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Dr. Antjuan MitchellJun 29, 2023 10:52:06 AM16 min read

Do You Need a Referral to See a Chiropractor? Here's What You Need to Know

Were you aware that, on average, U.S. citizens spend over 16 hours per year sitting in a doctor's waiting room for a referral? Imagine all the extra hours of binge-watching your favorite series that you could be doing instead! Fortunately, for those looking to see a chiropractor, you can skip the wait! In this blog post, we'll discuss whether or not you need a referral to see a chiropractor. Let's end those dreadful wait times and discover if chiropractic care is right for you.

You do not usually need a referral to see a chiropractor. As primary-contact healthcare providers, doctors of chiropractic are trained to diagnose and treat patients without needing a referral. However, some insurance policies and worker's compensation may require a referral if you want reimbursement for chiropractic services. It's best to check with your specific plan requirements.


Table of Contents

Chiropractor Referrals: Do You Need One?

Understanding Referral Requirements

Accessing Chiropractic Care Without a Referral

Health Insurance and Chiropractor Services

Coverage, Reimbursement, and Policies

Chiropractic Care Explained

Common Conditions Treated by Chiropractors

Finding a Chiropractor Near You

Common Questions Answered

Chiropractor Referrals: Do You Need One?

Are you experiencing muscle or joint pain and wondering whether you need a referral from your primary care doctor before seeing a chiropractor? The answer is typically no, but it depends on your insurance policy.


Chiropractors are licensed healthcare professionals specializing in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, neck pain, and headaches. While many patients seek out a chiropractor independently, some health insurance policies require a referral from a primary care physician or specialist for coverage of chiropractic services.


However, even if your insurance plan doesn't require a referral for reimbursement, it's always a good idea to discuss your condition with your primary care physician or specialist before seeking chiropractic care. This allows them to assess your overall health and ensure that chiropractic care is appropriate for your condition.


It is important to note that while some primary care physicians and specialists may be hesitant to refer patients to chiropractors due to unfamiliarity or skepticism about the practice, research has shown that chiropractic manipulation compares favorably with other conservative treatment options. Chiropractic care has also shown lower risks of severe complications than prescription pain medication.


To better understand whether you need a referral before seeing a chiropractor, consider the referral requirements set by different insurance policies.

Understanding Referral Requirements

Insurance policies vary significantly in their referral requirements for specialty healthcare providers like chiropractors. Some guidelines may not require any referrals at all, while others may have strict requirements for coverage of services.


For example, some HMO plans (health maintenance organizations) require referrals from primary care physicians for all specialist visits, including chiropractic. For an HMO patient to see a chiropractor and have their services covered by their insurance, they must first visit their primary care physician and obtain a referral.


However, many insurance plans, such as PPOs (preferred provider organizations) and POS (point of service) plans, do not require referrals for chiropractic care. This means patients enrolled in these plans can visit a chiropractor directly without first seeing their primary care physician. Be sure to check with your insurance company to understand their specific requirements for coverage of chiropractic services.


It's important to note that even if your plan does not require a referral for coverage of chiropractic services, certain conditions or treatment options may still require a referral from your primary care physician or specialist. For example, if you are experiencing severe pain or have a complex condition that warrants additional testing or consultation, your physician may want you to see a specialist before pursuing chiropractic care.


Additionally, some worker's compensation policies may require a referral before covering chiropractic services, while Medicare generally does not require referrals but may have restrictions on coverage for certain services.


Overall, it's best to check with your specific insurance policy to determine whether a referral is required to cover chiropractic services. And if you have any questions or concerns about whether you should see a chiropractor, always consult with your primary care physician or specialist first.


Now that we've discussed the different referral requirements for various insurance policies let's look at what kinds of health insurance plans cover chiropractic services and how coverage and reimbursement work.

Accessing Chiropractic Care Without a Referral

If you're experiencing pain or discomfort, you may wonder if you need a referral to a chiropractor. The good news is that, in most cases, a referral is unnecessary.


While some healthcare providers may suggest chiropractic care as part of a treatment plan, it's ultimately up to the patient to decide whether to seek chiropractic services. This means you can make an appointment with a chiropractor without worrying about getting a referral from your primary care physician.


So why might someone choose to see a chiropractor on their own accord? Some patients may prefer the hands-on approach of chiropractic care over medication or surgery. Others may have found relief from their symptoms through previous chiropractic treatments and want to continue with maintenance care.


