If there is strength in numbers, chiropractors are one of the strongest alternative medicine groups going. With more than 45,000 practitioners in the U.S., they are second only to physicians in providing primary care. Though some chiropractors have been criticized in the past for trying to treat everything through spinal adjustments, today’s chiropractors generally use adjustments to treat mechanical problems that you expect to respond to mechanical manipulation — headaches, neck pain, back pain and pain from musculoskeletal injuries.
We probably don’t have to tell you how common back pain is. It strikes about 80% of us at some point in our lives, which may explain why one in three of us have tried chiropractic care. But now the Agency for Health Care Policy Research agrees that spinal manipulation is indeed a help for low back pain. However, there are no well-controlled studies to support manipulation for gastrointestinal, breathing and other nonmechanical problems.
Chiropractors do not prescribe drugs, but do expect them to use x-rays. If you go, expect a very physical experience. The chiropractor will push and pull on your joints and spine to correct your alignment. You should give it 5 to 10 treatments before you expect to see results.
Qualifications: Look for a licensed Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) who has passed the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners board exam.
Licensure: Chiropractors are licensed in every state.
Number in U.S.: Between 45,000 and 50,000.
Cost: $50-$100 for an initial visit and $25-$65 for follow-ups.
Insurance coverage: Most insurance, including Medicare and many state Medicaid programs, cover chiropractic.
For more information: American Chiropractic Association, 1701 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, VA 22209; 703-276-8800.