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What Can I Expect on My First Visit to a Chiropractor - Doctor of Chiropractic?

The first thing a chiropractor will do is ask you about the health complaints about which you are chiefly concerned. The DC will also ask about your family history, dietary habits, other care you may have had (chiropractic, osteopathic, medical, etc.), your job, and other questions designed to help determine the nature of your illness and the best treatment.

Medical records, such as diagnostic test results, or imaging results, such as X-rays and MRIs, will also provide important information about your condition.
Certain things in your health history are particularly vital to a chiropractor. This information could provide important clues that will allow your chiropractor to properly diagnose your problem. Such clues include whether you have or have had:

  • Bone disorders such as osteoporosis;
  • Circulatory problems (for example, poor circulation could be a sign that you have a subluxation);
  • Dizziness or blurred vision;
  • Heart conditions such as hypertension or high blood pressure;
  • Infections, especially those affecting your spine;
  • Injuries, such as bone fractures, muscle sprains, or disc injuries;
  • Joint disorders such as arthritis; or
  • Sleep apnea.

Be prepared to answer such questions as:

Did the onset of your pain immediately follow an injury? Is there anything you do that improves or worsens the pain? When and how did your pain start? Where is the pain centered?

The physical exam

Here's what to expect:

The first order of business is checking your vital signs, reflexes, and blood pressure. Sometimes, measurements will be taken to determine arm and leg length.

Next, you will be asked to do a series of simple and easy activities or exercises. These exercises will provide information about your motor skills, balance and gait, among others. These tests also help determine your range of motion, muscle tone and strength, and integrity of your nervous system. Any abnormalities could provide clues about a condition. You may be asked to:

  • Bend forward, sideways, or backwards - Misaligned spinal vertebrae can sometimes be detected during this exercise. Flex and extend your leg - This is a test for signs of sprain and helps determine the integrity of your joints (also called the "Yeoman's Test").
  • Grip something such as a rubber ball - Your grip strength is vital for showing signs of muscular or nerve damage.
  • Lie down and raise one leg - This is often referred to as the "Thomas Test," in which the chiropractor gently pushes on your raised leg to check for hip joint mobility.
  • Stand and raise one leg - This test can sometimes show whether you have sciatica, a nerve disorder in your lower back. Another test may involve pushing on your raised leg to determine whether you have pain, inflammation, or imbalance in the joints between your spinal vertebrae. (This is also called the "Psoas Muscle Test.")
  • Stand or sit - Posture can sometimes show whether you have misalignments in your spine.
  • Walk a straight line - This test measures your gait, and helps to determine if you have a normal walking pattern.
  • Walk in Place - Abnormalities in the way your pelvis and spine coordinate can be seen during this test.

Next, a short physical exam by the chiropractor will involve palpation, or use of the hands, to explore the alignment of your spine and other structures, as well as provide information on any stimuli that may cause pain. Depending on your condition, a series of diagnostic tests may follow. These tests may include MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, blood work, and other laboratory tests.

The chiropractor may also consult with you about making important lifestyle changes, such as exercise, nutrition, and smoking cessation, to improve your chances of healing faster, or preventing further injury.


An "adjustment," as doctors of chiropractic use the term, means the specific manipulation of vertebrae that have abnormal movement patterns or fail to function normally. Doctors of chiropractic spend years learning motion palpation (the art of examining by movement or touch) and other forms of spinal examining procedures, so that they can administer specific and appropriate spinal adjustments.

Once the DC has identified the problem, he/she will begin care by way of these adjustments or "manipulations." Particular attention will be paid to that area of your spine where a spinal derangement or "subluxation" has been detected. The adjustment is usually given by hand or "activator" type instruments, and consists of applying pressure to the areas of the spine that are out of alignment or that do not move properly within their normal range of motion.

Doctors of chiropractic use many sophisticated and varied techniques, and the specific procedure to be used will be determined and explained completely to you following a careful evaluation of your radiographs and physical findings.

Under normal circumstances, adjustments don't hurt. The patient may experience a minor amount of discomfort during the adjustment, which lasts only seconds. Adjustments or manipulations are extremely safe. The risk factor is estimated to be in excess of 1 million to 1.

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