Good chiropractors do everything in their power to help relieve their patient's symptoms as fast as possible - with as few treatments as necessary - and also give advice on how to avoid future episodes of back pain or sciatica.
Because this profession has an unusually large variety of practice philosophies and chiropractic techniques, individuals should feel comfortable asking all the questions necessary to understand the chiropractic examination, diagnosis, and treatment program.
This article explains what patients can expect during the first chiropractic consultation. This initial consultation involves the chiropractor completing a thorough chiropractic exam lasting 45 minutes or more.
First Chiropractic Visit
Some people conduct an initial interview with the chiropractor either over the phone or in person that is focused on discussion (e.g. about the chiropractor's philosophy, expertise and general approach, and the patient's preferences) and does not include a clinical exam.
The following describes the initial in office clinical exam, which generally includes 3 areas:
Patient History and Symptoms
In preparation for the chiropractic consultation, the patient will be asked to fill out forms that provide background information about his or her symptoms and condition. Types of questions typically include:
- When and how did the pain start?
- Where is it located?
- Describe the pain - is it sharp, dull, searing/burning, or throbbing? Does it come and go, or is it continual?
- Did the pain start as a result of an injury?
- What activities/circumstances makes it better or worse?
Patients are usually asked to provide information on family medical history, any pre-existing medical conditions or prior injuries, and previous and current health providers and treatments.
The Chiropractic Exam
A thorough chiropractic exam includes general tests such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and reflexes, as well as specific orthopedic and neurological tests to assess:
- Range of motion of the affected part
- Muscle tone
- Muscle strength
- Neurological integrity
Further chiropractic tests may be necessary to assess the affected area, such as having the patient move in a specific manner, posture analysis, or chiropractic manipulation of the affected body part.
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Based upon the results of the patient's history and chiropractic exam, diagnostic studies may be helpful in revealing pathologies and identifying structural abnormalities to more accurately diagnose a condition.
Diagnostic studies are not always necessary during the chiropractic exam, and should only be undertaken if the chiropractor has a good reason to believe that the X-ray or other test will provide information needed to guide the patient's treatment program.
The most common diagnostic studies during chiropractic exams include:
- X-ray exam
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan
- Other laboratory tests
Many chiropractic clinics can perform basic X-rays, but an MRI scan and more extensive imaging studies are usually referred to an outside center.
Findings from the combination of the above described history, physical examination and any required diagnostic studies lead to a specific diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is established, the chiropractor will determine if the condition will respond to chiropractic care.
- Learn more about Chiropractic Diagnosis
At the end of the patient's initial visit, the chiropractor will explain the patient's:
- Diagnosed condition
- Individualized chiropractic treatment plan (or other treatments)
- Anticipated length of chiropractic care
Some chiropractors will also provide the above information in written form, so the patient may take it home and think about it and conduct their own research.