How to Choose a Good Chiropractor

Published: 05th April 2012
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The majority of neck and back pain is mechanical in nature and responds most favorably to conservative chiropractic care. Today chiropractic as a profession has evolved from its early roots to one of musculoskeletal specialists who treat more neck and back pain than any other physician. This should make choosing a good chiropractor easy. Sadly this is not true.


After practicing for more than 15 years, the most difficult task I face is not getting patients well but rather finding an honest ethical chiropractor for patients moving out of town. After numerous requests from patients frustrated with trying to find a good chiropractor I decided to write this article.


Many years ago, in an effort to maintain control of our own profession, chiropractors chose not to merge with the medical profession. As such chiropractors were effectively shut out of traditional medical referrals. This left chiropractors clamoring for new patients and vulnerable to lofty promises from unscrupulous management companies.

Chiropractic management companies solved the new patient dilemma by introducing the revolving door. That is, if you can’t see more patients, just see the ones you have more often. There is an old chiropractic joke. How many chiropractors does it take to change a light bulb. Just one but he has to come back 3 times a week for 6 months.


Although referral links have long since been reintroduced, unfortunately chiropractic as a profession is still in the grips of these same management companies. Sadly our professional associations and licensing agencies have done little to manage this fraud. This has left unsuspecting patients the task of navigating a minefield in an attempt to find a competent ethical chiropractor.


Unfortunately a lot of chiropractors have sipped the management cool-aid and practice more like evangelical preaches than doctors of chiropractic. These unethical chiropractors typically offer deeply discounted initial exams, free X Rays and take an anti medical model of health. They advocate chiropractic subluxation as a heal all philosophy, effectively taking over management of all health problems under this distorted hypothesis.

Fraud Alert

This is not only a fraud perpetuated on the public but more importantly dangerous as these chiropractors discount symptoms as a manifestations of your underlying “subluxation” and do not adhere to standard examination or differential diagnostic protocols.

Not surprising a lot of these chiropractors are marketing experts and slick sales people who have mastered the soft opening and hard close to pressure patients into long unnecessary treatment plans.

These chiropractors give chiropractic a bad name and undermine the true potential and amazing results experienced by millions of patients seeing honest ethical chiropractors.

Thankfully patients are finally wising up to these snake oil salesmen with many patients now reading online or asking their primary care physicians for a chiropractic referral or recommendation.

Making the right choice
Here are 10 simple rules you can use to help find a good chiropractor.

1. If a chiropractor offers free X-Rays be very wary. X Rays should only be used to rule out fracture or pathology and not as a routine screening procedure for new patients. Chiropractors who insist on x rays on all patients or who do repeat X Rays should be avoided

2. If a chiropractor offers several deeply discounted or free visits beware. The reality is most conditions respond rapidly to timely appropriate treatment and many patients are pain free within 1 to 4 visits. Any chiropractor who is discounting the first few visits is using this as a bait and switch to sell long unnecessary treatment plans.

3. If a chiropractor is holding himself out in ads or online as a guru or claiming miraculous cures for non spinal conditions beware. These chiropractors extend a large net and draw in patients with lofty promises. The only true promise is I promise you will end up overpaying.

4. A lot of unethical chiropractors are marketing masters with plenty of free time to spin their web. These chiropractors often have high ranking web sites and fictitious reviews. When searching online, take the time to read through at least 4 or 5 different chiropractic web sites. One can often draw a good impression by the style, tone and content of a particular web site.

5. If you see a chiropractor who after performing your initial exam does not give you a clear diagnosis, run. A lot of chiropractors will not treat you on your first visit and will instead schedule a “report of findings” This is when the hard pitch close and long treatment plans are presented. The truth is unless referral or additional diagnostic testing are required a good chiropractor will review your exam findings, discuss your diagnosis in clear standard medical terminology and have you feeling better and in less pain that day.

6. The truth is that there is no clinical or ethical justification for protracted open ended treatment plans and patients should be very wary of any chiropractor attempting to sell long expensive plans. In cases involving significant trauma or ligament, disc and nerve injury, longer treatment plans may be required. These plans should be tailored to your specific diagnosis and not the same 3-6 month plan that unethical chiropractors sell to all their patients irrespective of condition.

7. Ask your chiropractor what his goal of treatment is. This is the most revealing question you can ask. A good chiropractor will say something along the lines of his goal is to decrease pain and inflammation, restore pre injury range of motion and to get you pain free as quickly as possible. Be very wary of any chiropractor who tells you his primary goal is to eliminate “subluxation” Subluxation is a positional state of a joint, like a partially stuck hinge. It is certainly part of chiropractic treatment but this word has been hijacked by unethical chiropractors and used as a central focus to confuse distort and misrepresent what is required to help you.

8. If a chiropractor wants you to come to a “lecture” or encourages you to bring a few friends to their weekly lecture be very wary. This is the hour of power where these slick chiropractors weave their magic in what honestly amounts to cult like activity.

9. When calling to make your first appointment ask if the doctor takes X-Rays on every patient and if the doctor treats you on the first visit. Also ask if they do “office lectures” These should all be viewed as red flags and will help you make a more informed choice.

10. Last but not least, if in doubt get a second opinion. You may just save yourself a fortune and us our profession.
Dr. Robertson is a San Diego Chiropractor who practices in La Jolla. He offers fast effective relief without long unnecessary treatment and was voted Best Chiropractor in San Diego by the Union Tribune and Sign on San Diego. Dr. Robertson has been voted Best Chiropractor in La Jolla for the past 5 years and can be contacted at or at 858 454-3612.

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