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The Chiropractic Visit

The Chiropractic Visit

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Chiropractic treatment is a minimally invasive therapy designed to assist patients suffering from a wide variety of conditions, from musculoskeletal disorders to digestive and respiratory issues. Many patients experience both short-term relief and long-term improvement from chiropractic care. Read on to learn more about the chiropractic experience so you can find a quality practitioner, understand your treatment, and make the best of your care.

How to Choose a Chiropractor

You will work closely with your chiropractor throughout your treatment, so it is important to find a practitioner you trust. Rather than working with the first professional you find, you should do research to learn more about the chiropractors in your area and decide which doctor may best suit your needs. To find prospective practitioners to compare and choose from, you can:

  • Ask friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors for their recommendations. About 10 to 15 percent of people have seen a chiropractor for treatment, so you probably know someone who has, even if you do not realize it. Many people feel more comfortable working with a practitioner who has provided quality service to friends and family.
  • Check online review sites. Chiropractic clinics often have profiles on platforms such as Yelp and HealthGrades. You can go to these sites to learn about other patients' experiences and find out more about the practice as a whole. You can also discover more about the clinic by reading administrators' responses to both positive and negative online reviews.
  • Use a search engine. Typing in a keyword phrase like "best chiropractors near Townville" could bring up a list of businesses' websites, which you can then peruse to learn more about them.
  • Check an online database of accredited practitioners. For example, the American Chiropractic Association allows you to search its member database according to location, specialty, types of conditions treated, and other factors.
  • Discuss chiropractic care with your general practitioner or another healthcare professional. Your current doctors may know reputable chiropractors or might have even partnered with them in the past. In addition, since your current doctors understand your medical status and condition, they can make more tailored recommendations about chiropractic treatment.

Using these methods, you can create a list of potential practitioners that you might like to see.

RELATED: Find a qualified chiropractor in your area

Questions to Ask Your Chiropractor

Once you have narrowed down your options to a few chiropractors, you should interview them to learn more about them and determine which practitioner may suit your needs. Either over the phone or in person, you should ask your potential chiropractor the following questions:

  • How long have you been in practice? Many patients feel more comfortable working with chiropractors that have been in business for many years.
  • What types of treatments do you perform? Given the wide variety of potential chiropractic therapies, different offices may offer very different treatments. Most if not all practitioners offer adjustments, but if you are interested in other therapies, such as hydrotherapy or TENS, you may need to search for a more specialized provider.
  • Do you perform higher force or gentler adjustments? Patients have different preferences regarding the pressure involved in spinal manipulation. You will need to find a practitioner who aligns with your needs and comfort.
  • What types of chiropractic technology do you use? Computerized adjustment devices, traction tables, hydrotherapy systems, or lasers can enhance your chiropractic treatment (and potentially increase the cost of your therapy). If you are interested in utilizing a particular type of technology, make sure to ask about it.
  • What diagnostic testing and preparations can I expect to undergo at my first appointment? Qualified chiropractors should perform diagnostic examinations to create a customized treatment plan, so if your prospective chiropractor does not perform any tests, this could be a bad sign. In addition, the answer to this question can help you prepare for your first visit by completing any necessary assessments or obtaining your medical records.
  • What is your cost per session or treatment? While cost should not be the only factor in your choice of chiropractor, it can influence your decision. Understanding the price of chiropractic care can also help you budget.
  • Do you accept my insurance? If you plan to use workers' compensation or insurance to help pay for your chiropractic treatment, you will need to choose a clinic that works with your provider.
  • Do you offer financing options? Many chiropractic offices provide internal or external loans to help patients afford treatment.
  • Do you provide any discounts? While you should be wary of "discount" chiropractors because their prices could indicate the quality of their care, you may be able to take advantage of reduced prices for treatment packages or for paying in cash.
  • Can you treat my condition or help alleviate my symptoms? It is important that your chiropractor understands your medical state and feels confident about his or her ability to provide effective treatment.
  • How many patients have you treated with my particular disorder or concern? Ideally, your practitioner would regularly see and assist patients with your specific condition or symptoms. Some chiropractic conditions are more common than others-your practitioner will most likely be more familiar with lower back pain than traumatic brain injury.
  • What type of treatment plan would you recommend based on my symptoms? While your chiropractor cannot create a specific care program without running diagnostic tests, he or she may be able to provide a general plan that you can compare with your desired treatment.
  • How often do you recommend that I should come in, and for how long? The duration of your treatment can affect your schedule and budget, so this information may help you plan for your chiropractic care.

