What to Expect When Visiting a Chiropractor

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Are you going to a chiropractor for the first time? It’s helpful to know what to expect at your visit. The more you know about chiropractic care, the better your chances of having a good experience at the chiropractor. 

Chiropractors adjust your spine and other joints to get them into better position. Chiropractors call this manipulation or adjustment. But chiropractic care includes more than spinal adjustments. Chiropractic doctors go to school about as long as medical doctors do. Chiropractic doctors have training in bone, joint, and nervous system disorders, exercise therapy, and nutrition. They evaluate nerve function as well as how well your spine and large joints move. 

As with other doctor appointments, the first visit starts with your medical history and a physical exam.

During Your Visit: Medical History

First visits often last about an hour. Your chiropractor will ask about your medical history and about your symptoms. Tell your chiropractor about: 

  • Why you want help
  • Past injuries
  • All your medical conditions
  • Any medications you take
  • Any use of drugs or alcohol
  • Your lifestyle habits including exercise, diet, stress and sleep

Some chiropractic offices have ‘new patient’ forms you can download from their website. It can be less stressful and more time efficient to answer medical questions when you are at home rather than at the doctor’s office. This will also help you focus on what’s bothering you when you meet face to face during your appointment.

Physical Exam

After taking your history, your chiropractor will do a physical examination. The chiropractor may feel your spine, move your joints and watch the way you walk. He or she will also test your muscle strength, reflexes, and range of motion. In some cases, the chiropractor might order X-rays or a blood pressure check. 

Treatment

A chiropractor might start treatment at your first visit. If that's the case, this is what may happen: 

  • You will lie on a special treatment table for an adjustment.
  • The chiropractor will take the part of your body being treated—usually your neck or back—and move it to its maximum range.
  • The chiropractor will give an extra thrust to make the adjustment.
  • You might hear a popping sound, like the sound of cracking your knuckles.
  • You should not expect to feel pain during an adjustment.

Your chiropractor might give other treatment along with an adjustment. This could include heat or ice and a muscle massage.  

After Treatment

Before you leave, the chiropractor might give you exercises to do at home. Chiropractors also have training to help you with diet and nutrition. They do not prescribe drugs. But you might get diet advice, and your chiropractor might also recommend diet supplements or vitamins for you. 

Finally, you can expect to be scheduled for a follow-up visit. Most chiropractic treatments last for several weeks. The chiropractor may recommend you return for 2 or 3 visits a week. Follow-up visits often are shorter than your first visit, lasting from 10 to 20 minutes. Ask your chiropractor how long your treatments will last and when you should start to feel better. 

After a treatment, you might have some soreness in the area your chiropractor adjusted. Let your chiropractor know if you have pain that continues or gets worse.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Mar 8

  1. Chiropractic: An Introduction. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/chiropractic/introduction.htm

  2. Frequently Asked Questions. American Chiropractic Association. http://www.acatoday.org/level3_css.cfm?T1ID=13&T2ID=61&T3ID=152

  3. Chiropractic education. American Chiropractic Association. http://www.acatoday.org/level3_css.cfm?T1ID=13&T2ID=61&T3ID=151

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