So let’s say you hopped online and did a general search for “chiropractor near me” or simply, “chiropractor.” Let’s also say that you have NEVER been to a chiropractor before. Maybe you’ve seen a Youtube video or heard stories, both good and bad, with everyone having a seemingly unique experience. In this blog post, I will explain what you can expect at your first chiropractic visit.
The following article outlines what to expect at your first patient visit at Mobility Plus Sports Rehab. Most evidence based chiropractic clinics will follow a similar plan for a new patient visit.
HISTORY (10-15 MINUTES)
Beyond the front desk, and once you are in the treatment room, the doctor will begin by asking you a series of questions, the majority of them relating to your chief complaint. They’ll ask about its location and if you are experiencing any referred symptoms. Referred symptoms meaning any pain radiating from the main area of concern - whether that be numbness, tingling, shooting pain, or weakness. The doctor will also dive into questions regarding the onset of your pain and get specific details as to the mechanism of your injury. Commonly, you could be asked if there was a single traumatic incident that caused the pain or if it was something that gradually came on over time. In addition, the doctor will ask about what makes your pain better (heat, ice, exercise, sitting, laying down, etc) and what activities make it worse (heat, ice, medication, specific activities, etc). You will also be asked about your treatment history - any traumas, surgeries, recent imaging studies (x-rays, MRI, CT, etc) so be prepared to provide that information if necessary.
For chiropractors that treat the entire body and not just the site of your pain (like us), they will also ask a variety of questions regarding your overall health and lifestyle choices. These questions may include, but are not limited to, asking about your diet, alcohol consumption, tobacco/recreational drug use, as well as any supplements or medications you could be taking. In addition, getting information about your exercise habits and activity modifications will also be hugely helpful in tailoring treatment specific to your fitness goals. They can also ask about your sleep habits and about any other stressors in your life that could be contributing to your pain.
Phew, interview over! Now the doctor should have a clear picture and understanding of your chief complaint, and past medical/social history.
EXAMINATION (15-20 MINUTES)
It was once said by a world renowned physician named Vladimir Janda, “Time spent in in assessment, will save time in treatment.” Evidence based chiropractors like to perform very thorough and detailed examinations in order to determine what specifically is causing your pain or movement dysfunction. It is important that the entire body assessed while stressing multiple structures as dysfunctions elsewhere in the body could be contributing to your site of pain. For example, chronic knee pain could be a result of nerve impingement in the low back or shoulder pain may be related to lack of stability through the contralateral hip.
The doctor will start by taking your vitals (blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate). More specific exams like an eye/ear/nose/throat exam, cranial nerve exam, lung exam, cardiac exam, or abdominal exam (yes, we do perform those), will be performed on an as needed basis.
Next, the doctor will perform a neurological exam. Basically checking to see if the nerves in your upper body and lower body are working properly. They will test your reflexes, muscle strength, and skin sensation. Depending on what is found during those tests, further tests may be performed to screen for any pathology that can be affecting your central nervous system (disc herniation, spinal or brain tumor, or other disease process). I know that may sound scary, but the vast majority of neurological exams come up normal. That said, the vast majority of positive findings in a neurological exam are related to non-pathological processes that can be treated and corrected in the chiropractic office without the need for medication or surgery.
Once those examinations are completed, the doctor will move on the orthopedic exam. This exam includes “stress tests” to provoke symptoms in several different tissues - joints, muscles, and nerves. These stress tests are meant to elicit pain, and likely recreate your pain. So you may wind up feeling sore afterwards. However, these tests are not damaging. They are only performed to figure out the major source of the pain and the best course of care for you.
Finally, the doctor may take you through a functional movement examination. This includes a series of movements like a sit-to-stand, single leg sit-to-stand, heel raises, active range of motion, or passive range of motion to gain insight on your ability to perform activities of daily living. If and when a dysfunction is found, the doctor will be able to give you the right movement corrections that will yield the most benefit for you.
WILL X-RAYS BE TAKEN AS PART OF THE EXAM?
Unlike traditional chiropractic clinics, our office does not take x-rays on the majority of our patients. Believe it or not, most presenting problems can be diagnosed and treated without the need for x-rays. While radiation exposure during an x-ray is minimal, we will opt to only pursue x-ray imaging or other advanced imaging techniques when absolutely necessary.
REVIEW OF FINDINGS (5 MINUTES)
Upon completion of the exam, the doctor should have a good idea of what is driving your pain and will proceed with educating you about what’s going on. The goal here is to get you understand the source of your pain, so that you know how to take care of your body outside of the clinic to prevent further exacerbation. They will also share the best course of treatment for you, and what treatments they want to use.
Hang in there, we’re finally at the good part - treatment! The most commonly utilized treatments used in our clinic include:
- CHIROPRACTIC ADJUSTMENTS - The Mobility Plus Team utilizes evidence-based chiropractic spinal and extremity adjustments through the Diversified Technique. Generally, this technique employs a gentle pressure or a shallow thrust to restore optimal movement and functional at a joint. Sometimes, a chiropractic adjustment can be accompanied by a noise or a popping sound, which is a result of the joint’s release of gas bubble(s).
- FUNCTIONAL REHABILITATIVE EXERCISES - The Mobility Plus team utilizes unique and specific rehabilitation protocols focused on full body movements helping to build a more durable you. Our approach is based on a school of thought by the Prague School of Medicine called Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization.
- BIOMECHANICAL MOVEMENT ASSESSMENTS - Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA), and Ergonomic Assessment. By utilizing movement screens we can identify asymmetries which result in functional movement deficiencies.
- THE MCKENZIE METHOD - This method was developed in the 1950s, and remains the gold standard treatment method in disorders of the spinal column. This method helps determine a movement preference to relieve symptoms and restore function. With the right self-assessment, you will be able to identify the postures, loads, and motions that are your personal triggers for back pain.
- CLINICAL NEURODYNAMICS - Clinical Neurodynamics is a system developed by Australian physical therapist Michael Shacklock that we use extensively to treat musculoskeletal disorders with peripheral neurogenic origin, including those of nerve root and peripheral nerves.
A typical treatment plan at our clinic is 2x/week for 4 weeks then 1x/week for 2 weeks, once every other week for 2-4 weeks, the once a month for maintenance care if the chief complaint is resolved. Most patients feel significant relief after 6-8 visits. Additionally, most patients move better and feel better after their first visit because of the exercises they’ve been given.
Now you know what to expect at your first chiropractic visit! Check out the video below to virtually experience how your first chiropractic visit will go at Mobility Plus Sports Rehab.