Buyer Be-Aware Monday: Alternative Therapies

Over my years of enjoying running and other physical pursuits, I have had reason to see alternative caregivers, sometimes numerous practioners in each discipline! Comes with the territory: if you push your body, it’s going to rebel at times.

So how do you go about choosing an alternative health care practitioner? Unlike the shortage of medical doctors, the supply of chirpractors, massage therapists, naturopaths, ART practitioners, pedorthists (I’ve seen at least one person in each of these disciplines!) more than meets demand. But simply opening the Yellow Pages, and blindly choosing a name could likely lead to disappointment.

And while OHIP covers a visit to your doctor, you most likely will pay out of your own pocket if you require a chirpractic adjustment or a massage (unless you enjoy benefits thanks to your employer –  and even that perk has financial limits). So you want to make sure you’re receiving quality care from which you will feel the benefits ASAP!

Here are some tips to keep in mind when deciding how to choose an alternative care provider:

  • get a referral from family or friends: this is the best way to go. When someone can give you a first-hand account of the care they received, and of the practioner’s style, of the cost per treatment, of how many appointments they required, you have a better idea of what to expect than simply reading an ad or contacting an unknown name. For example, I found my chiropractor because my dad visited him; my dad got the referral from a church contact.


  • ease of contact: how easy is it to book an appointment, change an appointment, ask questions? For example, my massage therapist does not have a secretary so I always have to leave a message on his answering machine. But, he is conscientious about returning calls, and we have never had a communication snafu – this system works for him. The chiropractor I have been seeing for laser therapy on my leg welcomes emails from patients. Nothing is more frustrating than not getting calls back or wasting time setting appointments!


  • see a specialist for your type of woe: if you’re experiencing an injury due to sports, seek out a practitioner who specializes in seeing physical fitness freaks! Other examples of specialty areas could be pre-natal patients, older adults, chronic fatigue sufferers, etc. Someone who sees numerous patients with a similar ailment will have more knowledge than a practitioner who is a jack-of-all-trades. I always see sports massage therapists because I don’t want a relaxing massage (go to a spa for that, by the way!) – I want muscle knots released and tight spots eased.


  • ease of getting to appointments: if you can get to the caregiver easily – their office is close to your home, office, gym etc – you’re more likely to go regularly than if you have to drive out of your way and spend time on the road.
  • beware of practitioners who advertise excessively or heavily self-promote. If they’re talented, they will have an arsenal of patients, and won’t need to advertise (I’ve heard this straight from practitioners themselves). Do you really want to see someone whose face is on the side of a bus?!

A few other tips:

  • treatment ethics:” obviously, the more clients a practioner has, the more money they are going to make. And B and I know from running our own business that it’s much easier to book repeat customers than find new ones. Be aware, though, of alternative practioners who “string you along.” A number of years ago, I saw a naturopath for a breathing ailment that had been plaguing me for months, and for which numerous doctors and specialists had been unable to find a cure. Within a couple of weeks of seeing the naturopath, I was healed! However, she then started to find other areas that we could address…it was a snowball effect. I finally cut the ties because I foresaw an endless string of “ailments” that she wanted to treat.


  • find someone with whom you “jive.” If you feel ill at ease with your practitioner, you feel like they are patronizing, or you don’t like their style of treatment (rough, fast, sloppy), find a new person. For example, I only saw an ART practitioner a couple of times before I switched to his colleague: the first guy was always in a hurry while the second guy was precise and careful in his methods. And don’t feel bad about making a switch! Only YOU can stand up for you! You should feel comfortable chatting with your care giver, and look forward to your treatments (unless you have super sore muscles – haha!)


  • book on a schedule you are comfortable with: I once asked my chiropractor how often I should see him (I knew that I could trust him to give me an honest answer at this point). I wondered whether it is better to wait til you feel something out of whack, or to have a set appointment schedule? He used the analogy of visiting the dentist: most of us get regular checkups, then call if we have an emergency situation. Preventive care is better than only receiving care when in dire need. And this schedule could be different for each of us: weekly, monthly, annually – decide what your body requires.

So, if you have been feeling like you could use a massage, an adjustment, a pair of orthotics, do your research before blindly choosing. Your pocketbook and your body will thank you!

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