traits of a good chiropractor

Truth be told, I used to be really freaked out by the mere idea of a chiropractor.  When I hurt my back for the first time several years ago and my sister encouraged me to go see one, I resisted out of fear and skepticism.  I’m not totally sure why I had that attitude going into it, but I did.  I had tried and loved other forms of alternative care like massage therapy and acupuncture, but the idea of a chiropractor just did not sit well with me.  Ultimately my pain was so horrible though and the fact was I had two young children to care for at the time and I could hardly move.  I needed help and was desperate for it.  So I went to see a chiropractor.

And … I hated it.

What I mostly remember about the experience is that I had no connection to the doctor – he “adjusted” me with a crack here and a snap there.  I felt vulnerable, intimidated, confused and overwhelmed.  And what’s worse was that I was still in so much pain, with very little flexibility or understanding about what was happening to my body or why it was even happening.  I remember he told me I needed to eliminate many foods from my (already limited) diet and advised me to take what seemed like a million zillion supplements … and wanted me to return to see him several times over the course of the next week or so for more cracking and snapping.  I went for a few more visits and eventually my back was better, but I was really turned off by the whole experience and prayed I wouldn’t have a need to see a chiropractor ever again.

A few years later though I was faced with more lower back pain, a weakened pelvic floor and a totally out of whack SI joint while trying to return to running after having my third baby.   I needed help again – much more than I ever had before – and I needed someone who would be supportive and honest and understanding of not only where I was at but also where I wanted to be.  I needed someone I could trust.  Someone who would work with me, not just on me.

And that is when I found Dr. Wong.  From the very first time I saw him just about two years ago, I knew I was in the best possible hands.  THIS is what people talk about when they talk about having a good chiropractor.

The thing is, I believe without a doubt that I would not be where I am today as a runner, or really as a person, if Dr. Wong were not a part of my journey.

And I feel really ridiculously lucky to know him.

The purpose of this post though isn’t to just gush about Dr. Wong …. though I could totally do that and if you know me in real life you have probably heard me sing his praises to you many times over.  If this post were all about Dr. Wong, I would tell you how great I think he is – how smart he is – how supportive he is – how thorough and thoughtful and careful he is.  I would tell you about how I think his attitude and his understanding and his passion for what he does is inspiring and contagious and assuring and just purely AWESOME.   I would explain how I love how curious he is about the way the human body works, and how cool I think it is that he thinks about all of the pieces of the puzzle when he works with his patients.  About how I love the way in which he approaches my care each and every time I go to see him – it is always with the big picture in mind and he always listens to what I have to say (even if I am being a complete wacko…which I am pretty sure is almost ALWAYS the case).

This post is intended more to be about the reasons behind why I think he is so awesome – what I think makes him so good at what he does.  What I think all runners and athletes deserve to have in the doctor they choose to see, if they choose to see one (which I highly recommend!).

In my opinion ….

– A good chiropractor is someone who does more than adjust the spine.  Someone who is certified to do other types of care – Active Release Therapy (ART), Graston technique and other forms of soft tissue work – in addition to manipulation of the spine.  Getting you aligned properly is so important, but if your muscles are still incredibly tight and cranky then snapping you into place is not going to take you very far for very long.  Sometimes I go to see Dr. Wong and he hardly adjusts me at all.  He only does Graston when he feels it is absolutely necessary (which is typically when I have a lot of scar tissue built up in a certain area that is bothering me) and almost always does ART to release the crankiness in a tight muscle.  A good chiropractor will ask you questions about your running and your lifestyle as well as want understand how you are feeling in your body.  Based on how you answer those questions, he or she will survey your body to determine which types of therapy make the most sense at the time of your visit.  It is not the same every time you go.

– A good chiropractor doesn’t just “treat the victim.”  I have learned through my experience with Dr. Wong that the location of my pain is rarely the cause of my pain.  The site of my pain is typically (really, almost always) the victim of something else that is happening in my body.  For example, recently when I was feeling pain on the inside of my right knee, Dr. Wong figured out that the cause of that pain was a tight calf muscle (the gastrocnemius to be specific).  He worked his magic (some ART on that grumpy calf muscle) to loosen things up and told me to be a little more thorough when I rolled out my calves every day with the Tiger Tail stick.  He also told me it would be safe to continue running with this pain.  I did what he said and a few days later the knee pain was gone.  If we had just focused on the knee or the alignment around it, I’m sure I would be worse not better.

– A good chiropractor will explain to you what he thinks is going on, and help you come up with a plan to not only treat it and make it better, but to prevent it from continuing or from getting worse.  Maybe it’s just me, but I really like – no need – to understand what is going on with my body.  Learning to tell the difference between pain that is safe to push through and pain that is your body’s way of telling you that you are headed straight to Injury City is not an easy thing.  Having a good doctor who will take the time to work with you to understand what is causing your pain is invaluable in my opinion.  There are lots of pieces to the puzzle – your bio mechanics are a very important part of that puzzle but there are other factors too – such as your mileage build, the intensity and duration of your workouts, the shoes you are wearing and the surfaces you are running on, the amount of sleep you are getting, the nutritional quality of the foods you are eating and how you are using your body during all of the hours that you don’t spend running.  A good doctor will not only help you figure out what is going on but he or she will offer ideas and suggestions to help you move forward safely.  You will also learn to really trust yourself when it comes to listening to your body, because you will understand so much more.  I have no doubt that working with Dr. Wong in this way has made me a smarter and better runner.  He has taught me to be so much more in tune with my body and how I use it.

