What’s the first thing you think of when you think of a chiropractor? Do the words bones, cracking, yanking, and pushing come to mind? Do you think that it’s going to be painful and you’ll be having parts of your body uncomfortably body pushed back into place? Maybe you even think that chiropractors are a bit sketchy, and don’t have the kind of education and expertise that a medical doctor might have. If so, you certainly aren’t the only one to believe in these chiropractic myths. To many people who haven’t been, a chiropractor sounds a bit terrifying.
The truth is, many, if not most of those fears are totally unfounded. For those who have never been and are considering a chiropractic visit, we’ve compiled a list of what to expect from your first experience. This way, you’ll be armed with knowledge and be ready to start feeling better, instead of fearing the unknown.
A legitimate and professional chiropractor will always give you a thorough initial assessment before ever treating you. If you walk into a chiropractic office and they immediately start treating you without getting your patient history and assessing you first, you might want to leave, and that office might be more scam than legitimate. Just like a medical doctor prescribing meds without hearing your medical issues, a chiropractor should and most likely will never start treatment without knowing what’s going on.
When you walk into the office, you will possibly be given paperwork to fill out, much like at any other appointment. You’ll list your health history, what your current issue is, how strong the pain is, where it is located, and when it tends to flare up and what makes it better. This will be kept on file for future appointments to help see your progress.
You will then most likely have a physical exam with the chiropractor. This is a pretty non invasive exam that includes testing your range of motion, how flexible you are, and what your reflexes are like. This will become part of your baseline that the chiropractor will use to treat you. They may also want to know what your muscle strength is like, and have you perform a few light exercises to see how your body responds to the movement.
Many professional chiropractors will automatically scan your body to look at your bones and alignment. They may do this via X-Ray or MRI, depending on their available equipment, and depending on what’s going on with your body. If they believe there is a serious alignment issue, they may highly recommend a type of scan to look for obvious issues or off balances.
Now, the scary part. The part where the chiropractor contorts your body into a pretzel, forcing bones to crack back into place causing intense pain. That is, in your worst dreams. In reality, gentle adjustments shouldn’t hurt one bit!
Your chiropractor’s office will have a special chiropractic table where they will adjust you, with you either laying on your front, side or back. They will manipulate your joints using different adjustment techniques, checking your alignment along the way. They may also move your joints in various directions to check your range of motion after the adjustment.
One thing to keep in mind is that you will most likely only have very gentle adjustments on your first visit. Your chiropractor doesn’t know how your body will react to more intense adjustments yet, and will want to make sure everything is feeling great after the first time. If all goes well and your chiropractor recommends it after seeing how your body reacted, you might have deeper or stronger adjustments that will provide even greater relief.
- Other treatments
This is one part that many people don’t think of when they think of a chiropractic visit. The common thought is that a chiropractor will only perform adjustments on you, and nothing else. In fact, other techniques and treatments can often make up more of your visit than the actual adjustment.
One example of this is called active release. This slightly resembles deep tissue massage and is meant to break up tight or scarred muscle tissue which can cause a lot of pain, especially near joints. Your chiropractor could utilise a form of active release or other pressure point techniques to help relieve pain instantly.
- Treatment plan
One of the best things about going to a chiropractor is coming up with a plan to get you feeling pain free and back to your normal self. Your chiropractor should prescribe some sort of plan, even something as simple as icing after activity or stretching certain muscles, to help you in your recovery. Chiropractic care is not typically meant to be a constant, regular thing, and the end goal is getting you back to your normal life without needing to go as often, or just for occasional visits when something flairs up.
- After your visit
Once your visit is over and you’re feeling better already, remember to keep in mind that you’ll need to follow your after visit plan. It’s common to feel a bit of soreness in the day or two after, and to help this you’ll want to drink as much water as possible. You may be told you can do some light exercising that day, or within a couple of days depending on how intense your treatment is.
The most likely scenario is that you feel better, immediately. Most people with chronic, severe, or even moderate pain report feeling the effects of the adjustment right away.
Now, that wasn’t so scary, was it? Chiropractors are a highly trained, highly knowledgeable professional who is an expert in how your body moves. There are very few other types of care that will get you feeling better, faster than a chiropractor will. So, take a deep breath, and give it a shot! Your pain could be just a gentle adjustment away from being gone.