Choosing a Chiropractor
How to Find the Best One
Chiropractic medicine is known for its non-surgical approach to chronic pain and other musculoskeletal conditions, but also has much more to offer. However, finding the right doctor can be as daunting as shopping for a comfortable pair of shoes. Here, three reputable practitioners talk about securing individualized care and getting the most out of chiropractic.
Address Specific Needs
Clarifying the desired outcome is helpful, because some clients are just looking for a quick fix to reduce pain, while others may be seeking overall better health, lasting wellness and an improved quality of life.
“Due to insurance issues, we’ve become known as pain doctors, but that’s not the full extent of chiropractic,” explains Dr. Michelle Robin, owner of Your Wellness Connection and the educational DrMichelleRobin.com website, in Shawnee, Kansas. “Also, you can see more than one chiropractor, as each has their own strength.”
Dr. Michael Aho, of Crosstown Chiropractic, in Chicago, agrees. “Chiropractic care encompasses many styles, so one of the biggest variables is the type of treatment the doctor uses. Most offices commonly treat neck, mid-back and low back pain. If you have a specific shoulder, knee or foot problem, you may want to find a doctor that frequently treats those issues. If you are pregnant, choose a chiropractor that has experience working with pregnant women.”
“There are more than 140 different chiropractic techniques. Some are light touch, while others are aggressive. Some are hands-on and some use instruments for adjusting. It’s important that the doctor’s approach resonates with your nature,” advises Dr. Jackie St.Cyr of the Innate Chiropractic Healing Arts Center, in Houston.
Robin advises that sitting in a doctor’s reception room to just observe and trusting our intuition is helpful before moving forward with a consultation.
First, find out if a chiropractor has embraced either a conventional medical or holistic model, and then delve more deeply to find the right approach and level of care. “Ask how long a doctor has practiced and their governing philosophy. Do they treat the full spine or focus on the point of pain, and what range of techniques do they apply? You want them to know your spine before they adjust it; make sure they conduct a new patient exam,” suggests St.Cyr. An exam may include a thermography scan and X-rays.
Helpful questions include what to expect during the initial visit, recommended frequency of treatment, the desired doctor’s office hours and how treatment might benefit a particular condition. Because most chiropractic offices offer compatible treatments, also ask about complementary modalities such as acupuncture, massage therapy, heat therapy, and interferential current therapy using minute electrical pulses for deep tissue pain relief.
“You shouldn’t expect instant results,” says Aho. “You’ll benefit the most if you don’t wait too long after first experiencing symptoms of a problem before starting treatment, and are consistent with your treatment.” Being proactive can foster good results.
St.Cyr concurs, stating, “When patients follow their chiropractor’s recommended routine of regular corrective care, they get the best results. Be consistent with visits and do your customized spinal exercises; they’ve been proven to work.”
Robin expounds that not following through with homecare is a common pitfall for patients. “Like dental care, you always need to do something for your spine every day, be it stretching, other exercise or good nutrition.”
She notes that everyone’s response to chiropractic is different. “Be realistic. If you’ve experienced injuries or accidents, it will take longer, and your healing might look different from that of someone else that is free of injuries and follows a healthier diet. Sometimes people give up on chiropractic instead of finding a chiropractor that is good for them. You wouldn’t give up going to the dentist, and the same should apply to chiropractic care.”
Marlaina Donato is a freelance writer, author and multimedia artist. Connect at MarlainaDonato.com.
Chiropractic Techniques Sampler
Activator Method – A small, handheld instrument is used to gently address targeted areas for many conditions, especially low back pain and specific types of headaches including migraine. It’s considered safe for children and patients with severe arthritis and osteoporosis.
Active Release Technique – This approach is used for soft tissue conditions, both acute and from repetitive motion, or recurring injuries such as those experienced by athletes. It targets adhesions in muscles and connective tissues that tighten around nerves to limit joint mobility.
Atlas Orthogonal Method – Adjustment of the atlas—the first spine vertebra that supports the skull and provides a path for the spinal cord—helps reduce stress in the brain stem and nervous system.
Blair Technique – Adjustment of the upper cervical (neck) area, especially the first two vertebrae, is especially beneficial for nerve function.
Directional Non-Force Technique – This gentle method stimulates reflex reactions to determine potential discrepancy in leg lengths and corrective measures. It improves structural alignment and function and aids natural healing responses.
Diversified Technique – Widely used among chiropractors to generally improve neurological function, reduce neck, back and leg pain, especially from herniated disks, this technique may also be helpful for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Extremity Manipulation Flexion-Distraction – This involves manipulation of the extremities (arm/shoulder, leg/hip). It helps improve joint mobility and reduce stress along the spine and is especially useful for carpal tunnel syndrome and problems with posture and gait.
Flexion-Distraction (Cox Method) – Mechanical and hands-on adjustment aids in stretching of the back. This method is especially beneficial for degenerative disc disease, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, neck and back pain and restricted spinal joints.
Gonstead Technique – The most recognizable form of chiropractic manipulation and similar to Diversified Technique, this approach addresses misalignment and involves variable-pressure spine adjustment and realignment. It includes X-ray analysis to pinpoint problem areas and is deemed safe for children, pregnant women and the elderly.
Graston Technique – Instrument-assisted, soft tissue mobilization helps reduce scar tissue and persistent pain from acute and old injuries, as well as resolve longstanding trigger points in muscles and joints. It promotes circulation in affected areas to reduce pain and inflammation. It also may allay non-systemic causes of fibromyalgia.
Kinesiology – This common diagnostic technique—often for sports-related injuries—targets specific muscle groups via massage and pressure points to gauge overall body functioning.
Logan Basic Technique – A low-force way to realign bones via gentle, sustained pressure at the base of the spine, it’s considered beneficial for headaches, including migraine, neck and low back pain and stress. A safe form of physical rehabilitation that’s considered effective for all ages.
Myofascial Technique – This soft tissue therapy resolves trigger points deep within muscles and joints. Beneficial for muscle spasms, it’s thought to be useful for sciatica and piriformis syndrome. It’s also used by massage therapists.
Network Spinal Analysis (network chiropractic) – This low-force technique addresses the entire body to improve communication between the brain and nerves via points along the spine and is suited to all ages.
Pettibon System – Based on a total body assessment, both structural and nutritional, this system focuses on posture correction and spinal alignment, diet and muscle development.
Sacro-Occipital Technique – Focused on the relationship between the bases of the spine and skull, it employs triangular-shaped blocks under the pelvis to target lower back issues; low-force adjustments include slow pressure to address issues related to the skull. It is considered especially beneficial for hiatal hernia and gastro-esophageal reflux.
Somato Respiratory Integration – Special exercises leverage the body-breath connection to assist stress management, tension release and whole body awareness. It employs focus, breath work, touch and movement. Compatible with other treatments, it can also be done at home.
Thompson Drop Technique – Employed via a “drop table” and thrust of the chiropractor’s hands. It can help determine discrepancies in leg lengths. Benefits include improved posture, flexibility and sleep, and decreased pain.
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This article appears in the October 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.