When choosing a chiropractor, it is also important to consider the clinic’s business setup and fees in addition to the treatment program and spinal manipulation techniques offered.

Clinic Costs

Questions to ask about the costs at the chiropractic clinic may include the following:

  • Is the chiropractor in the patient's insurance provider network?
  • What is the policy at the chiropractic clinic for payment of services that are denied by the insurer? Some chiropractic clinics offer cash discount programs for insurance-denied services.
  • What is the cost for the initial consultation? Many chiropractors offer an initial consultation free of charge, which typically is an initial discussion only (not a physical examination).
  • What are the fees for the chiropractic adjustment? Fees should be competitive with other chiropractors in the local area.

Clinic Processes

It is also worthwhile to ask about the clinic’s processes and approach to patient care, including:

  • How long is the average wait time in the waiting room? As with many medical practices, some have long wait times and some are quite prompt.
  • Does the chiropractor provide the recommended treatment plan in writing? Some patients prefer this approach so that they can have all the information at hand to research and think about the recommendations.
  • Does the chiropractor offer a list of professional relationships? Many chiropractors will provide a list of other healthcare professionals in the area with whom they work, such as physiatrists, rehabilitation specialists, osteopaths, and physical therapists.

Potential Red Flags about Chiropractic Treatment Programs

It is prudent to be alert for chiropractic clinics that rely on certain types of marketing approaches to procure new patients or to encourage them to sign up for long-term treatment. Potential red flags may include:

  • Long-term contracts based on a brief exam. Free spinal exams, such as ones offered through a coupon program or at a shopping mall or health fair, are a common marketing tactic. This approach is fine unless the patient is encouraged to sign up for a long-term treatment plan prior to a thorough clinical evaluation. Additionally, long-term contracts are unnecessary since the length of an individual's treatment will depend on their response. A treatment trial with re-examination after 4 to 6 weeks is sufficient.
  • Spinal manipulation based solely on posture. If a patient has poor posture but no complaints, a competent chiropractor would discuss ergonomic modifications and/or an exercise and stretching program, possibly with periodic evaluations to determine compliance and exercise benefits. A short trial with chiropractic manipulation may be reasonable but not automatically warranted.

    See Understanding Spinal Manipulation

  • Pressure to purchase nutritional supplements exclusively at their clinic. Patients should not feel obligated to purchase supplements from their chiropractors. A reputable chiropractor who recommends nutritional supplements will first give their patients information to review and the option to purchase them from a variety of sources.
  • Requiring an upfront large payment for a period of unlimited care. The length of chiropractic care cannot be predicted before implementing so an upfront cost is typically much higher than realistically necessary.

The bottom line is that each patient must be individually evaluated. No promises or predictions should be made, particularly without a thorough clinical examination and short-course of treatment to determine benefits.

Dr. Kelly Andrews is a chiropractor at the Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin. She has more than 25 years of experience providing chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy. In addition to her experience treating back and neck pain, Dr. Andrews provides nutritional counseling. She is a published author of a guide and workbook for an anti-inflammatory diet.