Chiropractor Visit

What to Expect at the First Chiropractor Appointment

Many people arrive a chiropractor's office if the treatment that they received from their medical doctor did not have the intended effect (pain relief) or if they have experienced relief from a chiropractor in the past. There are a lot of similarities in the diagnostic process among doctors and chiropractors, as well as some noticeable differences. Here are some of the similarities:
  • Both healthcare practitioners recommend anti-inflammatory treatments such as omega 3 fish oils, icing, and medications to treat back pain in the short run.
  • Both healthcare practitioners use diagnostic testing to get a better look at what structural problems in the body, if any, are causing the pain symptoms.
  • Both groups of specialists recommend a program of stretching and muscle strengthening to built up the supportive structures that protect the back.
Here are some of the notable differences
  • Chiropractors use certain testing during their own physical examination to look for structural anomalies that might be causing the pain. These structural abnormalities are sometimes described as vertebral subluxations, which are subtle dislocations of the spine that may not be visible on medical imaging tests such as X-Rays and MRIs.

  • Based on the vertebral subluxations discovered by the chiropractor, a series of manual adjustments may be performed, experienced as the "pops" or "cracks" that the patient hears and feels as their spine brought back into its proper alignment.
If you do make that appointment to see the chiropractor for the first time, here's what to expect.

First Chiropractor Visit: The first time that you visit the chiropractor, you should bring as much information as you can with you, including your medical history, back pain treatment history, and any medical tests that you have recently has that are related to your pain condition. The chiropractor will want to take that information and then perform his/her own tests to arrive at a more thorough diagnosis.

The clinical exam involves in the first chiropractor visit involves three areas:
  1. Patient History and Symptoms The patient will be given a series of forms related to the area in the body or back where you are experiencing pain or weakness. On these forms, you will answer questions such as:
    • Where is your pain located?
    • When did the pain start?
    • Did the pain start as a result of a fall or injury?
    • Do certain activities or positions may the pain feel better or worse?
    • Is the pain worse when you lie down at night?


  2. The Chiropractic Exam A complete chiropractic exam will include the chiropractor's collection of the medical test information you brought with you as well as a new physical provided by the chiropractor. The chiropractor will test your body for:
    • Neurologic integrity
    • Muscle strength and tone
    • Range of motion of the affected body part
    Additional chiropractic tests may also be performed to determine the severity of the injury and what treatment options may be available to the patient.
  3. Diagnostic Studies Based on the chiropractor exam alone, the therapist may have all the information he or she needs to make a precise diagnosis. However, any additional diagnostic studies provided for the chiropractor may be helpful. The most common diagnostic studies that a chiropractor does or looks at include the X-Ray exam, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan, and other laboratory tests. X-Rays may be performed within a chiropractic doctor's center, while most other diagnostic studies take place in other medical clinics.
Patient Diagnosis: Following the first chiropractor visit and the gathering of all the necessary diagnostic information, the chiropractor should have all the information he needs to make an accurate patient diagnosis. The chiropractor should be able to diagnose the condition and develop an individualized chiropractic treatment plan. The chiropractor should also be able to anticipate the length of chiropractic care in terms of the number of visits required and how long (in days/weeks) it will take before the patient feels better.