What should I be looking for in a chiropractor in Watertown and what should I avoid?
This question is quite subjective but “it depends on what the patient is looking for”. I am going to cover what I think anyone (not just in Watertown, SD) across the country or world should look for when they seek out chiropractic care. I’m going to cover the top points I think patients should consider when they seek care. You should always call ahead and ask how the chiropractor practices (do they require x-rays for instance). Not all chiropractors apply to the below (good or bad), but we will address the good and the bad that patients should be looking for when they are searching for a new chiropractor.
The points made below are my opinion.
Warning signs of a poor chiropractor:
- X-rays are required: The chiropractor I saw requires x-rays before I can get treated. X-rays are only necessary if a fracture or pathology is suspected. Most conditions that walk through a chiropractor’s door do not need to be x-rayed. A dirty secret in the profession is x-rays are used to scare many patients into long treatment plans. If the office you are visiting requires x-rays before care is given, there’s a very good chance they will sell you on a long treatment plan of 20 visits or more. They will also use lines that say you “have a spine of an 80 year old” or “you have lost your curve in your neck or back” to sell you on unnecessary care.
- Long treatment plans (20 visits or more) with prepayment: Most of these plans are unnecessary. Most conditions can have the pain resolved in 6-12 visits. Some conditions (like a disc issue) can take months to treat, but we (at Watertown Chiropractic) give patients an at home treatment program and advice to get the disc to calm down and heal as quickly as possible.
- No diagnosis is given: Many clinics will say “you’re out of place and it’s pinching a nerve”. This is laziness on the chiropractor. Every patient is told they are subluxated or out of place and that they need to be treated for multiple visits to “correct their spine”. Do not fall for this line of thinking. You will waste your time and money. You should expect a chiropractor to tell you what’s wrong with you (diagnosis or pain generating structure).
- No treatment plan is given: We call these clinics “pop and pray”, where no treatment plan is given and the patient is told to call when they need another treatment. I bought into a clinic 20 years ago that practiced this philosophy. The previous doctor erred on the side of undertreating his patients due to other chiropractors in town overtreating their patients. These patients then are given the false notion that one adjustment will cure their condition.
I see this type of thinking in patients when a new patients moves into town and says “just put me back in place like my old chiropractor”. The problem with this is that any new pain issue that arises they expect it to be “fixed” in one visit. I may just give them what they ask for if I do not suspect a deeper issues like a disc problem. I’ve been guilty of practicing more on this end of the chiropractic spectrum. When I see patients like this, I typically will give them what they ask for, but I will suggest that they may need more care to correct/rehab their issue so they do not need to be seen every few weeks.
What to look for in Good Chiropractors:
- Who are compassionate and a good listener: A good chiropractor will take time to listen to your problem and have compassion for your situation and condition. We live in a “quick fix and rushed” society. Medical care is rushed due to lack of reimbursement for time. Taking time to listen to your chief complaint is key to understanding what is wrong and what is your goal(s) for care. A good history will include life stresses, work stress, poor diet and sleep. It’s not always just your body that needs to be worked on, but also what else is going on in your life. Stress lowers your immune system and your pain threshold, so addressing these issues along with good treatment helps you heal faster.
- Who give a diagnosis: Chiropractors who tell you that you are: “out of place”, “your pelvis has shifted”, “one leg is shorter than the other”, or “subluxated” are lazy. This is my opinion and unfortunately this is how some chiropractors are trained, but you’re wasting your time and money going to that type of chiropractor. A lack of diagnosis can leave many patients confused about their condition for years. Here’s an example: Joe, 43 yo male, has had chronic low back pain for 15 years. He has seen another chiropractor about every four months for when his back “gives out”. His previous chiropractor would say his SI joint is “out of place and will take some treatment to get back into place”. He see’s him until the pain is gone but then it always returns later on. Joe comes into our clinic and from listening to his history, job history, and doing an exam it is concluded that he has a chronic lumbar disc disruption. He is treated accordingly but also given advice on how to avoid loading the disc in daily life and how to build up his low back to make it more resilient. Joe doesn’t have to return for years until he has a complaint in his neck.
- Treatment plan: A good treatment plan should focus on calming down the patient’s pain as quickly as possible (with a home care exercises) and then teaching the patient how to build up their bodies to become more resilient to prevent future flare ups. Patient’s need to know that there’s not always a fix for most musculoskeletal problems. Most patients need a great chiropractor who can guide them through the process of healing and then building back their strength and resilience through exercise, proper diet, and good sleep.
- The chiropractor is an expert at adjusting, soft tissue, or rehab: It’s hard to be an expert in all of these areas, but you want to seek someone who is very good at adjusting and palpation. If your chiropractor cannot palpate your problem, you should seek care elsewhere. Many conditions can be corrected through great palpation skills that identify scar tissue that has restricted a joint or muscle region. Soft tissue palpation of muscles and ligaments and tendons and superficial nerves is a cornerstone of our practice at Watertown Chiropractic. If you’re chiropractor is check leg lengths and then quickly adjusting the same spots every visit, you should seek out a different chiropractor.
- Test-Retest of the complaint: A great chiropractor will seek out a “litmus test” during your exam. This test proves to you as the patient the improvement we can see from visit to vist. An example would be you have pain with sitting to standing. We will have you sit to stand before the treatment and then right after the treatment to see how you are improving. This proves to you that the treatment is working.