5 Signs You’re Being Scammed
I'll never forget one morning during my first year of practice I got an urgent visit from a young man. He said that he was in big trouble because he had a serious back problem. He had already been to see another chiropractor in town and it was all bad news. This doctor told him that without roughly $20,000 in care which would take about a year he would probably end up in a wheelchair within 10 years. Remember, this was my first year. I paniced trying to think of any conditions that sounded like they need that level of care. There was no need for panic. There isn't one.
I did an examination, reviewed cryptically scrawled chart notes and some very non-specific x-rays. I wanted to be thorough because I didn't want to mess up and have this guy in a wheelchair within 9 years instead. In the end I had to be honest…. his case, while painful, was pretty simple. A few adjustments and some muscle work and he would probably be just fine. He was shocked. How could he receive to totally different responses to his problem? He didn't become a patient for about a month but after 3 visits he was pain free. He is still a patient today but only comes in every 6 weeks because adjustments feel great, not because he's afraid of being crippled.
So what happened? Well, it's embarassing to admit but I'm pretty sure my colleague was scamming him. What I'll share with you here is purely my opinion but I think you should know about my 5 signs you might be getting scammed.
1. Scare Tactics – Typically we aren't dealing with life and death in a chiropractic clinic. That is not to say that there aren't serious things that we encounter from time to time. In my practice I have seen signs of what ended up being fractures, dislocations and even terminal cancer. However, unless you have some sort of degenerative disease you probably aren't going to end up in a wheelchair. If you get the sense that the doc is trying to scare you into coming back, I think that is cause to be suspiscious.
2. Many, many… many visits – Chiropractic care is more visit intensive than seeing your MD. When you have a trauma it's reasonable to see a patient several times a week for a few weeks. It is rare but sometimes necessary (such as with a motor vehicle injury) that this may even extend to a few months. However, seemingly endless treatment plans are typically more benficial for the doc than the patient. As a reference point, on a Worker's Comp case in Oregon we are limited to 18 visits or 60 days of treatment (whichever comes first). While this isn't always enough it is often plenty to get somebody back in working condition. There are few good studies done on dosage when it comes to chiropractic and opinions vary but you shouldn't feel shy about asking your doc about how many visits it will take to reach your goals. Chiropractic works! So I hate it when docs pretend it will take forever to get you feeling good again.
3. No Plan – At the other extreme you may have a doc who seems to have no plan for getting you better. They don't tell you what to expect, how long to expect it to take, or sometimes even why they are treating you. There is no re-evaluation. There is no change to the plan if you respond poorly to care or recover more quickly than expected. Your doc should be talking to you about how care is expected to play out. What are the signs you are improving? How can you know if you are getting worse? What happens after the symptoms are gone? Has the doc explained what is wrong or why chiropractic will help? If you are left wondering what the plan is then there is a chance that there isn't one.
4. Pop, Crack… NEXT! – There are many types of practices out there. Some are called high-volume clinics. A single doctor may see between 40-50 patients a day. Then there are some that we in the business call "mills" where the doc may adjust as many as 100 patients in a day! It gets that name because it is high-speed, high-efficiency, go! go! go! Patients roll though the clinic like logs through a lumber mill. (or a LUMBAR mill! HAHA nerdy anatomy joke!). Again… great for the doctor but not necessarily the best for you. A doctor who sees 100 patients in an 8 hour day is spending about 3-5 minutes with you. I don't want to imply that every busy doctor is trying to scam you. It is possible that he or she is fantastic and in really high demand. But I also know that you have to cut corners when the volume gets too high and for some that may compromise the quality of care. If you feel like a log chances are you very well may be.
5. The One Man Show – Chiropractic adjustments are so much fun for this simple reason: You get the coolest unexpected positive outcomes. I have adjusted people for low back pain and their stomach cramps went away. Or there was the time I gave an upper neck adjustment that caused the numbness in a young man's tongue to go away. It is really, really cool and exciting. That being said beware of the one man show or the doc who claims to fix everything with a single adjustment. This doc may try to convince you that you don't need your MD, PT, Psychologist or OBGYN because they can do it all for you. Good doctors (of all disciplines) know their limits and are happy to work as part of an integrated team. I personally have a Chiropractor, a Dentist, an MD, an Acupuncturist and a Massage Therapist. I would be suspiscious of any practitioner who told me that they could fill all of those roles for me. There are many types of chiropractors out there who specialize in things beyond adjusting backs. For example, I have extensive nutrition and sports medicine training. But when a doc tries to isolate you from other practitioners sometimes they may actually be trying to avoid scrutiny of other providers. Good doctors cooperate, they don't isolate.
So there they are my 5 signs you may be getting scammed. Fortunately, this doesn't happen often but this isn't just about your pocket book it's about your well being. It's important to know the warning signs so that you can partner with providers who have the same goals as you when it comes to care. If you think you're being scammed then you should follow the example of the young man I mentioned earlier. Getting a second opinion will give you peace of mind and the confidence to move forward and not just feel your best, but actually be your best!