The ultimate guide to chiropractors in Canada

A whopping 4.7 million Canadians see a chiropractor each year.

Using hand-on adjustments and other treatments, these practitioners can help relieve a variety of pains, including backaches, muscle strains, and headaches. There are over 150 methods chiropractors use to adjust muscles, the spine, and joints.

If it’s your first time considering a chiropractor, you probably have a dozen questions. Read this guide to help you decide whether it’s the right treatment for you.

What Does a Chiropractor Do? Chiropractor Definition

If you’re searching for pain management options, you may be wondering what a chiropractor does. Chiropractic treatment is primarily used as a pain relief alternative for muscles, bones, and joints. It also works on connective tissue, like tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Manual therapy can be used to treat a condition or maintain mobility.

Chiropractors can treat a variety of issues like:

When you visit a practitioner, they will assess your concern and diagnose the issue. They will develop a treatment plan, which can involve a variety of methods. Most commonly, chiropractors use hands-on manipulation to work on your spine’s vertebrae and joints. This is called an adjustment (read more on this in the section below).

Chiropractors also use other treatments like ultrasound therapy and soft tissue therapy. They often share education, advice, and suggestions for exercise routines and pain-coping tools.

Chiropractic care is considered a natural therapy that doesn’t involve medication or invasive procedures like surgery.

Each patient can expect a different treatment plan, including pain relief methods and length or frequency of care. Depending on your condition, three sessions a week or less may be recommended for the first month. For an ongoing condition, like neck pain, treatment can be ongoing. Many people see a chiropractor long-term to maintain their mobility or keep their body from reverting back to its old patterns.

In Canada, you do not need a referral to make an appointment with a chiropractor.

How Do I Know If I Should See a Chiropractor?

There are many reasons why someone may see a chiropractor. In general, chiropractors can help treat pain, such as discomfort in the back, neck, or shoulders. For details on when you should see a chiropractor, scroll to the “When Should You Visit a Chiropractor” section to learn about specific conditions.

Lesser known, chiropractors can also act as preventative care. Even without pain, a chiropractor can help you prevent pain or maintain a pain-free spine. Most chiropractors offer some type of primary prevention for musculoskeletal disorders. While this can be a good option for many people, it may be of particular interest to those who are athletic or more prone to pain.

What is a Chiropractic adjustment?

Chiropractors are most known for manual adjustments. The goal is to relieve pain and regain movement.

During an adjustment, the practitioner uses their hands to apply controlled force on the affected joint, like an ankle or wrist. They may also gently exercise it to increase mobility. For conditions like back pain, force is applied to vertebrae, called spinal manipulation therapy (SMT).

Before booking an appointment, you’re probably questioning how a chiropractor “cracks” a back or neck. If you’ve ever cracked your back at home, you might be familiar with the “pop” sound your muscles make. This audible crack is thought to be pockets of gas in your joints.

Although “cracking” your back or neck at home might feel good, the sound doesn’t necessarily indicate any therapeutic effect. However, since chiropractors are educated on muscle structure, that same noise often occurs during an adjustment and provides relief.

Chiropractic clinic adjustments are usually painless, although some discomfort may be expected if you unconsciously tense or stiffen your body during treatment. You can expect an adjustment appointment to last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

To get an idea of how chiropractic adjustments work, see what it looks like in practice in the video below.

What Is Subluxation?

Subluxation is when a joint is partially dislocated. As a result, you lose proper function. You might also feel pain, numbness, or tingling.

Where subluxation happens determines where the chiropractor will perform spinal manipulation. This can partially or fully alleviate pain. Chiropractors can also work on areas other than the spine that subluxate, such as the feet and wrists.

Does Chiropractic Treatment Usually Require X-Rays?

Many chiropractic treatments don’t require x-rays.

Many patients who see a chiropractor have musculoskeletal conditions that can’t be visualized on an x-ray. Instead, in most cases, chiropractors offer manipulative treatments. If symptoms aren’t improving, they might recommend x-rays to investigate more.

In some cases, a chiropractor may order x-rays immediately if they think it’s needed. Chiropractors are trained to read and interpret x-ray results.

When Should You Visit a Chiropractor?

There are a variety of reasons you may get treatment from a chiropractor.

Preventative Care

Although people go to a chiropractor for specific reasons (as outlined below), many patients book appointments for preventative care. Similar to booking a massage, you don’t need a specific condition to visit a practitioner. Even if you’re not experiencing pain right now, chiropractic care can help maintain your muscles, making them less susceptible to injury.

Instead of thinking of chiropractic care as a one-time “magic pill,” think of it like a dental retainer: It maintains your body over the long term. Much like how your teeth can shift back if you stop using a retainer, some muscles may “lose” the correction after an adjustment without ongoing care.

Chiropractor for Back Pain and Lower Back Pain

Seeing a chiropractor for back pain is a good choice. A 2018 study showed that after 6 weeks of treatment, volunteers had less pain and improved function. Compared to usual care for back pain, they were more satisfied with their treatment and needed less pain medication.

Chiropractor for Sciatica

Unlike other back pain, sciatic pain is caused by the sciatic nerve, not the spine. If you’re wondering “can a chiropractor help with sciatica?”, you should know it’s one of the common reasons for appointments. A 2006 study showed that manipulations had an effect on pain relief for both acute back pain and sciatica with disc protrusion.

Chiropractor for Neck Pain

Practitioners can use a couple of techniques to improve a sore neck. One study showed that cervical spine mobilization and manipulation both reduced neck pain and related disability in chiropractic patients.

Chiropractor for Shoulder Pain

Many patients book an appointment with a chiropractor for shoulder pain. To address this concern, a practitioner may use ischemic compression techniques with or without other methods, like mobilization and manipulation.

