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5 Critical Things You Need to Know Before Choosing a Chiropractor

Let's face it, making the decision to see a Chiropractor can be challenging decision on its own. There are so many confusing messages about whether it works or not, whether it's safe, and will it cost and arm and a leg? I know, I was in your shoes many years ago.

Then after you've come to the decision that you want to see a Chiropractor, you have to figure out which one in your area is most suited to help you.

My first Chiropractic experience happened while I was in college studying to become a medical doctor at UC Davis. I had hurt my back pretty bad and my friend suggested that I see his Chiropractor. I trusted my friend's recommendation, even though I didn't believe in Chiropractic at the time. I had this preconceived notion (messages that I heard from teachers and medical doctors) that Chiropractors weren't effective and that they could potentially hurt you. I even shared this with my first Chiropractor, Dr. Frank Sovinsky, who responded by saying "can you suspend your disbelief long enough to see it working for you?" I said "yes, of course."

Fortunately, my first Chiropractic experience was a very good one. He took the time to explain what had happened inside my body, he explained what he was doing, and then he taught me a lot about how the body works and what I could do on my own to speed up the healing process. I learned so many things that I wasn't taught in pre-med school. I learned a great deal about how the nervous system works. I learned about the importance of nutrition, proper fitness, stretching, and most importantly I learned about the innate healing potential of the human body. The experience impacted me so much that I decided to become a Chiropractor instead of a medical doctor.

That was over 20 years ago and I've been seeing various Chiropractors on a regular basis ever since because I like how my body feels when I keep it "adjusted." I've been adjusted by over 100 different Chiropractors in several different countries (my family and I travel a lot). So I definitely know how difficult it can be to find the right one.

So you're ready to see a Chiropractor, now what? Let's go over 5 of the most critical things you should know before choosing the right one.

1. Your Purpose for seeking Chiropractic care... Before you choose a Chiropractor it's a good idea to know exactly what you're looking to accomplish. Are you looking for some relief from back or neck pain? Headaches? Sinus or allergy issues? Whiplash recovery? Spinal injury rehabilitation? Herniated disc rehabilitation? Pediatric care? Help with a healthy pregnancy? Athletic performance care? An alternative to surgery or drugs? There are a variety of reasons people use Chiropractic and consequently there are a variety of different "specialty" services that Chiropractors offer. Be specific on what you need help with first. And be ready to share this with your Chiropractor.

2. Do some research... When I'm visiting a new area and looking for a Chiropractor I'll often start by asking some friends if they know a good Chiropractor in the area. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find quality services of any kind, and Chiropractic isn't any different. It's rare that someone will recommend a bad Chiropractor to their friends or family (unless they don't like them... doh!) So ask around, find out who your friends or family see and put these names at the top of your list. Then do some research on these individuals on the internet. Check their website, is it up to date? Is it informative? Do they share patient testimonials that you can read about? Check their Yelp reviews, Google reviews and go to their Facebook business page and read the reviews there and see what they share. If the clinic has great reviews on various sites, and they offer a lot of valuable educational materials on their website or Facebook page, that's a good sign.

Watch any videos they have on their website. Do they have an introductory video so you can "meet the doctor?" Do they have any videos that explain the various treatments or techniques they offer? If they are a quality doctor then they'll usually share as much as they can about their practice so their prospective patients can get to know them. You can also learn a little about their practice style this way. There are a variety of different techniques and specialties in Chiropractic, so take the time to learn what each potential doctor offers.

3. Inquire within... Contact the clinic and ask for a no charge consultation. This can be as simple as asking for a phone consultation or an actual meeting in the office. If you're curious about what they do then you should be able to meet with the Chiropractor before committing to a new patient examination and treatment. And if the clinic doesn't offer this, drop them from your list and move to the next person. Again, it can be as simple as getting the doctor on the telephone, or a video chat (skype, facetime...) You can tell the doctor what you're looking for and see if they feel confident that they can help you. Trust your instincts on this one... it's usually right. If you don't get a good feeling from the consultation, move on. Ask them about what kinds of treatment plans they offer, what techniques they use, how long before the average person gets the results they're looking for, what are the initial costs of care and do they work with your insurance company or not. Paying out of pocket for Chiropractic versus billing insurance is very common and isn't necessarily a reason to opt out of seeing that Chiropractor. Chiropractors who ask their patients to pay for the care (and not the insurance company) are usually really good at what they do... they have to be if someone is going to pay of out pocket for their services. Plus, if you have insurance you can usually get reimbursed for your care.