Getting the answers to these questions should give you the data you need to make an informed decision about your chiropractor. In addition, conducting this interview can allow you to gauge your comfort with your practitioner based on how readily and courteously he or she responds to your inquiries.

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Qualifications to Look for in a Chiropractor

Doctor qualifications, including a degree, experience, and skill

Chiropractic care encompasses so many treatments and techniques that it can be difficult to understand what makes a practitioner sufficiently competent and trustworthy. In general, a qualified chiropractor will:

  • Have earned a four-year undergraduate pre-medical bachelor's degree, as well as an additional chiropractic doctorate degree from a respected university (you can use the Council on Chiropractic Education's resources to find out if your practitioner's school is accredited). Your chiropractor's training should have included at least one year of practical experience or residency.
  • Attend regular continuing education courses to brush up on his or her techniques or learn new skills.
  • Be a member of professional organizations and societies such as the American Chiropractic Association or the International Chiropractors Association.
  • Have relationships with related specialists, such as orthopedists, so they can refer patients for more advanced care as needed.
  • Be willing to work with your primary care physician or other medical professionals.
  • Provide an established type of chiropractic treatment. You should be wary of practitioners who claim to practice a special or unique form of therapy, since this method may not be well tested or of particular quality.
  • Be willing to discuss clear treatment goals based on your diagnosis and medical testing for potential outcomes.
  • Have no complaints or disciplinary actions filed against him or her. You can look into your state's Chiropractic Regulation and Licensing Board to find this information.

Working with an accredited, experienced chiropractor can help you enjoy outstanding outcomes and feel more confident in your care.

The Initial Consultation

Your first appointment with a chiropractor will consist of an initial consultation. This appointment typically lasts about an hour and gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about treatment so that you feel comfortable proceeding with chiropractic therapy.

The first part of your initial consultation will involve a discussion with your practitioner. He or she will most likely ask you about:

  • The nature of your discomfort (whether or not it is dull or sharp, consistent or occasional, etc.).
  • When your symptoms began, as well as you can remember. If your discomfort is the result of a particular injury, you will need to describe this incident.
  • Where the soreness or pain is located. Your chiropractor may provide a drawing of a human body for you to mark so that you can more clearly communicate this.
  • Which types of movements or behaviors improve or worsen your symptoms. For example, twisting or bending a certain way may make you more comfortable or exacerbate your pain.

Your chiropractor will also review your medical records at this time to learn more about your pre-existing conditions or discover any pertinent information that could be affecting your symptoms. Since chiropractic care is often holistic and focused on patients' overall wellbeing, your practitioner may also ask you about your nutrition, exercise, vitamins, supplements, work history, and psychological health (especially if stress or anxiety could be a contributing factor for your condition).

your chiropractor will create an individualized treatment plan to suit your needs and preferences

Next, your practitioner will complete your chiropractic exam and diagnose your condition (as explained below). Once he or she assesses your body and evaluates your condition, your chiropractor will create an individualized treatment plan to suit your needs and preferences. If you feel comfortable with this treatment plan, you may schedule your next appointment and make payment arrangements with administrators.

