How to find a chiropractor: By Chiropractor with 40 years experience

Dr. Lumbago,

Do you have any suggestions how to find a chiropractor in my area? I am looking for a chiropractor in the southern part of Denver.

Some people have told me that not all doctors of chiropractic do the same thing, and some are better than others.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.



Greetings Madeline,

I do not personally know any chiropractic physicians in the Denver area, but I can give you some general guidelines to use to narrow your search and get better results.

As a retired chiropractor I have many deep opinions about this topic, and I welcome your question as an opportunity to put some light on this subject for you.

First, I will just propose a list of simple and direct ideas that should be helpful in your search.  If you use them all and do your homework, I am confident you will find the doctor of chiropractic who can help you.  As I present this information to you, please keep in mind that my interest and your interest should be primarily on getting good results for you.  This is not an exercise in finding the chiropractor with the prettiest office, or the most fancy address in town, or the lowest or highest office fee.

When you are hurtin’ for certain you want quality care that results in rapid improvement of your complaint.  Not much else counts.  Here are a few ideas – what to do and what not to do – to explore for someone who can help you:

  1. Ask for a recommendation from someone you know, whose opinion you trust.   Talk to your neighbor or someone at work.  Ask your daughter’s track coach or your son’s football coach.  Ask someone who you know who does a good deal of hard physical work for the name of the DC they go to for their back and neck problems; people like your mail carrier, car mechanic, or the butcher at your grocery store.  You meet and talk to a lot of people who probably go to a chiropractor and they can give you good advice if you ask for it.
  2. Don’t put too much emphasis on a comment offered from a stranger; you cannot completely trust the man you talk to while standing in line at McDonalds.  You do not know how fair or unfair that person might be in offering an opinion about someone, or what values they have, or the truth behind comments that are being made.  For example, it is common for people who are behind in paying their bills to try to get even or hurt someone who might have turned them over to a collection agency.  These things happen.
  3. While you cannot always judge a book by its cover, you can tell a lot by looking at one particular thing related to the chiropractor you are thinking about calling for care.  Do not pay too much attention to the appearance of the office building; how new or fancy it is.  A building may or may not reflect the ability and success of the chiropractor.  Perhaps the chiropractor got the building as a gift from a rich uncle, or built the office with a loan that he is now behind in payments, or it is not his building but he is renting it and is behind in his rent.  I suggest you pay attention to the number of cars in the parking lot throughout the day.  Whenever you drive past that office make a note if the lot is empty or full during usual business hours. You would like to see that your potential doctor of chiropractic is nicely busy all day long, hopefully by making many people happy with her skill and ability.  This is a very good indicator for whom your new chiropractor should be.
  4. Don’t put too much emphasis on a referral from your medical doctor.  I know, I know, you are supposed to do what your MD tells you to do and to believe what you are told.  But the real-world truth is that doctors refer to doctors who refer to them.  It is like, “you scratch my back, I will scratch yours.”  Doctors refer to doctors who refer to them.  It seldom has anything to do with ability or skill; it is usually a business decision on their part so they get more business.  What this means is that if your doctor says you should go to a chiropractor, do it, but try to find someone on your own or at least check out the chiropractor your MD referred to so you have the satisfaction of knowing this is someone you can have confidence in.
  5. Don’t put any emphasis on a referral from your attorney if you have been in an automobile accident or have a work-related injury.  From my experience the attorney will refer you to someone based on the advantage to the winning of the case, not based on the quality of the care provided.  Attorneys are well known for getting into schemes with MDs and DCs that make more money for the attorney; you read about these kinds of things all the time.  This is how it works when your attorney is helping you to file a  claim against an insurance company for an auto accident or work-related injury:
    1. Your attorney is going to be paid a percent of the total payment you will receive as compensation for your injury; the bigger the injury, the bigger the payment to you, the bigger the fee the attorney will collect for himself.
    2. One of the ways that a jury or a judge uses to determine how much to pay to settle a claim is to use the total costs for medical care as a guideline; the bigger the medical bills the bigger the settlement.   Attorney’s love big settlements because they get to keep a nice part of that money.
    3. Attorneys like to send their clients to doctors who have two primary skills that have nothing to do with good care or good results of treatment:

i.    The doctors are good in court and make the work of the attorney easy.  These doctors speak well and look believable, they know how to appeal to a jury and they do not get rattled when they are cross-examined.  These doctors in a strange way have made insurance work and legal testimony a specialty of sorts.

ii.    The doctors are fearless in creating a large bill for treatment; some would say they overtreat and overbill for services.  Not only does this line the doctor’s pocket, but it lines the pocket of the attorney who refers to them based on 5.b. above.

