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What makes a good or bad Chiropractor?

As a practicing Chiropractor I have made 2 brief lists of things to be aware of when visiting a Chiropractor for the first time. The lists are also good to see how your current Chiropractor compares.

All professions have good and bad practitioners, as you can imagine people’s abilities to treat differ, just as a person's abilities at sport can differ. Some people are naturals, some take time to improve and others well… the less said the better. There can also be differences in how one practitioner views a patient as a human being, similar to how people in general life have different views on individuals in the human race. One practitioner may run a clinic with a patients health in mind whilst a minority would put the business overwhelmingly first and see patients as number rather than a person.

Here are some bad things that from my experience I would recommend to watch out for when you go to see a Chiropractor:

  1. Treatment times less than 15 minutes long.

  2. Offering of a full spinal x-ray on consultation rather than an x-ray of a specific area, an x-ray is only required in 10% of patients and is often not necessary straight away.

  3. A “spinal scan” that miraculously highlights areas of the spine that need “correcting” or “re-aligning”. A spine with graph like projections coming out to the sides may be seen on the print out of one of these.

  4. Being told you have a “subluxation” or “subluxations”. This is an old Chiropractic term that is in the process of being phased out in the UK due to its misuse by a minority of the profession and the confusion it causes to the public. I do not have a problem with the term when it is used correctly (only within the profession between Chiropractors referring to fixations or in the medical profession for minor dislocations), however it has been abused and used as a scare tactic by a minority of individuals.

  5. Extreme treatment ‘pre-payment packages’ or ‘set number of treatments’, for example: “buy 20 treatments for the price of 18!” or “book all 20 treatments now and save 10%”,  I tell my patients that it will take anywhere from 4-16 treatments. Post treatment the patients then usually books in the next 1 or 2 to ensure they get the times they want for the next session. Some shorter term payment packages are acceptable though I find on average 6 treatments is sufficient for most simple spinal problems with occasional management options to prevent injury in the future (this is also backed up by ongoing international research using a system known as Care Response).

  6. Not doing any soft tissue work. Chiropractors that only manipulate and mobilise joints in my opinion and from what I know tend to either be streamlining treatment to make more money or work using the outdated Chiropractic philosophy. A good practitioner will do soft tissue work whether it be with or without manipulation or mobilisation or they provide some one else such as a masseuse to do it for them.

  7. Not providing home exercises or rehab. Current evidence shows Chiropractic and exercise are the best combination for effective results. Exercises are great for the patient to maintain the benefits felt in clinic, continue some self treatment at home and to get involved with their treatment plan.

Here are some good things I would recommend to watch out for in a good clinic:

  1. Treatment times 15 minutes or longer.

  2. Recommendation by a trusted friend, family or colleague.

  3. A clean, open friendly practice environment centered around the patient.

  4. Soft tissue work before or after treatment.

  5. Prescribed exercises or stretches at the end of the consultation, checked regularly and progressed in following treatments.

  6. Accessible staff by phone and e-mail in case of complications.

  7. Generally I would push patients towards receiving treatment from a BCA Chiropractor if they are based in the UK as I am a member with them and follow their values and principles.

  8. A PPQM (Patient Partnership Quality Mark) or a CMQM (Clinic Management Quality Mark) these are a sign that clinics have met high standards set by the “College of Chiropractors” in the UK.

  9. Look for the membership certificates for the associations and awards I have mentioned. If you cannot see them out on display, then ask to see if they have them.

The standard of Chiropractic practice is constantly improving as the governing body clamps down hard on practitioners not adhering to the strict guidelines that are updated and handed out regularly.

The College of Chiropractors (a group dedicated to educating and furthering the profession) releases Quality standard documents to help patients understand what to expect from 'good' Chiropractic treatment. These documents focus on areas of care Chiropractic deals with. An example of one of these is the Acute Lower back pain Quality standard. This document suggests guidelines of good practice for Chiropractors to follow regarding what is considered best practice when treating an episode of acute lower back pain (back pain with an onset within 6 weeks). Though they are not strict rules to follow, I feel this is a big step toward the profession locking down an identity as to what the public should expect from the Chiropractic profession. Feel free to read the document as it will give you a good idea of what to expect and what you should expect when consulting a 'good' Chiropractor.


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