Q: My friend has convinced me to try a chiropractor for my headaches. I’m a little nervous and do not know what to expect. Can you please help me to prepare for my first chiropractic visit?
A: You’ve never visited a chiropractor? Here’s what you can expect on your first visit:
Although a chiropractic adjustment takes only minutes, if you are also doing any therapies that might be provided, it could be 10 to 30 minutes and up to an hour or so if you are also getting physical therapy. But, your first visit will most likely last an hour and a half or so. This is because the chiropractor will want to talk to you about your general health history and, if you’re coming in with a specific ailment, diagnose your problem and come up with a treatment plan.
Generally, on the first visit there is paperwork to fill out just like any other doctor’s office. You will be warmly greeted and directed through the paperwork. You will then be guided into an examination room and likely be asked to watch a video or read a pamphlet to let you know what chiropractic is while the doctor reviews your chart.
The chiropractor will most likely take one or more x-rays and give you a number of tests
or examinations. The doctor will look closely at your posture to see if you’re standing
straight or slouching, or favoring one leg over the other. Neurological testing may include
reflex evaluation, in which the doctor taps your knee or elbow with a small hammer, or
runs a pinwheel over your skin to measure sensitivity or numbness. Orthopedic testing
may involve the doctor having you bend and turn to check your range of motion. It may
focus on a particular joint. Your gait and movement patterns will be evaluated. The testing you receive will depend both on your specific condition and on the techniques of the doctor. But most will use a combination of neurological and orthopedic tests to determine the best course of action for you. The purpose is to understand the mechanics of your body and why you have pain as best we can at that time.
Once an evaluation is performed and the condition is understood better, there may be some treatments applied to help with your pain that day. This might include, heat or ice, manual therapy like massage, or an adjustment. There are many different options available to a DC (chiropractor) as their scope of practice includes just about anything besides prescribing a drug or performing surgery on you.
An adjustment is like a deep stretch to a joint in your spine. It is generally relieving, very safe, and in many cases does not make you sorer. The purpose of the adjustment is to actually get to the source of the pain and make it better. It may improve range of motion, reduce muscle spasm, or improve alignment of a joint that is not working right and causing pain. Current research hails joint mobilization combined with physical therapy as the gold standard first contact treatment for neck pain, back pain, and headaches.
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