What to Look for in Chiropractic Care
Can chiropractic care help with your back pain and chronic headaches? Learn how to choose the right chiropractor for you.

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Picture of woman athlete suffering from neck and shoulder pain What to Look for in Chiropractic Care

Many people seek chiropractic care. They are often looking for relief from chronic back problems, neck pain, or headaches.

Chiropractors study how the nerves, muscles, and bones - mainly those of the spine - affect health. In particular, they believe that if the spine is in proper alignment and working order, your health will benefit.

Chiropractic care is a hands-on treatment. It is practiced by a doctor of chiropractic (DC), also known as a chiropractor.

What is a DC?
In the United States, DCs earn their degrees from accredited colleges. Training usually consists of a 4-year program and includes both classroom work and direct care with patients. The intent of the training is to give the DC a deep understanding of how the body manages health and disease. To maintain their licenses, most states require DCs to earn yearly continuing education credits.

In general, DCs try to support the body's ability to heal itself. Chiropractic care may be considered an alternative to drugs or surgery for certain conditions. It can also be used along with traditional medicine.

What is chiropractic care?
The most common treatment done by chiropractors is spinal manipulation or adjustment. Adjustments to the spine - or other parts of the body - are used to try to correct muscle and joint problems thought to be related to a misalignment. A DC might move or rotate joints that have become hypomobile (restricted in movement). By loosening these joints and aligning the spine, the hope is that pain and muscle tightness will be relieved.

Tips for finding the right chiropractor
Chiropractic care is widely available. As you would any other health professional, choose your chiropractor carefully. You may want to check with your primary doctor for a referral. Here are a few tips when looking for the DC that is right for you:

  • Education. Ask the chiropractor about his or her education. Just like with your primary doctor, you want to be sure that the person who treats you is a competent professional. Ask what school the doctor's degree came from and if his or her professional license is current.
  • Experience. It is important that your chiropractor have experience treating the health conditions for which you are seeking care. Also, ask how long the treatment should last, and if there might be any side effects. An experienced health professional will provide direct answers to your questions and put you at ease. If he or she cannot answer your questions, keep looking.
  • Costs and insurance. Before you start treatment, find out if your insurance company will cover the costs of care. Some plans have preferred providers of alternative medicine.
  • Philosophies. Before you choose a chiropractor, be sure he or she is comfortable communicating with your primary care doctor.

Start with your primary care provider to be sure you have a proper diagnosis and treatment plan for your health problems.

By Andrew A. Hunt, Contributing Writer
Created on 07/03/2008
Updated on 05/02/2011
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Chiropractic.
  • American Chiropractic Association. Frequently asked questions.
  • University of Minnesota. Chiropractic.
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