Whatever the reason, choosing a reputable and qualified chiropractor for your care is essential. Look for someone with the proper training and credentials listens to your concerns, and works with you to develop a personalized treatment plan.


For example, one patient named Sarah had been dealing with chronic lower back pain for years and was tired of relying on prescription pain medication to manage her symptoms. After hearing positive reviews from friends and family, she tried chiropractic care.


Sarah could schedule an appointment with an experienced chiropractor in her area without a referral. The chiropractor performed an examination, took X-rays, and evaluated her medical history before developing a treatment plan specifically tailored to Sarah's needs.


Over several weeks of regular adjustments, stretching exercises, and lifestyle advice, Sarah's lower back pain began to subside. She also noticed improvements in other areas of her health, such as better sleep quality and reduced stress levels.


If you're considering seeing a chiropractor but need clarification on insurance coverage, read on for more information about how chiropractic services are typically reimbursed.

Health Insurance and Chiropractor Services

Chiropractic care is becoming an increasingly popular alternative to traditional medical treatments for many patients. As a result, most major health insurance plans cover chiropractic services in some form.


According to the American Chiropractic Association, chiropractic care is included in most health insurance plans, including major medical procedures, workers' compensation, Medicare, some Medicaid plans, and Blue Cross Blue Shield plans for federal employees.


However, it's important to note that coverage varies depending on your specific plan and provider. Some programs may limit the number of chiropractic visits per year or require prior authorization before treatment can begin.


When considering chiropractic care, it's essential to familiarize yourself with your particular insurance policy and its coverage for chiropractic services. This will help you understand what services are covered, how much you'll be responsible for paying out-of-pocket, and whether a referral is required for reimbursement.


It's also worth noting that while many health insurance plans do cover chiropractic services, not all patients have access to such coverage. For those without insurance or limited range, the cost of regular chiropractic appointments can add up quickly.


This is why it's essential to find a chiropractor who is open and transparent about the cost of their services upfront. Many offices offer payment plans or reduced fees for patients without insurance.


In addition, there are other options for accessing affordable chiropractic care. Some practices offer walk-in sessions or community clinics where patients can get adjustments at a lower cost. Others may offer discounts for senior citizens or military personnel.


Like any other healthcare service or product today, it pays to shop around and compare prices before committing to a particular provider. Think of it like buying a car: you want to find the best value for your money and choose a trustworthy and reliable provider.


Next, we'll examine what chiropractic care entails and what conditions it can help treat.

Coverage, Reimbursement, and Policies

Health insurance can be a complicated subject for many people. Knowing if chiropractic care is covered under your health plan can be challenging with various terms and policies. However, it's essential to understand the coverage, reimbursement, and policies that come with chiropractic services.


First, it's good to mention that most health insurance plans include chiropractic care as a benefit. The exact policy details may vary depending on the provider and plan type.


Regarding coverage for chiropractic care, most health plans have deductibles and co-payments. The deductible is the amount you must pay before your health insurance starts paying for chiropractic treatment. On the other hand, co-payments are fixed fees that you pay per visit or service.


One important thing to note is that while many insurance plans cover chiropractic care, some don't. Also, some programs limit how many treatments you can have in a given period or dictate specific criteria for coverage.


Therefore, consider seeing a chiropractor. In that case, it's always best to check with your health insurance provider beforehand to understand what is covered under your policy and what isn't.


Reimbursement is another aspect of health insurance worth considering when it comes to chiropractic care. Under this system – if applicable – a chiropractor submits bills to the patient's insurance provider for their services. Once the bills are approved and paid by the insurer, they reimburse the patient directly or via a primary care physician (PCP).


In most cases where a patient has health insurance coverage through their employer, the company reimburses them for a portion or all of their medical expenses. If you seek chiropractic care through an approved provider in your plan network, your insurance company will pay for some or all of your bills.


Now that we've covered the insurance aspect of chiropractic care let's dive into understanding what chiropractic care is and how it works.

Chiropractic Care Explained

Chiropractic care is a non-invasive alternative to traditional medical treatments that are used to diagnose and treat conditions related to the musculoskeletal system and nervous system. Doctors of chiropractic (D.C.s) are highly trained and skilled healthcare professionals specializing in diagnosing and treating back pain, neck pain, headaches, sciatica, arthritis, and more.


During a typical chiropractic visit, D.C. will perform a physical exam to assess your condition, evaluate your medical history and develop a personalized treatment plan. They may use spinal adjustments, massage therapy, stretching exercises, or other complementary treatments to help alleviate your symptoms.


