, but not every patient I have seen in my life has had their world changed, fell head over heals in love with my style of chiropractic, referred all their friends and family members to me, and remained a patient for life. Sometimes they take something I say personally, sometimes they don't agree with my philosophy toward health care, and other times they don't get the results we both expect to see.
That doesn't mean chiropractic doesn't work, it just means the chiropractor isn't a good fit for them. I have the privilege of working with another chiropractor in our office. We often have patients who for one reason or another respond better with one doctors adjustments than the other even though we both went to the same school and practice the same chiropractic techniques.
When I hear someone say "I tried chiropractic and it didn't work for me," my response is always "How many different chiropractors did you see?" I usually that "dog with his head tilt" confused look after I ask that question.
If you went to a medical doctor and he or she prescribed a medication that did work for you do you say "I tried medicine and it didn't work for me," or do you find a medical doctor who does work for you? Chiropractic is no different.
I am also always amazed how often I hear from patients how thorough our exam is, and how our office is nothing like any other chiropractors they have been to before. Not all chiropractors are created equally. Don't be afraid to visit several offices before you make your first appointment.
Chiropractic works. An article published by Richard L. Sarnat reviewing clinical cost utilization data from insurance companies over a 7 year period stated that people under regular chiropractic care demonstrated a decrease of 60.2% in-hospital admissions, 59.0% hospital days, 62.0% outpatient surgeries and procedures, and 85% pharmaceutical costs when compared with conventional medicine.  Find the right chiropractor and stay well!