Your First Visit to the Chiropractor: What to Expect

So, you’ve decided to schedule your first visit to the chiropractor.

Whether you have been spending more time at the computer, dealing with repetitive physical stressors at work, or got injured in a pick-up basketball game (we see you weekend warriors)…

You’ve just made a smart decision!

Seeing a chiropractor for the first time shouldn’t be an anxiety-inducing process.

I like to think of chiropractors like the sport of Crossfit.

If you know someone who does Crossfit, you know they want to talk about it all the time.

It’s the same thing for chiropractic patients.

And for a good reason.

Let’s dive into what you should expect when you walk into a chiropractic office.

First Visit to The Chiropractor: Your Health History

While not every chiropractor treats the same way, we are all experts in the musculoskeletal system.

It’s made up of bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and tendons.

The role your musculoskeletal system plays in your day-to-day life cannot be overstated.

Think about how many things you do every single day that require you to use the muscles in your body.

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Walking, opening a cabinet, typing up a text message, standing up from a chair, picking up a dropped pencil.

Now imagine that you can’t do one of those things because of how much pain it causes you.

Chiropractors want to help!

The first thing any chiropractor will do is ask you a lot of questions.

They are taking your medical history, which means they’re the talk show host and you’re the celebrity guest.

The purpose behind this line of questioning is to be thorough in trying to understand the root cause of your pain.

Man Sitting on an Exam Table Calmly Explaining Symptoms to Smiling Male Chiropractor on First Visit
First Visit to the Chiropractor: Question and Answer

A chiropractor also wants to know if your pain presents any ‘red flags’ – which are symptoms that could indicate a more serious problem.

If there is, your chiropractor knows how to refer you appropriately.

Most questions, however, will be about specific details of any pain you are feeling.

Like where it is located, some adjectives you would use to describe it, and if you know what may have caused it.

It’s okay if you don’t know the answers to all of these questions right away.

Chiropractors are trained at deducing from the information they are provided.

One more thing your chiropractor may have you do when you first arrive is fill out paperwork.

Female Patient Happily Reviewing Her Physical Health History with Smiling Female Chiropractor
First Visit to the Chiropractor: Quick History

This will guide their questions to best help you and might contain some questionnaires about your pain.

Some of these can be scored and provide your chiropractor with an objective way to keep track of your pain.

You will likely be asked to fill the form out at some benchmark visits.

The most important thing to know about chiropractors is that they care.

Your chiropractor wants to get to know you as a person, not just what your symptoms are.

Did You Know

What sets most chiropractors apart from other health professionals is the time they spend with their patients.

Chiropractors focus on treating people first, and this mentality is why many patients want to go to the chiropractor.

First Visit to The Chiropractor: The Evaluation

Once your chiropractor has taken your medical history, they will have narrowed down the list of possibilities of what could be going on with you.

The next logical step is to perform a physical exam.

Chiropractors perform thorough physical examinations that serve to both determine your physical wellness and eliminate possible diagnoses.

They will likely perform standard tests that you may have done previously with your medical doctor, like a vision exam, checking your blood pressure, and obtaining your height and weight.

Following this, most chiropractors will perform what is called a ‘neurologic exam.’

Knowledgeable Female Chiropractor Performing Neurological Exam While Male Patient Relaxes on Exam Table
First Visit to the Chiropractor: Neurological Exam

This exam tests your nerve function through processes, including individual muscles’ strength and even your reflexes with a small ‘hammer.’

Next up are some chiropractic-specific tests.

These may include checking your range of motion in certain areas of your spine as well as palpating or assessing the soft tissues and joint movement.

This is the bread and butter for chiropractors!

Another essential part of the physical exam is when your chiropractor performs orthopedic tests.

Orthopedic tests are specific types of clinical tests designed to reproduce your painful symptoms.

They involve isolating different systems and regions of your body and may feel uncomfortable or even silly.

Female Patient Gently Stretches Arm of Child Calmly Resting on Exam Table
First Visit to the Chiropractor: Orthopedic Tests

I assure you, they have a purpose.

Your chiropractor is hoping that the pain may be reproducible through one of these tests, which can narrow down the list of possible diagnoses even further, meaning you get the best treatment possible.

Lastly, depending on your specific symptoms and primary reason for visiting the chiropractor, they may perform a functional assessment.

This type of physical test will depend on your reason for visiting the chiropractor in the first place.

If you are involved in a sport, your chiropractor may have you reproduce different patterns like squatting, lunging, or watching how you run or walk.

If you are working at a computer, your chiropractor may check your seated posture or assess your workstation.

These can all play a large role in part of your chiropractic care.

First Visit to the Chiropractor: Receiving Care

Now let’s get to the good stuff.

This is the portion of your initial chiropractic visit where your chiropractor puts together the information they’ve gathered from your medical history and the results from your physical exam.

Through this process, they have thoroughly ensured that you are an appropriate patient to receive chiropractic care or if you need a referral to another health care provider.

Depending on your condition, your chiropractor may perform various passive treatments such as instrument-assisted soft tissue work, massage, or mobilizations to tight muscles that may be restricting normal movement.

You may receive an adjustment, a high-velocity low-amplitude manipulation specific to a joint.

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Contrary to what some believe, adjustments should never be painful.

Spinal adjustments provide benefit by disrupting adhesions that can restrict motion and reducing the tension in the surrounding muscles – resulting in comfortable movement at any joint your chiropractor has identified to be limited.

Many chiropractors offer more than just adjustments and will work with you to develop a treatment plan.

After receiving treatment, it will be time for you to take an active role in your care.

A large majority of chiropractors will teach and prescribe you specific exercises and stretches.

It’s important to let your chiropractor know if you have any questions about these while you are in the office so that they can address them before sending you home!

Depending on your condition, you will likely be given a combination of both stretching and strengthening movements to get you back to feeling your best.

Male Chiropractor Reviews Care Plan at Desk with Happy Female Patient
First Visit to the Chiropractor: Recommendations

And that’s it!

A chiropractic appointment shouldn’t be stressful or scary.

The most important things to remember are that…

Remember

1. Your chiropractor cares about you.

2. They care even more about you living your life pain-free!

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