4. Make observations and ASK questions... Once you've agreed to an initial visit with the doctor they'll usually meet with you and discuss your history and the nature of your visit. Based on that they'll perform a proper examination which may include standard orthopedic and neurological tests, posture and range of motion tests, muscle studies like surface EMG, and possibly a set of X-rays of your spine (common, but not a requirement by all Chiropractors).

During this initial visit make sure that you feel like the doctor has properly understood your reason for being there, and that they've taken the time to adequately review your history and conducted a thorough examination. They should explain a few things while doing their tests, giving reasons for why they may or may not do certain things.

ASK questions! I can't emphasize this enough. Ask as many questions of the doctor as you feel necessary to be comfortable with their procedures and recommendations. A Doctor is a Teacher... you should walk away from any visit knowing a little more about your body that you did before. If they don't answer your questions adequately, or if they don't explain why they're doing what they're doing, ask for clarification. If they still don't, leave. That's a bad sign. Chances are this won't happen if you've followed the first few tips I've shared above.

X-ray tests may be necessary for some Chiropractic techniques. And some Chiropractors will only recommend them if they suspect certain things are going on inside you. Make sure you know why they are choosing to do the test or not... Ask.

Once you've finished all of the tests your Chiropractor will then determine a course of treatment for you. It's important to be very clear about what their recommending and why. Make sure you take the time to understand their reasoning. Healing can take a long time in some situations, often times many weeks or even months if the damage is severe. I find that the best approach is when a Chiropractor gives an overall prognosis, but then explains that he or she will continuously evaluate your progress week by week or month by month... and adjust the prognosis as necessary. Don't be afraid to ask for further explanations on anything they recommend.

Make sure you also clearly understand the financial agreement. Be clear about the costs of care and what's expected of you... and what they'll provide. This is very important. Be clear about the finances.

Lastly, make sure the doctor is going to teach you things that you can do at home to make your healing process most effective. Healing is a process that involves both the practitioner and the patient. Ask for home therapy procedures, exercises, traction protocols, nutritional recommendations, stress relief tips... and anything else that you feel you need help with. Read my blog post "10 Things You Can Do At Home Without Your Chiropractor" for some of my most helpful home therapy tips.

5. Monitor and assess your progress... Once you've started your care make sure you monitor and assess your progress (don't just monitor your symptoms, but pay attention to functional progress like better range of motion or better breathing). Make sure your Chiropractor has also explained how he or she is monitoring your functional progress, not just your symptoms. You should be getting some noticeable changes early on in your care. It's rare that I have patients who don't notice at least SOME kind of improvement within the first week or two of care. I'm not talking about a full recovery, just some progress.

If two weeks of regular visits go by and you're not seeing any results at all, talk with the Chiropractor. Make sure you've been doing your homework first, but then discuss it with your practitioner. If you've been doing your homework, and you've seen the doctor a half a dozen times with no noticeable changes, it's time to re-evaluate the care. At this point the doctor should re-assess his or her approach. It's a good idea to review the case and do further tests if needed (eg. take x-rays if they weren't done at first, or get an MRI or some other more detailed analysis). If the doctor is a good one, they'll do these steps and make sure they understand your situation fully. If they discover something they didn't know and then feel confident that they can adjust your treatment plan accordingly, stick with it. Good Chiropractors will also be very willing to refer you for a second opinion if they feel they don't understand your case fully.

Again, give it a couple of weeks, make sure you're doing your homework and complying with the doctor's recommendations... and if you've still not noticed even the slightest improvement, or you've worsened... get a second opinion.

I've been helping people with a variety of health challenges for 16+ years now. So if you're looking for back pain relief, neck pain relief, headache relief, herniated disc rehabilitation, whiplash relief, post-surgical rehabilitation, concussion relief, pediatric care, pregnancy care, athletic performance care... I am certain I can help you. And if not, I'll make sure to refer you to the right person who can.

For a quality Chiropractor in Nevada City or Grass Valley, CA, look no further. Contact my office for a complementary consultation so we can assess your situation and discover how I can assist you in solving your health challenge, or even better, being the healthiest you've ever been.

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