  1. Many times an MD or DC will get into this dirty business because they think they cannot make a living any other way.  From my experience these are usually not skillful or talented people and should be avoided.
  2. Call the office of the chiropractic doctor you are thinking of going to for care to make an appointment for a consultation only.  Be very aware of how you are treated on the phone because that is often a reflection of the kind of care you will receive in the office.  Explain that you would like to discuss your problem with the doctor and get to know him/her so you can make up your mind about future health care service.
  3. At the consultation pay attention to the appearance of the office surroundings.  A clean, modern, friendly and well run office speaks well of the doctor and the kind of service you will receive.
  4. During your discussion with the chiropractor you are trying to determine ahead of time what kind of person you are dealing with and what kind of care will be provided to you.   Answer the questions you are asked about your problem.  Ask questions about the type of care that will be used to solve your problem.   Warning signs that can come up during your conversation with the chiropractor:
    1. Making outlandish claims that your problem will need many months or years to correct.

i.    No matter how much skill and experience a chiropractor might have, no one can predict how much care or how much time it will take to get results in a particular case.  If you are told you need to come in three times a week for the first month, then twice a week for the next month, then once a week for a month, and then once a month for the rest of your life, you know you are dealing with someone who has dollar signs – and not your welfare – on his mind.  Leave.

ii.    If you know your pain is due to a chronic arthritis, and you are told he can eliminate your problem after a prolonged series of treatment, then I think you should not deal with that person

iii.    If you know your pain is due to a chronic arthritis, and you are told he can give you pain relief and a better quality of life but to expect periodic problems to flare up from time to time if you do too much, then I think you have found someone who is reasonable and being honest with you.   It makes sense that if you work too hard or exceed your normal physical limits that no one can prevent your arthritis from acting up every now and then.  A good chiropractor will work with your to make small tissue changes that will result in greater range of motion and less pain under normal daily activities, along with some lifestyle changes to reduce the stress load in the areas where you have your greatest problems.

  1. Being told that special techniques or equipment will be used that are unknown or unavailable to others.  Nonsense.  All the good procedures and techniques are well known, widely taught and broadly practiced by anyone in the profession.  Do not believe someone who is trying hard to make himself look special.
  2. Wanting payment before services are provided.  Not much to say about how bad this reflects on the individual who works this way.
  3. Suggesting alternate methods of filling out insurance forms or third-party payment methods that seem dishonest to you.  Stay away from trouble.
  4. Once you find the chiropractor who seems right for you, here is what you should generally expect:
    1. You are treated with courtesy and respect by all the staff at all levels of your relationship with them. You have a positive experience with everyone in the office and you are happy to be there.
    2. The doctor is on time the great majority of the time.  Sure emergencies happen and an appointment schedule can get turned upside down by things that are beyond anyone’s control.  But most of the time, you have to wait only a few minutes to see the doctor.
    3.  The doctor gives you time to tell him how you are feeling, how you think your problem is progressing, and to ask him questions.  He takes time to answer your questions and to give you information so you can learn how to feel better and make progress with your fundamental problem that brought you to his office.
    4. The doctor actually touches you and works with the area of chief complaint with a technique and procedure that he has explained to you and makes sense to you.  He does not just “put you on machines” that are supposed to make you well.
    5. Both you and the doctor agree upon a reasonable goal for treatment at the start of care so you both know what you are working to accomplish.  The goal should not be to get rid of my headaches or to stop all sciatica pain.  Those kinds of goals can drive you crazy.  Here are some examples of good goals:

i.    Walk down to the mail box and back with no leg pain.

ii.    Stand for 10 minutes with no back pain.

iii.    Put in a full day of work with no numbness in my fingers.

iv.    Drive the car toward bright headlights for 20 minutes without getting a migraine headache.

Once you have met your goal, then you make a new goal:

i.   Walk around the entire block with no leg pain.
ii.   Stand for 20 minutes with no back pain.
iii.   Put in a full week of work with no numbness in my fingers.
iv.  Drive the car toward the setting sun for 30 minutes without getting a
migraine headache.

  1. This is a tricky one to explain and to understand:   You should feel some improvement almost every time you go to the chiropractor; sometimes a little and sometimes a lot, and only occasionally not at all.  Overall, you should not go to the chiropractor visit after visit, week after week, and not feel improvement.  Sure some conditions are terrible and have gone on for most of your life, and might be very difficult and complex, and have not responded to the last six MDs you have seen, but if a chiropractor says he can help you then you should expect to see some small evidence of improvement within a fairly short period of time (maybe 3-4 office visits) in most cases.  If what he is doing is correct and appropriate, and his skills are good, and you possess the ability to respond in a favorable way, the body will usually respond in a delightful way that will surprise you.  A good chiropractor will build a solid reputation on getting these kinds of results.  Not performing miracles, but making nice changes in difficult cases when nothing else seems to help.  I am not saying your chiropractor must walk on water (although you might think she does), but you are going to get help and you should expect to see small and consistent evidence of progress most of the time to justify your treatment.  If you do not see that kind of progress, then there is no point in continuing care.  You should not believe that it takes months and months to see some improvement.   You should not go to the chiropractor hoping for a miracle on the 20th visit; you should see small miracles starting fairly soon and a little at a time, and they should accumulate over time.  After several weeks of good care you should know for a fact that you are making progress with your chiropractor.  From my experience the body either responds nicely to reasonable treatment, or it does not respond.

If you approach your search in this way to find the chiropractic doctor who can change your life, you just might find her.  Good luck.    DL