If you've never visited a chiropractor, you may be nervous about the type of treatment you'll receive. For example, a term such as "spinal manipulation," which is frequently used in reference to chiropractic care, can certainly conjure images of an uncomfortable procedure.
In reality, chiropractors are trained medical specialists who believe that your body is one, connected structure, rather than a series of individual parts. Chiropractors like those at Action Chiropractic seek to balance that structure to help your body heal itself. To that end, chiropractors manually apply a quick but controlled force to a part of your spine, to put your body back into alignment. Different chiropractors have varying philosophies regarding treatment, so you may wish to interview a few practitioners first, to find a chiropractor with whom you're comfortable.
The Initial Appointment
An initial chiropractic appointment is much like any other medical consultation. You'll answer questions about your health history and possibly your family's medical history, and describe your current symptoms. The chiropractor will also perform a direct examination, which may include checking your muscle tone and strength, and testing the range of motion of a troublesome joint. You'll also likely have routine tests to measure your blood pressure, pulse and respiration, and reflexes. The initial appointment typically takes at least 45 minutes.
Depending on the reason for your visit, you may receive further tests, such as X-rays or an MRI. If your problem can be treated with chiropractic care, the chiropractor will then recommend a treatment plan, typically consisting of a series of visits.
When performing the adjustment, the chiropractor will typically have you lie face down on a padded table. He'll push the appropriate area of your spine beyond its usual range of motion, which may result in cracking sounds, but typically won't cause excessive pain. You're more likely to feel discomfort for a few days after an adjustment, although these relatively minor side effects should dissipate as treatment progresses. Keep in mind, however, that your specific experience will vary, depending on your medical condition. If you're concerned about pain or side effects, discuss those issues with your chiropractor before you begin treatment.
Other Chiropractic Treatments
In addition to the manipulation, you may receive other treatments during or after the adjustment. For example, a massage after a chiropractic session relaxes the muscles, which helps your joints better maintain their new alignment. If your muscles feel sore after treatment, your chiropractor may place an ice pack on the affected area, to reduce inflammation, or you can do so yourself after you return home. Alternatively, you may receive both hot and cold treatments during your session, to treat pain in a specific area. For example, the chiropractor may place an ice pack on your lower back for up to 15 minutes, and then switch to a hot water bottle. This treatment helps improve blood flow to the sore area, which in turn promotes more rapid healing.
If you seek treatment because you're suffering from pain, the chiropractor may also use a variety of tools to help relieve inflammation and/or stimulate blood flow to the affected area, such as ultrasound treatments or electrical muscle stimulation.
Give the Treatment a Chance
Chiropractic treatment can be effective for symptoms such as low back and neck pain, other spinal conditions, and frequent headaches. If you seek chiropractic care, the Mayo Clinic suggests you continue for a few weeks before deciding whether the chiropractic treatment is beneficial for your condition.