What is the best way to find the best chiropractor?

Here is an interesting email from someone wanting to know how to find the best chiropractor in an area.

Greetings Dr. L.,

I want you to know I enjoy your back and neck pain website because it gives information I have not found on other medical websites.  I especially like the fact that you are a retired chiropractor and a lot of what you offer is from a more conservative standpoint.  

What I want to know is what is the best way to find the best chiropractor.  I am looking for someone who gives more than a great chiropractic adjustment. You see, my parents raised my three brothers and two sisters by going to the chiropractor for most of our health problems.  I remember going to an old chiropractor in our town.  He practiced in a small office that was always literally jammed with people all day long.  His parking lot was always full no matter what time of day or season you would pass by.  Mom would take us to this man because she thought he was the best chiropractor she knew about.  We would go there for the for the usual colds, sore throats, constipation or diarrhea, and any other kind of thing that would happen to us kids.  I noticed as we got older that we were not sick as often as a lot of my friends. And when we did get sick that it did not last as long or get to be as bad as everyone else we knew.  As I got older my mother would take me to see this chiropractor if I had a problem with my menstrual cycle, and even acne as a teenager.  He seemed to have a special thing to do to help out no matter what was wrong with you.  He was always working on some special reflex point or doing something that seemed strange to me as a kid, but always seemed to help us out a lot.  

Now I am married with kids of my own and live in a large city far from where I was raised.  When the need arises I have often looked for a chiropractor to go to when we have a problem.  Much to my surprise not all chiropractors do the same kind of work or seem to believe in the same kind of things.  After going to many different ones around me I have come to be somewhat skeptical about their skill and ability and maybe even interest in working with the kind of problems I bring in to them.

How does a person go about finding a good chiropractor that does all the different techniques and things that I am looking for?            

Thank you.



Greetings Harriet, 

The best chiropractor is one who is skilled with her hands and compassionate with her heart. Your question and concern about finding the best chiropractor is very common.  No one wants to deal with anything  second-rate.  So much so, that I have answered this question before in several areas of this website.

This question comes up for a very simple reason:  Over the last 20-30 years or so there have been tremendous changes in all levels and varieties of healthcare.  From the family doctor who made house calls to the specialist who only practices within a very narrow field of interest, to the optometrists, dentists and even chiropractors, all have rather rapidly changed how they practice their art and science.  Even when and how the chiropractic adjustment is given has changed. There are many reasons you could use to explain why this has happened, but most of them would come down to pressure from insurance companies, fear of lawsuits and money – and these three come down to simply money.

I started practice at the late 1960s when the healthcare world was a far different place than it is now.  For good or for bad there was a lot less thought given to insurance reimbursement rates, and lawsuits seemed to be confined to actual problems when actual mistakes were made, and most people paid cash for a chiropractic adjustment so our overhead was low and things were simple.

As society rapidly changed in the late 1980s practice also rapidly changed.  It was necessary for chiropractors to be far more conservative and not use those great old techniques that had been used in chiropractic practice since the turn of the century.  When a patient came in for something other than pain related to the skeleton it was more and more difficult to feel secure in practice.  When someone came in for a sore throat or sinusitis or menstrual cramps the chiropractor felt a lot of pressure to avoid those cases for fear of lawsuits if something went wrong and for lack of insurance reimbursement if a technique did not pass the approval of the insurance carrier.

I learned and used many these wonderful techniques you probably recall for problems of the respiratory, digestive, reproductive and endocrine systems that were frowned upon and strongly discouraged in many quarters as time went on.  This shift in method of practice had far more to do with lawsuits, Medicare rules that carried huge fines, and insurance review panels than they had to do with the great results that they got.  As I would go to seminars and back to Chiropractic schools for refresher courses I was surprised to see the rapid change in the kind of information that was being taught not only to new doctors but to older doctors like me.  It did not take much more than 10-20 years for a lot of this information to get lost in the shuffle created by government intervention and the growing power of the insurance industry to change medical practice.

Today the chiropractic adjustment, also known as spinal manipulation, has become much more conservative and limited in when it is used and how it is delivered.  Chiropractic is still a highly regarded and popular method for pain relief when it is related to the skeletal system, with an estimated 8-15% of the U.S. population taking advantage of chiropractic care annually.  It is estimated that in the U.S. more than 306 million people go to a chiropractor for a wide variety of heath problem anywhere from 18-36   million times a year.  It is still a very popular and effective form of healthcare delivery, but it has definitely changed in the last few decades.  Today the chiropractic profession is seen more as a area of specialty of the spine and musculoskeletal problems that relate to pain and altered function, and much less as a different kind of doctor who can help you get well when you are sick.

Some time ago I wrote an article suggesting different things to look for and ask about when trying to find the best chiropractor.  The chiropractic profession is unique because it attracts men and women who do not mind being different and standing against the mainstream of popular opinion.  For this reason with the ranks of chiropractors you will find a broad variety of practice philosophies and a wild array of spinal manipulation techniques, as well as many secondary approaches that are used to support their primary treatment method which still remains as the chiropractic adjustment.

I will tell you that there are fewer and fewer of us old-timers who know what to do with heavy lung congestion or a very high fever, but there are still stubborn individualists who still work in a more holistic and naturopathic method practice.  Ask around, and you might find that who you are looking for is right around the corner from you.

Let me know if there is anything I can do to assist you in the future.  DL