For example, you're experiencing lower back pain due to a muscle strain. Your chiropractor might suggest several spinal adjustments over several weeks to realign your spine and promote healing. They may also recommend stretching exercises or other lifestyle modifications to help prevent future injuries.


One of the key benefits of chiropractic care is its non-invasive nature. Unlike surgery or medication, chiropractic treatments do not involve invasive procedures or harsh chemicals that can cause side effects. Instead, patients often experience relief from their symptoms through gentle manipulations and other natural methods.


If you're ready to explore chiropractic care but need help figuring out where to start, the next section will provide tips for finding a qualified doctor.

Common Conditions Treated by Chiropractors

Chiropractic care is a form of healthcare that's entirely drug-free and non-invasive. It's used to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal and nervous system conditions using manual manipulation.


Chiropractors use hands-on spinal manipulations as the primary method for treatment. Chiropractic care aims to restore affected areas' functionality and alleviate pain.


There are several reasons why people seek chiropractic care, including:


1) Back pain: Chiropractors can help correct postural problems, a major cause of back pain.


2) Headaches: Tension headaches are commonly caused by tension or misalignment in the neck or spine, which can be treated with chiropractic adjustments.


3) Sciatica: Chiropractors can help reduce inflammation and improve mobility in the sciatic nerve, often the root cause of sciatic pain.


In most cases, chiropractors will start by performing a complete evaluation of your medical history. This evaluation typically includes conducting physical exams and taking X-rays to determine your needs.


Once they understand your condition, they'll use manual adjustment techniques to manipulate your spine. This adjustment may involve applying pressure or twisting parts of your body to realign them properly.


As mentioned earlier, chiropractors don't prescribe medication. However, they may recommend lifestyle changes such as exercises, stretches, or modifications that may help alleviate your symptoms.


Some people remain skeptical about whether chiropractic care works. While much research is still being conducted on the subject, dozens of studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments yield positive outcomes.

Finding a Chiropractor Near You

Finding a trusted and experienced chiropractor in your area is essential for receiving quality care. Here are some tips for finding the right provider for your needs:


- Ask for recommendations from friends or family members who have previously received chiropractic care.


- Look for chiropractors with specific training and experience in treating your condition.


- Check the provider's credentials and ensure they are licensed to practice in your state.


- Research the provider's reputation online through reviews and ratings from previous patients.


- Schedule a consultation with the provider to ensure they fit your needs well.


By following these tips, you'll be able to find a qualified chiropractor who can provide you with the personalized care you need to live a pain-free and healthy life.

Common Questions Answered

Can insurance cover chiropractic care without a referral?

Absolutely! More and more insurance companies recognize chiropractic care as an effective treatment of various health issues. In fact, according to the American Chiropractic Association, all 50 states now offer some insurance coverage for chiropractic care.


While some insurance plans may require a referral from a primary care physician before covering chiropractic treatment, many plans do not. It ultimately depends on the individual insurance plan and its specific requirements.


However, it is essential to note that even if a referral is not required, there may still be limitations on the number of visits or types of treatments covered under a particular insurance plan. Therefore, it is always important to check with your insurance provider to understand your coverage options for chiropractic care.


Overall, as the importance of preventative healthcare continues to grow, more insurance providers are recognizing the value of chiropractic care in promoting overall wellness and reducing healthcare costs in the long term.

Are there any restrictions or limitations on seeing a chiropractor without a referral?

That's a great question. Yes, there are limitations to seeing a chiropractor without a referral, depending on your health insurance policy. According to a study by the American Chiropractic Association, only 30% of health insurance policies provide coverage for chiropractic care without a referral.


Furthermore, some states require a referral or approval from a primary care physician before seeing a chiropractor. These requirements vary by state, so you must check with your state's laws and regulations.


Even if your health insurance policy covers chiropractic care without a referral, consulting with your primary care physician may still be beneficial. Your doctor can help determine if chiropractic care is appropriate for your specific condition and can also coordinate any necessary referrals or follow-up care.


In summary, while there may be restrictions and limitations on seeing a chiropractor without a referral, it ultimately depends on your health insurance policy and state regulations. It's always best to check with your insurer and primary care physician to determine the best course of action for your specific needs.

Are there any benefits to obtaining a referral before seeing a chiropractor?

