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Successful Aging: Help! I got bullied into expensive treatments I can’t afford

Q. I am a 70-year old reader of your column. I attended a neuropathy seminar and subsequently went into the chiropractic office sponsoring the seminar for two consultations to determine if I needed neuropathy treatments. They said my situation was serious and I could end up in a wheelchair or possibly have to get my leg amputated. Original treatment: $17,000; the hardship discount for me: $7,000. They told me if I consulted my neurologist I would not qualify for their program. I have not improved and the payments are more than I can afford. In 2012, the clinic owner was fined for fraudulent practices. Can you advise your readers how to avoid becoming a victim of such a scam and what I can do? Many thanks. H.S.

What a dreadful experience. There are good and bad professionals in all fields; clearly, you got stuck with a bad one. Unfortunately playing on the fears of older adults is a common practice among scammers who often use such bullying tactics.

Although chiropractic healthcare often is considered alternative medicine, more recently it is considered complementary or mainstream. It is based on the self-healing capacity of the body and grounded in the principle that the body coordinates all its functions via the brain and nervous system, communicating through the spinal column. Treatment primarily is by detailed assessment and spinal adjustments as well as recommendations for lifestyle changes, exercises, nutrition and sometimes physiotherapy.

I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Dr. Dominique Scott, D.C. who has been in practice in the South Bay for 22 years. He offered an explanation of the difference between medical practices and chiropractic care. “Medical practices evaluate what’s breaking down through illness or injury and then proceeds to repair the problem. In chiropractic medicine, we look at what makes the body healthy and how to achieve peak performance and wellness, creating a better condition for the body to heal when it is not well. He noted that “whole health is routed in the nervous system; nutrition also is a significant part of optimal health.”

I asked him, “What should an individual look for when seeking a chiropractor? He offered a few good pointers:

  • If checking out a website, know that the site is just a brochure to attract attention.

  • Visit the office; ask for a tour.

  • Have an examination and have the results shared with you.

  • Ask, “How would you approach the problem?”

  • Discuss the goal and how to achieve it.

  • Determine how much time or the number of visits would be required and the cost.

  • Scott added that malpractice costs for chiropractors are the lowest among primary care providers. Results are not guaranteed (likely for most medical practitioners.)

Here are some additional considerations:

  • For a referral, ask your primary physician, physical therapist or spine specialist for a recommendation.

  • If consulting a co-worker, note that one person’s definition of the best chiropractor may be different from another’s.

  • Conduct a telephone interview or request an office consultation.

  • Determine if the chiropractor is friendly and courteous.

  • Do you feel comfortable?

  • Are your questions fully answered?

  • Does the chiropractor listen to your explanation of symptoms?

  • How many years has he/she been in practice?

  • Does the chiropractor have a post-graduate specialty or two?

  • Ask about schooling and degrees. You might also check if the chiropractor’s college is accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education.

  • Consider checking for any disciplinary action on each state’s Chiropractic Regulation and Licensing Board on the state’s web site.

The practice of chiropractic medicine is not new. It has been performed since the times of Hippocrates. The first chiropractic adjustment was performed in 1895 by D.D. Palmer. It is considered a whole-health specialty dealing with the patient’s overall well-being and promotion of good health, in addition to helping those recovering from varieties of pain and injuries.

What can you do now?

File a complaint with the Board of Chiropractic Examiners who protect consumers through licensing and enforcing regulations. Their website indicates complaints alleging gross negligence and incompetence are given priority. You can access a complaint form from their web site

The Board does not have jurisdiction over fees or bill disputes. All complaints must be in writing with details and evidence. So, save your paperwork.

H.S., Thank you for sharing your experience which may save many others from being a victim of such fraud. Wishing you continued good health and a resolution to your financial strain. Your experience has served as a teacher for all of us.

Send emails to Helen Dennis at, or go to SuccessfulAgingCommunity.

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