Why Chiropractic Treatment Plans Fail…

Every once in while I come across somebody who tells me that they “don’t believe in chiropractors” because they had a bad experience where chiropractic treatment didn’t work for them. There are so many reasons that this might be the case for somebody but the idea always makes me perk up a bit because I want to know what went wrong. I see chiropractic working for people of many different situations that coming across somebody who doesn’t feel like it worked for them makes me curious. So, here I want to examine some common reasons chiropractic treatment plans fail.

First, let me address the quote above. To people who don’t believe in chiropractors, that’s just silly. We definitely exist. Here is a picture of one:

Dr. Jason Young, DC, MSHNFM

Dr. Jason Young, DC, MSHNFM

Now that this has been settled, let’s address what these people are really saying.  When people have had a bad experience with chiropractic the problem is usually that for some reason the chiropractic treatment plan has failed. Here is a list (in no specific order) of reasons this happens:

1) Chiropractic Treatment Plans Fail When There Really is No Plan

It’s really difficult to follow a chiropractic treatment plan that hasn’t actually been formed. Although every chiropractor should develop a plan for the next step a patient should take, not every one does. The standard of care is that you are not left in limbo as to what is expected of you. There are a number of options as to what should happen next. This could be a schedule of regular visits over the coming weeks for an injury. This could be a follow up by phone. Maybe it’s a referral to another kind of provider like a physical therapist, massage therapist, acupuncturist or medical doctor. The plan could be to transition to supportive or maintenance care. It could even be that you have finished a treatment plan and you hear your doctor say, “come back next time you have a problem.” Whatever the plan is, there should a plan or it’s an automatic failure.

2) Chiropractic Treatment Plans Fail When They Aren’t Clearly Communicated

If there is a plan but you, as a patient, never knows about it the you can’t really follow it. That is essentially another automatic failure. There are a number of ways a doctor might do this. Some will provide a written treatment plan, which can be very helpful. Others will simply communicate this verbally during the visit. Regardless of the method, you should leave your visit knowing when, or if, you should schedule your follow-up visit for as you walk out of the clinic.

3) Chiropractic Treatment Plans Fail When They Aren’t Based On Your Needs

It’s unfortunate, but some doctors will make a treatment plan that’s based more on their needs than their patients needs. What I mean by this is that at some chiropractic clinics you are going to get the exact same chiropractic treatment plan as the patient right before you and the patient right after you. This is because the doctor may have a program or a system that they are trying to fit you into.

I’ll give you an example. I had a family member that I had on a maintenance plan. That means that there were no symptoms, like pain. The care was for prevention of back pain. This family member moved to another state and found a chiropractor who wanted to put them on a “wellness” plan that involved 3 treatments per week indefinitely. So I got a phone call asking if this sounded right to me. Well, I was treating this person about once a month, so you can guess what I thought was really going on. I told them to ask the chiropractor what the treatment plan would look like if they were injured in a car accident. Would they need care daily or even twice a day? The high frequency of treatment didn’t really seem to serve any purpose.

I’m not saying that there aren’t times when a patient need to be treated fairly regularly. However, the plan needs to be tailored for the patient’s needs and not the doctors goals.

4) Chiropractic Treatment Plans Fail When Patients Try to Be Smarter than the Chiropractor

Ask any of my colleagues and they will tell you that they have seen a patient exactly like this: a gentleman comes in with a problem like low back pain. He has it in his head that he just needs a good “crackin'” and he will be just fine. Sure, the pain has been there for a few weeks and there is pain radiating down to his thigh, but he is convinced that he is just one adjustment away from being golden again. He comes in, gets and examination and the chiropractor makes a diagnosis of a lumbar strain with some joint dysfunction and referred pain. The recommendation by the doctor is a treatment plan consisting of about 3-6 visits. He is even told that the pain is the last thing to show up and the first thing to go away, so it’s important to follow the plan to get the best outcome. The next morning he is feeling great! He calls and cancels all of his follow-up appointments. He was right, after all, just needed a good “crackin'”! By the end of the week the back pain is back and it is just as bad as ever. Boy, that chiropractor was a waste of money!

Well, he would be right to think that he just wasted some money. It’s not because chiropractic doesn’t work. It does! Scientific papers have confirmed this. He wasted his money because he thought that he was smarter than the chiropractor and chose to terminate his treatment plan too early. That’s like flushing money down the toilet. The “Chiropractic Miracle”, where you get adjusted once and never have another problem, is certainly the exception more than the rule. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly open to that happening because it makes me look like a superhero. However, when I make a treatment plan and tell somebody there best shot at getting better is to follow a 3-6 visit treatment plan or a 6-12 visit treatment plan (or whatever it may be) I’m doing this because after seeing thousands of patients I have a pretty solid idea of what it will take to get someone better. Sometimes it isn’t the chiropractic treatment plan failing, or the chiropractor or even chiropractic, it’s the patient choosing not to follow the advice they have paid for.

5) Chiropractic Treatment Plans Fail When People Start Thinking With Their Wallet Instead of Their Brains

Years ago I intentionally asked my staff not to tell me how patients were paying for care. Sounds strange right? I did this because I didn’t want to make treatment decisions based on what I thought a patient could or couldn’t afford. Do you know what happened when I did that? I started getting more people better quicker. When the focus is insurance coverage or the bank account balance we can fall into the trap of treating your finances instead of your body. I’m not even an accountant so why would I want to do that?

I AM sensitive to the fact that not everybody has a limitless supply of money to spend on chiropractic care. When a patient brings up the fact that they have a limited amount of money to spend on their healthcare it doesn’t mean that we can’t help them. It means that we may have to emphasize other aspects of treatment that occur outside of an office visit to minimize the number of times the patient needs to be seen by me to get better. This could mean digging more in depth on office ergonomics or a more detailed home care strategy of stretches and exercises.

Besides, do you have a more valuable asset than your body? Everybody I know who is under financial pressure needs their body to function well to work and support themselves. Dropping out of care without communicating with your chiropractor about your situation is NOT the way to care for your most valuable asset.

Also, remember that a health insurance company doesn’t get to tell you what kinds of treatments you can and cannot have. So, if your insurance doesn’t cover chiropractic this doesn’t mean you can’t receive chiropractic care. We have a really great cash rate for folks who either have poor chiropractic insurance coverage or no chiropractic insurance coverage. If I think you would really benefit from a therapy I’m going to recommend it regardless of whether your insurance will cover it or not. You see, that is good medicine. The insurance company is far less interested in your health than your doctor is, so don’t let them dictate the care you receive.


There you have it. These are my top reasons chiropractic treatment plans fail. You may notice a common theme in all of this. That is communication. You have to have good clear communication with your chiropractor so that everybody is clear on the expectations, goals and needs of all the involved parties. Maybe now you may look back if you are the type that doesn’t believe in chiropractic because of a bad experience and see the role that communication could have played in making that into a great experience for you. You deserve a treatment success, not a treatment failure!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *