Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Is Chiro One A Scam?
Last Saturday, my mother and I spent the day in Tinley Park at a Rubber Stamp / Scrapbooking Expo that we enjoy going to each year. Held at the Holiday Inn Convention Center, it's not a huge show, but they usually have one or two nice things. This year, we were a bit surprised to see that it seemed to have been combined with a small Women's Expo. The first vendors we encountered upon arriving, instead of selling stamping and craft supplies, were offering bedsheets. Jewelry. Purses. Lotions. Coffee and tea (at THIRTY DOLLARS A BOX OMG, but that's a story for another time). And wellness services. Such as chiropractic care.
I have to admit, every time I see a vendor booth hawking medical care at a random expo that isn't, say, a health fair, I'm a little skeptical. Why do they need to try to draw people in? It just seems odd to me. At the same time, I'm also something of an Easy Mark because I am a believer. I believe chiro care works. I believe massages are good for your health. I'm curious. I've never actually BEEN to a chiropractor, but that's largely because I have so many things on my plate at any given time that it's overwhelming to add another. I've always wanted to go though, much the same as I'd love to be able to get a massage once a month; I have chronic pain, especially in my shoulders and arms, and it's gotten worse since I've been diagnosed with diabetes too. I also sometimes get nerve pains running down one of my thighs. I've long suspected I might do better with chiropractic care, but it just hasn't bothered me ENOUGH to take the time to make an appointment. Also, there's been a part of me that, for years, has told myself ALL these things will improve when I lose weight, and since I've been convinced I am going to drop the weight for years, I've put a lot of stuff off for "after I lose weight". But that's not helping me live well NOW, is it?
So when the lady from the Chiro One booth asked me if I'd like a free consultation, and the other lady offered to occupy my three year old daughter while I went through the questionnaire, I said sure. She had me fill out a "where do you have pain and what illnesses do you have" type form. While we were talking, my mom wandered over and started listening in. She's had chiropractic care before and felt that she received some benefit from it, and she has chronic pain too, and has been thinking about going to a chiropractor again. The lady went through a spiel about how chiropractic care could help relieve my pain and maybe even assist with my diabetes, and while I'm not sure that I entirely buy the belief that bad spinal alignment (or subluxations or whatever they call them) can CAUSE diseases like diabetes, or cancer, I've got just enough New Age Yo-Yo in me to believe that maybe having a perfectly aligned spine and uncompressed nerves might help with my overall picture of health. More accurately, I am of the "can't hurt, might help" mindset with regards to chiropractic care and diseases.
She offered us a full evaluation for $20, telling us we would get "over $400 worth of services". I'm not sure how much your average chiropractor charges for an initial exam and xrays, so I don't know if that statement is bunk or not. What I DO know is that I have a $25 copay for doctor visits, and that $20 is cheaper than $25, and since I'd been considering seeing a chiropractor anyway, it seemed like a good deal to me. My husband has also seen a chiropractor in the past, and benefited from it, so I called him to see if he was interested. He was, so the two of us (as well as my mother) booked initial evaluations for Monday afternoon, paid our fees, and continued to shop.
My mother and I went for our initial evaluations yesterday. We booked our appointments at the same time and went together (my husband was scheduled for two hours after us). The Chiro One office we went to is in Lansing, our hometown, in a strip mall on Torrence Avenue. When we walked in, our first impressions were that it was very BUSY and NOT very private. I've been to a lot of doctors in my time, and even if the waiting room is busy, it's usually got an air of comfort, of privacy, and there's generally a bit of a hush in the air, as if everyone is doing their very best to mind their own health business. Here, the place was very OPEN; just beyond the desk were a variety of strange chairs that leaned way back, and people were sitting in them, bent backwards, wearing weighted contraptions in their heads. There were several adjustment tables out in the open. There were three rows of chairs with strange wobbly seats upon them, and a number of people were sitting on them, rocking back and forth, staring straight ahead. Beyond this area were a couple of cubicle-type offices. A large whiteboard was behind the desk with our names, as well as several other names, listed, welcoming us as new patients and thanking the events / organizations that referred us. As first impressions go, it wasn't a great one.
The lady behind the front desk greeted us warmly and went over our initial evaluation health forms with us, chatting the whole time. She was very open and friendly and made us both feel a little more at ease. Shortly after she checked us in, another lady (a chiropractic assistant? I'm not sure what her role was) greeted us and gave us a little tour. She explained that all the treatments take place in an open setting, largely for educational purposes - if any one of the patients has a question or something, all the other people can benefit from it. The weird leaning chairs were to put curvature back into the neck. The funky butt-exercisers were to strengthen core muscles, because they believe that people who spend time strengthening their cores after their adjustments will hold those adjustments longer. That all sounded good to me, except for the part about HAVING the adjustments done publicly. I COULD do that, sure, but even though I'm not the world's most private person (come on, I share my life all over the internet in a million public blogs), I don't love the idea of having medical / health treatments done in public. Going to a chiropractor isn't quite the same as going to a gym, after all. And I wouldn't want acupuncture or anything else done in front of a bunch of lookie-loos either, not unless I'm getting paid or getting it for free, anyway.
She took scans of our feet (in the public area) and showed us how much pressure we're putting on the different parts of our feet when we're standing. Then she took us back into a private room and went over extensive questionnaires with us about pain we experience, past falls, car crashes, traumas, etc. Then she did some examinations of us as we stood and moved in various postures. After that, she left for a bit and the actual chiropractor came in. She was also very nice, warm and friendly; asked us some more questions, had us lay on a table and palpated our spines, had us stand and examined our postures. She recommended a variety of xrays for us (two more views for me than my mom got), and a different tech came in a few moments later and took us to another room to take our xrays.
We made appointments to come back on Wednesday to get the results of our exams. They asked us to bring our spouses with so they could 'fully understand' what we were going through. My spouse was coming for a checkup after so I just scheduled him to come back for his results at the same time. My mom snorted and noted that my dad could care less, and besides, who would watch our kids if he came too? We were told that we would all be coming back at the same time and that it would take 90 minutes to receive our results; the first 30 minutes or so would be the doctor talking to us about diseases that are caused by subluxations and how chiro care could benefit us, as well as showing us pictures of normal VS abnormal spines so we would better understand our results. Then we would receive private consultations where the doctor would go over our personal results, and would receive recommendations for treatments.
We asked several times about payments and whether or not insurance would cover the treatments. We were told it would, and that they would discuss what insurance would cover and what our portion would be as part of our results. They then all mentioned 'payment plans' several times. My mother and I both have copays for visits so we weren't exactly comfortable with this, but we're hoping it's a generic thing they tell everyone until they've verified insurance for each individual.
Afterwards, we discussed our feelings on the whole thing. Overall, we were impressed at how thorough they were, how friendly and open everyone was, and had a good feeling about the people. And, personally, I liked all their chair contraptions and such. I just like that kind of stuff. I asked my mom if her past chiropractor had all those things, and she said no, she just had adjustments done and that was it. I asked my husband later if he'd done that stuff at HIS chiro, and he said he'd done core-strengthening and therapy-type exercises. I know I'd like to try some of those things, and I'd like a chiropractor that offers such exercises. We believe we would benefit from chiropractic care.
The cons are, none of us are particularly crazy about the open-care concept. We all agree we COULD do it, and would be willing to give it a try if it doesn't end up being some sort of scam, but we don't really like it very much. As my mom pointed out, it feels kind of like a farm; they're a chain, and they're trying to be efficient and process the most people and make the most money. Plain and simple. That's how it comes across, I don't care WHAT they say about educating patients. It also feels very much to me like I'm being set up to be SOLD something. There's plenty of classic signs. I've been to timeshare presentations and vacation-property sales before, and it FEELS the same. They offer you something of benefit to you for free or for super-cheap. They get you to come see them once or twice. You spend time with them. You get INVESTED in the process. It's harder to say NO once they've used up so much of your time. There are scare tactics involved. (Bad spines cause DISEASES and you could DIE if you don't see a chiropractor!) They put you in a group setting, where you feel pressure NOT to say NO. It's all classic setup. I don't love it at all.
I googled "Chiro One" and the first thing Google tried to populate my search with was "Chiro One Scam". That didn't bode well. but the only article I actually SAW on them on the first page was this one from the Chicago Tribune, talking about their ideolody. The 'scam' discussion starts in the comments, with a lot of people complaining about it. Sounds like there IS going to be a sales pitch after we get our results, and I'm curious to see what they ask us to pay. Knowing I have insurance and knowing what my insurance covers, I really wonder if they're going to ask us to commit to a certain number of visits or pay a certain amount up front. because if so, well, EFF THAT. There are also several people weighing in who have used them and have been very happy. Like anything in life, your mileage will vary.
Luckily we're broke, and my mom and husband are both MUCH better at saying NO than I am, so I'm not worried. I know I'm going to get chiropractic care because I really DO think I'll benefit from it. I'm just not sure if we'll end up going with Chiro One or not.
Has anyone else been to Chiro One? What was your experience?