Chiropractor Hip Adjustment

If you have hip pain, your practitioner will diagnose the problem and find the most appropriate solution. Treatment could include a chiropractor hip adjustment, chiropractic massage, ultrasound, and more.

Chiropractor for Arthritis Pain

Seeing a chiropractor for arthritis pain, like osteoarthritis, is one of the safest therapy options. However, patients with inflammatory diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, will need to take precautions. If you have active swelling, many experts recommend waiting until after it’s under control to book an appointment. A 2013 study showed that education combined with chiropractic treatments was more effective for hip osteoarthritis than daily stretching and education alone.

Chiropractor for Headaches

Although they’re mainly known for muscle and spine pain, you can also see a chiropractor for headaches. A 2011 study showed that chiropractic care like spinal manipulation improved migraine and cervicogenic headaches.

Chiropractor for Injuries

Chiropractic care may be a part of your rehabilitation plan after a car accident or injury, like a sprain or strained muscle. A 2004 study concluded that manipulative therapy should be considered by athletes with functional, chronic, recurrent ankle inversion sprains.

Chiropractor for TMJ Disorders

TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders occur when the joint connecting your jaw becomes painful and sore, sometimes affecting how wide you can open your mouth. One way to restore joint mobility and decrease pain is through chiropractic care. One study showed that all 14 patients had a reduction of TMJ dysfunction symptoms after chiropractic treatment.

Chiropractic Care for Athletes

In some cases, patients may not have an injury and instead use chiropractic care to help them meet athletic goals. For example, one study showed that chiropractic treatment may have an effect on hip joint extension ability and running velocity. It may also help prevent future injuries.

Is a Chiropractor a Doctor?

Many people wonder if a chiropractor is a doctor. What are the chiropractor education requirements?

Chiropractors are not doctors, but it is a regulated profession requiring years of training. Here are the requirements in Canada:

To legally practice, each chiropractor must be registered with their province’s college, which scrutinizes applications. For example, chiropractors in Ontario must be registered members of the College of Chiropractors of Ontario (CCO). Similarly, to practice in B.C., chiropractors must be registered with the College of Chiropractors of British Columbia (CCBC).

Although each chiropractor has different training, they must meet all requirements to take and pass exams required to register with their provincial college. When you’re choosing a chiropractor, you can ask about their individual training.

Physiotherapist vs. Chiropractor

If you’re dealing with pain, how do you know when you need physiotherapy vs. chiropractic care?

First, let’s cover the difference between the two. A physiotherapist (also known as a physical therapist or PT) mainly educates and guides you in exercises and stretches targeted to your concern. This is compared to a chiropractor, who is most well-known for hands-on adjustments of muscles and vertebrae. Both professionals provide some of the same services, although their main service differs. They both can help pain and mobility.

Whether you see a chiropractor or physiotherapist depends on your condition and the type of treatment you want to try.

For example, back pain can be treated by both a chiropractor and a physiotherapist. At a chiropractor clinic, you can expect manual adjustments. At a physiotherapy clinic, you can expect them to guide you through exercises and stretches. In this case, the professional you choose depends on your goal and the treatment you prefer.

If your condition can be treated by both a chiropractor or physiotherapy clinic here is a suggestion: Talk to both professionals. After one appointment each, see which therapy you want to try most. In some cases, it’s safe for patients to receive both treatments (although you should tell your practitioners if this is the case).

Do You Need a Referral to See a Chiropractor?

You do not need a referral from a doctor to see a chiropractor. If you think you might benefit from a session, you can choose an office and book an appointment yourself.

Is Chiropractic Care Covered Under Provincial Health Plans?

Most provincial health plans do not cover chiropractic appointments. See below for more details.

Is chiropractic care covered by OHIP? Chiropractic care isn’t covered by Ontario’s provincial health plan.

People eligible for the Medical Services Plan (MSP) supplementary benefits can receive support for chiropractic services.

Chiropractic care not covered by the provincial health plan.

Provincial plan covers up to 7 chiropractic visits each year (this includes adjustment of the spinal column, pelvis, and extremities).

Chiropractic care not covered by the provincial health plan.

Chiropractic care not covered by the provincial health plan.

Chiropractic care not covered by the provincial health plan.

Chiropractic care not covered by the provincial health plan.

Chiropractic care not covered by the provincial health plan.

Chiropractic care not covered by the provincial health plan.

Chiropractic care not covered by the provincial health plan.

Chiropractic care not covered by the provincial health plan.

Chiropractic care not covered by the provincial health plan.

How Much Does a Chiropractic Visit Cost?

When considering whether to book an appointment at a chiropractic clinic, a common question is “how much is a chiropractic visit?”

Chiropractor prices vary based on:

To give you an idea, here are the rates suggested by The Ontario Chiropractic Association fee schedule:

Is chiropractic care covered by OHIP? Chiropractic care isn’t covered by universal healthcare in Ontario. However, some provincial health insurance plans, like Manitoba’s, cover some chiropractic services. It’s also covered by many extended workplace health insurance plans.

I Have Benefits that Cover Chiropractic Visits. Will I Have to Pay for My Visit?

If you have health benefits that cover chiropractic visits, the first step is to find out which chiropractor services are covered. For example, some plans may only cover adjustment appointments.

Some chiropractors offer direct billing. Instead of paying out of pocket and being reimbursed later, your insurance provider is immediately sent the bill.

Some offices offer direct billing for specific insurance providers. To find out how claims are handled at a certain chiropractor’s office, call and tell them your provider.

How Can I Find a Chiropractor That’s Right for Me?

When choosing a chiropractor, you can use Medimap to help narrow down your options. The results will show the office’s location and services offered. You can also filter by availability to find a time convenient for you.

Take a Step Toward Pain Relief. Search for Same-Day Chiropractic Clinic Appointments.

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