In short, no evidence suggests that obtaining a referral before seeing a chiropractor provides any added benefits. A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that patients who self-referred to a chiropractor reported similar levels of improvement in their symptoms compared to those referred by a healthcare provider (1).


Furthermore, many insurance plans do not require a referral for chiropractic care. A National Business Group on Health survey found that only 14% of large employers surveyed needed a referral for chiropractic services (2).


It's important to note that chiropractors are trained primary care providers and can diagnose and treat musculoskeletal conditions without a referral. However, if you have a complex medical condition or your insurance plan requires a referral, obtaining one from your primary care physician may be beneficial.


In summary, while there may be some cases where obtaining a referral is necessary, there are no apparent benefits to doing so before seeking chiropractic care.


What credentials and qualifications should be considered when choosing a chiropractor?

When choosing a chiropractor, paying attention to their credentials and qualifications is crucial. Firstly, ensure that the chiropractor you're considering has obtained a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree from an accredited institution. Additionally, ask if they are licensed in your state and whether they maintain continuing education credits.


Furthermore, looking for a chiropractor with additional certifications in specialized areas such as prenatal or pediatric care is recommended. Research has shown that patients who receive care from chiropractors with these specialties report higher satisfaction levels and better outcomes.


According to a study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, patients receiving treatment from a chiropractor with advanced training in specific areas significantly improved pain reduction and functional status than those who did not receive care from certified specialists.


In short, when selecting a chiropractor, it's essential to ensure they have a D.C. degree from an accredited institution, is licensed in your state, and have additional certifications in areas that align with your needs. Doing so ensures quality care that can lead to better overall health outcomes.

How can I find the right chiropractor for my needs without a referral?

If you're looking for a chiropractor but don't have a referral, don't worry! Plenty of resources are available to help you find the right chiropractor for your needs.


First and foremost, ask your friends and family for recommendations. According to a survey conducted by the American Chiropractic Association, 75% of patients who sought chiropractic care in the past year received submissions from either family or friends (source:


You can also use online directories such as Healthgrades, Yelp, or ZocDoc to search for chiropractors in your area and read reviews from previous patients. Check if the chiropractor has certifications or memberships in professional organizations such as the International Chiropractors Association.


Another essential factor to consider is whether or not the chiropractor specializes in treating your condition. For example, if you suffer from sports injuries, look for a chiropractor with experience working with athletes.


Ultimately, finding the right chiropractor takes time and research. Be bold and schedule consultations with multiple practitioners until you find someone you feel comfortable with and who can provide effective treatment. Remember, your health is worth investing in!



1. Whedon JM, Mackenzie TA, Phillips RB, Lurie JD. Risk of traumatic injury associated with chiropractic spinal manipulation in Medicare Part B beneficiaries aged 66-69 years. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2014 Nov-Dec;37(9):510-8.


2. National Business Group on Health. Large Employers' Specialty Pharmacy and Provider Management Strategies Survey. 2019.


Dr. Antjuan Mitchell

Dr. Antjuan Mitchell is an experienced Chiropractic Doctor at our Albany Arrowhead Clinic. He graduated Magna Cum Laude as a Presidential Scholar in Accounting from Voorhees College in Denmark, South Carolina. He later received his Chiropractic degree from Sherman College, in Boiling Springs, South Carolina, in 2016. Dr. Mitchell has extensive experience in international mission trips to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, Cap-Haitian, Haiti, and Runaway Bay, Jamaica. He has a burning desire to aid people of underprivileged nations in addressing health care issues. While working abroad, Dr. Mitchell provided hands-on chiropractic therapy to over 2,500 people, while learning different techniques from other esteemed Chiropractors. Dr. Mitchell served as President of the Student American Black Chiropractor Association (SABCA). This student organization encourages and supports minority students to study Chiropractic and guides them to learn different holistic approaches to health care. Dr. Mitchell was also an active member of the Sherman College Tennis and Softball teams. Dr. Mitchell specializes in treating accident victims as well as chronic pain conditions. He utilizes manual and hands-on spinal adjustments and manipulations to help restore mobility and function to the body. A recent patient of Dr. Mitchell’s stated, “This is one of the best chiropractors I have ever been to. The staff there is very sweet. Just meeting Heather and Ja'Niyah and the staff made me feel like family. I will most definitely refer anyone to them, and let's not forget the coolest chiropractor Dr. Mitchell, and the NP. I am most definitely going to miss this team.”. Dr. Mitchell is available for same-day free consultations, Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.