 – A good chiropractor understands the importance your running and your goals have for you and sincerely wants you to succeed.  In fact, he or she is active too and believes in the importance of moving your body to live a healthy, happy life.  Nothing is worse than seeing a doctor who thinks you are crazy for running as much as you do or who belittles or second-guesses your goals.  During the times that I have been sidelined because of injury, Dr. Wong has always helped me get back to where I wanted to be – safely.  His goal is to keep me running safely and happily, for at least as long as I hope to do that.  Dr. Wong isn’t a marathoner and I am sure he doesn’t have any interest in running the way that I do, but he is incredibly supportive of my dreams and this really matters to me.

 – A good chiropractor will always keep the BIG PICTURE in mind, and remind you to do the same, because he cares about your long-term overall health and happiness.  As much as Dr. Wong is supportive of my current running goals and dreams, he knows that it is not worth sacrificing my long-term health and happiness for.  Together, we have no interest in pushing things too far and getting me hurt or sapping my love for this sport from my heart through overdoing it and training too hard for too long.  Dr. Wong is always there to help me keep myself in check and to remind me to take a step back and not only see how far I have come but to look at the bigger picture of where I want to be years from now.  I want to grow old as youthfully as possible and I want to continue running and loving to run for all of the days of my life.  Dr. Wong helps me keep it all in perspective.  He doesn’t sugarcoat anything or put band-aids on problems to keep them at bay for a little while.  He is real with me and always helps reign me in when I am in need of that – this is a huge reason why I trust him so much.

Do you have a doctor who you truly trust?  Someone who will help you navigate your training, help you learn to listen to your body and to understand what kind of pain is safe to push through and what kind is not?  Do you have a doctor who truly and sincerely cares about your health, your safety and your happiness?  Who looks at the big picture and doesn’t just try to put out fires every time you come in with pain?  Someone who believes in you and values the importance your sport has for you in your life?  Someone who tries to understand the reasons behind the pain you may be feeling – what got you there in the first place – and who wants to work with you to help prevent future injuries or discomfort?  Someone who will take the time to answer your questions and explain things to you?

I hope that you do.  And if you don’t, I think you should not give up your search until you find someone who gives you that level of care.  It really makes a difference.

Have you ever seen a chiropractor or had Active Release Therapy or Graston?  What are your thoughts?  What traits do you look for in a good chiropractor?

12 thoughts on “traits of a good chiropractor

  1. I am so glad you posted this. I have been putting off going to a chiro for years because I'm too scared that I'll end up worse than when I started. Second to that, the LMT. I know I need to go, but haven't set up an appointment yet.

  2. I go to my chiro more for the ART (pretty much the only thing that works for my issues related to a herniated C6-C7 disc) than the adjustments, but I'm glad to see that he hits so many of the requirements on your checklist!

  3. I just had this EXACT SAME EXPERIENCE – one not so great chiro, and then a good sports guy who's certified in ART (and also wrote a similar post :))http://www.bornandracedinchicago.com/2013/03/physical-therapists-chiropractors.html

  4. I haven't gone to the chiropractor much and only for adjustments in my back, but I definitely think that good chiropractors explain to you beforehand what they are doing and why they are doing it.

  5. In the past whenever I saw a chiropractor, it seemed like there wasn't a treatment plan to get me completely well. Even when I wasn't training hard, it seemed like the plan was weekly visits forever.

    The irony is that now that I am seeing Dr. Wong, I do get better, but then because of my crazy training schedule (and I am glad to hear that I am not the only one who is driving him crazy with my my wackiness!) end up seeing him endlessly, but at least it is for different injuries…

  6. I have yet to find a good chiropractor : (. I've been to 2 so far. I have big goals and I need help getting there. Jessica you improved so much over these last couple of years. I noticed how fast your 5k times have gotten. Would you share what you think really helped you improve so quickly? Do you think increasing your overall running volume? Or working with weights? I NEED to incorporate weights. I was told my gluteus are weak and that I should do weighted lunges and squats. Im going to absolutely do this now. I've dropped 1:30 off my 5k in 1 year, but not a huge improvement like you've done. You are such an inspiration! Thanks for sharing all that you do. You've inspired me to get stronger, and made me realize how blessed I am that I get to run : )

  7. Having a chiropractor that will work on your muscles to reduce your tight muscles along with the spinal adjustments sounds like a nice combination. Also having them explain what they are doing appeals to me. No matter how much work it needs, it's still my body and I want to know what they will do to fix things. Maybe I should try to find a chiropractor close to where I live. http://www.oremchiropractor.com

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