7 Things Your Chiropractor Wants You to Know

  • doctor-examining-patients-shoulder
    Chiropractic Care: A Non-Drug Approach to Common Aches and Pains
    Chiropractors are healthcare professionals who use hands-on spine and joint manipulation techniques to relieve pain and restore function. Chiropractic is based on the theory that the body will often be able to heal itself without surgery or medications once the musculoskeletal system—especially the spine—has been brought back to proper alignment. Expert joint manipulation, or adjustments, can restore mobility to stiffened or injured joints, so people most often visit chiropractors for pain relief related to issues with the back, neck, and joints in the arms and legs. Chiropractors also treat headaches and other conditions. Chiropractic can be used instead of conventional medical treatment or in conjunction with it. Here’s what four chiropractors want you to know about chiropractic care.
  • Chiropractic
    1. “I am licensed for independent practice, just as other physicians are.”
    Medicare and nearly all states officially recognize chiropractors as physician-level providers. That means chiropractors hold their own licenses and practice independently within their scope of care. They must attend a nationally accredited, four-year doctoral graduate school program after first earning a four-year degree. Their curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical internship. The American Chiropractic Association reports the average doctor of chiropractic (DC) program is equivalent in classroom hours to allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medical schools. Chiropractors also must meet yearly continuing education requirements in order to retain their licenses.
  • Chiropractic with patient
    2. “Before I treat you, I’ll need to do a physical exam.”
    If you expect your chiropractor to jump straight into treatment immediately upon meeting you, it may come as a surprise that professional standards require a review of your overall medical history and a physical exam first. “Some patients are surprised by the need for a history and exam, but we do them for your safety,” says Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, a chiropractor in Griffin, Ga. “I need to ensure that you’re seeking the right kind of care for your problem and to rule out an acute problem that requires the immediate attention of a medical doctor.” Such rare but serious conditions include heart attack (left shoulder pain); loss of control of legs, bladder or bowel (nerve compression or tumor); aneurysm (severe headache); and gallbladder attack (low back pain).
  • Doctor Writing Medical Prescription
    3. “No, I can’t prescribe you painkillers or muscle relaxants.”
    Chiropractors are not licensed to write prescriptions of any kind. “A few times per year, I’ll have a patient who would really benefit from prescription medications like muscle relaxants and I’ll refer them to a physician promptly,” says Michael Simone, DC, of Fort Lupton, Colo. “But I can nearly always resolve the pain using ice, electrical stimulation, and all the other hands-on modalities at my disposal.” Even though chiropractors don’t prescribe medications, expect them to ask about all medications and supplements you take in order to get a full picture of your overall health and develop a treatment plan that won’t make any existing conditions worse.
  • Women walking for exercise
    4. “Sore back? I will probably suggest physical exercise.”
    Not long ago conventional wisdom held that the best way to address back pain was to stay off your feet while waiting for painkillers and muscle relaxants to see you through. According to William Lauretti, DC, a professor at New York Chiropractic College, medical doctors for years told their patients to rest when back pain kicked in. “As a profession, we have always emphasized that patients should keep active,” he says. “Many patients are surprised when we tell them to get out and exercise and then give them specific instructions on how to do just that in a way that will help, not hurt.”
  • Health insurance card
    5. “Health insurance often covers chiropractic care.”
    Chiropractic has come so far toward the medical mainstream that Medicare and most insurance companies now include it as a covered benefit. “A lot of patients are pleasantly surprised that their insurance plan will cover their visits,” Dr. Lauretti says. “But just as with any other medical care, specific coverage varies by plan.” He recommends calling your insurance company to verify your benefits before scheduling a chiropractor visit.
  • Smiling chiropractor
    6. “I want to understand the underlying cause of your pain.”
    In rare cases, pain is caused by an acute problem that needs prompt attention from a medical doctor or surgeon, such as a crucial nerve that needs immediate surgical decompression. But most joint and muscle pain is caused by the accumulated toll of daily wear and tear. “I want to go upstream to understand the behavior that led to this pain, not just how it’s affecting you today,” says Scott Bautch, DC, a chiropractor in Wausau, Wis. “Depending on where your pain is located, I might ask to see your shoes, your pillow, or a photo of your computer setup to see if everything makes sense ergonomically.”
  • Woman getting neck massage
    7. “You might feel relief right away, or it might take a while.”
    Sometimes, chiropractic treatments bring near-instant relief. In other cases, you might need several treatments to address your issue. “We want you to be restored in the safest, most effective way possible and that might mean making slow but steady progress,” says Dr. Hayden. “In many cases, you should think of us like orthodontists: we move structures carefully and in a controlled manner.” He adds that some acute athletic issues, like a runner’s twisted knee, are the most likely to be resolved quickly by bringing the affected structures muscles, tendons, and ligaments into alignment. The key is to communicate openly with your chiropractor about what to expect from treatment and when.
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  1. Key Facts About the Chiropractic Profession. American Chiropractic Association. https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Why-Choose-Chiropractic/Key-Facts
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Last Review Date: 2021 Aug 1
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.