Ballpark estimate: $35 to $200 per visit, depending on where you live
If you suffer from pain in your neck or back, or if you’ve been experiencing frequent headaches, it could be time to visit a chiropractor for an adjustment. Chiropractors are healthcare professionals who manually manipulate the spine or other parts of the body to put them back into proper alignment.
According to the The National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health, chiropractic sessions are considered an alternative or “complementary health approach.” For some people, taking this alternative route can be a viable option to address their pain and help the body to heal itself, avoiding the need for medication and surgical interventions.
What Is a Chiropractor?
A chiropractor is a trained expert who generally focuses his or her attention on a patient’s musculoskeletal system, which is what supports the weight of the body. When any part of this system is not in alignment, it affects the central nervous system. Thus, chiropractors are trained to manipulate the spine in a controlled way, using their hands or small instruments to make the correction. Some chiropractors also perform other types of treatments, including massage, electric stimulation, relaxation techniques, and even weight loss counseling, among other things.
Chiropractors typically earn a Bachelor of Science degree first and then go on to complete a four-year Doctor of Chiropractic degree (D.C.) from a school that has been accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education. A chiropractic program trains participants in physiology, anatomy, chemistry, diagnosis, and chiropractic philosophy. Some chiropractors also receive additional training in specialized areas, such as sports medicine and pediatrics. Chiropractors must pass both state and national exams before being licensed to practice in the field. (Note that requirements can vary by jurisdiction, so be sure to check out the laws in your area.)
You can find chiropractors working in private offices, as well as operating as part of a larger medical group or hospital. Regardless of where they practice, the first visit will usually include a thorough exam to diagnose the cause of your pain and to come up with a treatment plan. The chiropractor may also use X-rays and lab tests to help make a diagnosis. Sometimes treatment may start right away, while at other times you may need to come back for the first spinal adjustment. How often you see the chiropractor will depend on the nature and extent of your condition. Some people need to go several times a week for an extended period of time to achieve real results.
Most people report that chiropractic manipulations are gentle and don’t cause pain. However, sometimes there can be brief soreness afterward that can be relieved by methods such as ice, stretching, and rest.
How to Find a Chiropractor
To locate a chiropractor, you can search your state’s board of licensure for chiropractors or chiropractic examiners (the name may vary depending on the state) in your area. Or you can visit the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards to find the board in your state.
Some state licensure board websites will allow you to search by zip code to locate a chiropractor operating within your proximity. You can also search national licensing websites and national group directories.
You’ll want to find a chiropractor who comes well recommended by others. To this end, you can read the practitioner’s reviews online to see what other patients say. You can check with family, friends, and colleagues to get their recommendations. Or your family physician, physical therapist, or other sports medicine expert may also be able to suggest a reputable chiropractor. Be sure to check your state licensing board to check for any complaints or disciplinary actions that have been taken against the practitioner and use your best judgment when deciding whom to see. You can also visit the Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards’ CIN-BAD database, which reports on disciplinary actions enforced by regulatory agencies on licensed individuals.
Details Affecting Price
What you can expect to spend for a chiropractic session will be dependent on a number of variables. For instance, factors affecting price include the type of treatment you need; how many areas of the spine need to be manipulated; how often you will need to see the chiropractor; what tests and techniques will be needed; the level of training, expertise, and accomplishments the practitioner has; whether the chiropractor runs his or her own practice or is part of a larger group; and any specialty training and experience he or she brings to the job. In addition, the part of the country you live in will impact the price for a session. For instance, chiropractors who are located in rural areas with a lower cost of living will likely be more affordable than their colleagues who work in high-rent areas, such as New York City or San Francisco.
Keep in mind that the actual elements of the treatment session—including the length and any tools needed, such as X-ray or ultrasound for diagnostics, and things like heat therapy, massage therapy, and acupuncture for the treatment—will also impact the overall cost.
Chiropractic Session Pricing
The cost of a chiropractic session can start at about $35 in some parts of the country and can go up to about $200. To put this into perspective, practitioners in small private practices may charge on the lower end of the scale ($35–$55), while those in more elaborate offices in high-rent neighborhoods, as well as those who work through large medical groups or hospitals, may charge on the higher end of the scale. On average, many patients in cities and areas with a higher cost of living can expect pay in the middle ($60–$145) range. On the upper end of the scale ($150–$200), you may get a chiropractor in a big city who is well known for his or her expertise working in a specific specialty, such as sports medicine, or you may find a chiropractor who is willing to come to your home or office for the session in this upper range.
Keep in mind that first-time diagnostic sessions can be longer and more intensive than follow-up visits, thus adding to the price tag. Specific technologies and treatments can be charged separately, so be sure to ask your chiropractor exactly what is included in the cost up front and any extras you need to know about.
The good news is that some of the costs of chiropractic services may be covered under your health insurance plan. Therefore, it’s worth finding out what qualifies under your insurance policy in advance, and if you do have benefits for this form of treatment, you’ll want to find out which chiropractors are part of your plan’s network, since using in-network providers can help you try to keep your out-of-pocket costs to a minimum. (Note that Medicare covers some chiropractic treatments for people who quality, so check with your specific plan guidelines.)
If your chiropractor or diagnosis isn’t covered under your plan, or the practitioner doesn’t take insurance, one option to help manage the cost of a chiropractic session is to join a discount network that negotiates lower rates for members with participating providers. These are a growing trend to help Americans access more affordable care. For instance, Chiropractic Lifecare of America and ChiroHealthUSA are two such programs. Each charges about $50 a year in exchange for access to discounted rates on many services.
Some chiropractors may offer a discount for patients who contract with them for services over an extended period and/or pay for multiple sessions in advance. Some experts warn people to beware of committing too far in advance, especially since you won’t know for sure if you’ll be able to achieve your treatment goals. Therefore, it can be wiser to pay as you go along to make sure you are experiencing results and continue to want to pursue this treatment form.