What is it like to go to the chiropractor?

People, who have never gone to the chiropractor before, often wonder what it is like to go to the chiropractor. They may have a lot of questions and some concerns. They commonly wonder how they will know if the care they are receiving is good, whether the chiropractor is truly interested in what is best for the patient, and what treatment will look and feel like. These are completely understandable questions and concerns. If you are someone who is wondering one of the above things I want to help you so that you will feel more comfortable when you present for your first chiropractic treatment.

What you should expect and how to know if the care you are receiving is of a high quality

On your first visit to a chiropractor you should expect to have your history taken, an in-depth examination performed, your differential diagnosis as well as the potential treatment explained, and then as long as there are no red flags a treatment performed.  Often times the examination and the history taking are the most important parts of the initial visit. You want to make sure that you go to a chiropractor who performs a comprehensive examination and thoroughly reviews your history. This is of utmost importance as it should determine the treatments that you receive.

A thorough history should go over any conditions that you may have currently or dealt with in the past that may affect your treatment. The focus will primarily be on the condition/pain that you are presenting with, but a competent chiropractor will go over your past medical history as this can provide information regarding the current issue.

The examination should be in depth. The exam may be similar to what you would expect when visiting your primary care physician. Although in addition to what your PCP does the chiropractor should also perform a comprehensive neurological exam to rule out red flags, and then an orthopedic examination. The orthopedic examination will put you through movements in order to reproduce your pain. This part of your examination helps the chiropractor to determine what the source of your pain is and helps to make a diagnosis.

After the exam is complete the chiropractor should explain their findings to you and what they believe to be the cause of your pain. This explanation should be presented in such a way that it makes sense to you. Once you understand the diagnoses the chiropractor should explain what the typical treatment or next step may look like. For many conditions, a trial of conservative care is recommended, however, if the chiropractor saw some red flags on the exam or history they may at this point determine that further testing such as an X-ray are necessary before proceeding with treatment. In some cases, a chiropractor may determine that you need a referral to another medical professional.

If a treatment has been determined to be appropriate then the chiropractor should explain what the treatment will include. The treatment should differ depending on what your diagnosis is. Often times a home exercise plan should be included with your treatment.

Is the chiropractor interested in what is best for you as the patient?

Determining whether the chiropractor is trying to take care of you or pad their wallet is important and at times difficult to do. In general, it is advisable to use common sense. If you believe what the chiropractor is promising is too good to be true, trust your gut. If the chiropractor is trying to sell you on a very expensive upfront payment plan please be careful. For the vast majority of conditions it is not truly possible to say you will be cured in x number of visits and therefore you should prepay for those visits. Evidence-based care changes depending on how the patient responds to care. In the vast majority of cases, you should start to see improvement in your symptoms and functionality by around the 6 visit mark.

What will the first treatment look and feel like?

As long as red flags have been rolled out and there is enough time there is no reason for treatment not to be performed on your initial visit. Many people associate spinal manipulation with chiropractic care. Spinal manipulation should help to improve pain and is often delivered at a high speed but low force impulse. Not all conditions require spinal manipulation. If your condition does not involve the spine in any way then spinal manipulation will likely be ineffective.  Other treatments that you may receive include soft tissue work as well as exercises. These treatments should be performed in order to target the cause of your condition.