Whether you’re dealing with acute back, neck, or shoulder pain, you’ve been referred by your primary care physician, or you’ve just decided to try it out, your first chiropractic visit is coming up. What can you expect while you’re there? How should you prepare ahead of time? And, what results can you expect?
Why are you going to the chiropractor?
The chiropractor’s goal is to alleviate pain and restore normal function across your musculoskeletal system without resorting to drugs or surgery. Instead, they help to realign joints to release tension, restore optimal circulation, expand freedom of movement, and reduce inflammation. While their focus is especially on the spine, the list of conditions and complaints they can potentially treat goes far beyond back and neck pain.
With these facts in mind, it makes sense that your first visit to a chiropractor isn’t going to be a quick run-in-run-out adjustment like your seasoned friends or family members are used to. You can expect it to last as long as an hour, and you would benefit from doing a little preparation ahead of time.
How to prepare for your first chiropractic visit
In order to effectively determine your personal treatment plan, the Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C., or just chiropractor) needs to gather a lot of information. To make his or her job quicker and easier, you can pull a lot of it together ahead of time and have it with you when you arrive for your first visit. The information you should bring includes:
- Your basic medical history - Any major incidents, like surgeries, injuries, or illnesses in your past, as well as any chronic conditions you’re being treated for now. This will also likely include some health-related questions about your lifestyle choices, such as whether or not you smoke or consume a lot of alcohol.
- Family medical history - Conditions that run in the family or that you’re otherwise predisposed to are important to share. Likewise, if you’re aware of any family members who have visited a chiropractor in the past, this can be helpful.
- Your current prescriptions - A list of prescription and over-the-counter drugs you’re currently taking will be required. This also includes any dietary supplements you take.
- Documentation or details about the injury - If you’re looking for relief from pain that started with an injury or another specific event, the more detail you can provide, the better chance your chiropractor will have to assist you.
- Medical insurance or discount plan information - It’s always wise to confirm prior to your appointment that the chiropractor participates with your insurance or discount plan.
Additionally, it’s always a good idea to dress comfortably in loose-fitting clothing when you visit the chiropractor since you’re likely to be lying down, stretching, and moving around more than usual.
For men, that means no suit jackets or ties. For women, avoid skirts and heels. And, no one should wear jeans or any other similar material that doesn’t stretch easily.
The four stages of your first chiropractic visit
While every office may handle the first visit a little differently, nearly all will want to include the following four stages:
The intake and consultation
This is where the chiropractor (or a qualified assistant) is going to gather all the information listed above, likely through a combination of standard intake forms and verbal interview. They will also likely want some of your baseline measurements, such as height, weight, and blood pressure.
This is your opportunity to bring to light anything and everything that may have a bearing on what is ailing you and what you hope the chiropractor can help with. It’s also the opportunity to handle important practical matters like providing your insurance or discount plan information so billing can be handled correctly.
The physical examination
The chiropractor will perform a physical examination to help confirm some of what’s been discussed in the consultation and to narrow down appropriate treatment options.
The doctor will test your reflexes, muscle strength, and range of motion all along the spine and extremities. This exam may include diagnostic tests such as an MRI, X-ray, or CT scan and, more rarely, lab tests such as blood or urine screenings.
It’s important to recognize the doctor is not going to limit their examination to what you consider “the affected area”, they’re going to examine your entire body. This is because pain, discomfort, tingling or numbness in one part of the body can often be traced to an issue elsewhere as so many nerve fibers run together through the spine.
The treatment plan
Combining what they’ve learned from the initial consultation and the physical examination, your chiropractor will work with you to develop your personalized treatment plan.
If he or she feels you need help from another medical professional to effectively treat the issues you’re facing, they will refer you accordingly. They will then pursue the chiropractic end of the treatment plan if appropriate, or explain why further chiropractic visits are not needed.
If they feel they can effectively treat and resolve your condition using chiropractic care alone, they will thoroughly explain your diagnosis and how they intend to proceed. You will learn what kinds of adjustments they will be doing to treat your condition, how often adjustments will be needed, and how long the full course of treatment is likely to last. Now is the time to ask any and all questions you have about the core activity of chiropractic care: the adjustment.
Your first chiropractic adjustment
As long as you’re comfortable with it, most chiropractors will recommend proceeding with your first adjustment immediately. If you’re not already in one of the rooms where a padded chiropractic table is set up, you’ll be led there and may need to sit or lay down on the table. You may be asked to do some mild stretches, have a heating pad applied to the area to be adjusted, or receive a brief massage to limber up the surrounding muscles.
The actual adjustment involves the chiropractor applying gentle pressure or movement to one or more specific points on your spine or other joint to nudge it into a better position. The adjustment is often accompanied by a snapping or popping sound similar to a cracking knuckle, so be prepared to hear that. Don’t worry, it’s just a small bubble of gas being released from inside the joint. You’re in trained, capable hands, and no bones will be broken during a chiropractic adjustment.
Some people are concerned about pain and discomfort during the adjustment, but this is a very rare occurrence. In fact, many patients notice immediate relief of pain or tension the moment they hear the popping sound.
What happens after your first visit to the chiropractor
Most treatment plans involve a series of recurring visits to repeat and/or modify the adjustments you receive initially. These follow-up visits are normally very brief, perhaps 5-10 minutes each. They are often scheduled in quick succession at the beginning — perhaps every other day — then taper off as time goes on and your condition improves.
As you continue seeing the chiropractor, he or she may occasionally need a new X-ray or to alter your treatment plan as they observe the results. But, you should never need to repeat all four stages of that first visit again.
Now that you know what to expect from your first visit to the chiropractor, make sure your wallet is ready too. Learn more about the Wellness Complete discount program by clicking the link below, and you can pay 25% less than you otherwise would at any of over 23,000 participating chiropractors nationwide.