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What's a Visit to the Chiropractor Like?

Learn what to expect from a visit to the chiropractor from Dr. Karen Erickson in this Howcast video.


A visit to a chiropractor will feel similar to visiting any other healthcare profession. You'll start your visit by filling out a comprehensive written health history, and your chiropractor will sit down with you and go over your health history with great detail. We're interested not only in your musculoskeletal system, but your overall health history, any surgeries or medications you take. Your chiropractor may even want to be in touch with other healthcare providers you're seeing so that we can coordinate care.

If you've had x-rays or MRIs, sometimes it's helpful for you to bring the films or even the paper reports to the chiropractor so that the chiropractor has the benefit of knowing what these tests showed. However, it's not absolutely necessary to have these at your first visit. Your chiropractor will do a complete physical exam and get a sense of your overall health, as well as do a detailed musculoskeletal exam. We want to evaluate you orthopedically and neurologically. We'll do things like check range of motion. We'll check neurological reflexes, sensations in your arms and legs, and muscle strength.

We want to do specific orthopedic maneuvers to determine what structures are actually causing your pain. And we want to get a general sense of the stress level in your body, what your muscles feel like, where the restrictions are. And we want to make connections between different parts of your body. So patients may come in with neck pain or low back pain, but we're going to check their entire body, because very often we'll see problems in other areas that may not be asymptomatic but are important to treat to resolve the symptoms that the patient is presenting with.

Most patients will receive a chiropractic adjustment on their first visit, and your chiropractor will choose techniques and modalities that are appropriate for the severity of your condition, the chronicity, how long you've had it, and where it is. Your chiropractor may also use modalities or other therapies on your first visit, and these may include things like ice or heat, electronic muscle stimulation, cold laser or low-level laser, stretching or exercises. Your chiropractor will also make very detailed instructions for home care, and these instructions should be followed very carefully. It might include certain kinds of exercises or therapies to do at home, as well as advice on sleeping positions and postural advice, standing, sitting, working at a computer.

It's important to follow these instructions carefully, because what happens outside of the office really can impact the progression of your care. So that's what to expect from your first visit to a chiropractor. Most patients feel profoundly well after their first adjustment. So make an appointment. You'll be glad you did.

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