The Chiropractic Exam

A chiropractor performing a range of motion test

Assessing your bodily condition is an important aspect of planning and executing chiropractic care. As part of your initial consultation, your practitioner will conduct a chiropractic exam. Your doctor will evaluate your:

  • Range of motion, by having you move, twist, and bend your body back and forth. Tightness or misalignment can limit your mobility, even in slight ways. Your chiropractor may use a ruler or other tool to quantify your range of motion so that it can be improved. He or she may also observe your posture and gait to assess your range of motion.
  • Muscle tone and strength. Your chiropractor may do so by having you flex and release your muscles. He or she may also palpate, or touch, your tissue to assess its strength. Some practitioners may have you lift weights or perform specific activities to examine your muscle tone and strength.
  • Nervous system function. This could include tests of your balance, bodily function, and hand-eye coordination.

After performing this exam, your chiropractor will discuss your results and how they affect your condition.

Diagnosing Your Condition

To design your treatment program, your chiropractor will first need to diagnose your condition. In addition to the information gathered during your initial consultation meeting and chiropractic exam, your practitioner may use one or more of the following tests to identify any disorders or issues that require modification:

  • Radiography: Your chiropractor may take x-rays of your tissues to look for misalignment, sprains, strains, fractures, or other irregularities.
  • CT (Computed Tomography) scans: These more sophisticated x-rays provide a more comprehensive view of the body. Your practitioner may inject a special dye into your tissue during your CT scan to assess your nerves.
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): Your chiropractor may perform an MRI test to create a detailed image of your bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other tissue. This can help him or her diagnose damage or abnormalities.
  • Blood analysis: Your practitioner may order blood tests to learn more about your nutrition. In addition, blood analysis can allow your chiropractor to determine if inflammatory issues, anemia, infection, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, or stress responses may be contributing to your joint discomfort.
  • Urinalysis: Some chiropractors take and assess urine samples to learn more about your bodily chemistry. Urinalysis can help your practitioner make dietary and lifestyle recommendations to improve your bodily function.
  • BMI (Body Mass Index) analysis: Your weight can have a significant impact on your chiropractic health, since heavier tissue can put undue pressure on your joints and inadequate fat can damage your tissue. Your chiropractor may make diet and exercise recommendations to help you enjoy a healthier weight.
  • Thermography: Some practitioners use thermography to measure your tissues' heat and highlight areas of discomfort or inflammation.

Your chiropractor may also work in cooperation with a medical lab or other doctors to conduct thorough diagnostic examination and create an appropriate treatment plan.

Find a qualified chiropractor in your area

Why Is Chiropractic Controversial?

Chiropractic is considered a complementary or alternative medical treatment. While it is recognized by many insurance providers and is a legal healthcare system in many countries, this therapy is often considered controversial. There have been relatively few medical studies to prove the efficacy of this treatment. In addition, many medical professionals take issue with the fundamental basis of chiropractic, that nerve dislocations are the source of disease.

Some doctors have suggested that manipulating tissue without clear standards could actually exacerbate medical issues.

Chiropractic is made even more controversial because it is composed of so many factions and sub-groups. Treatment varies widely from practice to practice, making it difficult to set clear quality standards or protocols. Since chiropractic therapy is a holistic treatment, many practitioners also provide other therapies that many medical professionals consider controversial, such as acupuncture and homeopathy.

Some doctors have suggested that manipulating tissue without clear standards could actually exacerbate medical issues, especially for neck adjustments, which could cause serious neurological issues if performed unsafely. Others also suggest that chiropractic care is overpriced given its limited evidence for success and associated risks.

Given the disputes around chiropractic, some doctors recommend that patients with spinal or nerve disorders seek the assistance of orthopedists or physical therapists, medical professionals who provide similar tissue manipulation without the same controversial treatment model.

Scientific Support for Chiropractic

Despite the controversy surrounding it, millions of people utilize chiropractic therapy, suggesting that it can be a successful treatment option. Spinal manipulation therapy, the basis for and predecessor of chiropractic, has been in use for thousands of years and can clearly improve patient comfort at least on a temporary basis. The following scientific studies support modern chiropractic care in more specific detail:

  • A 2013 article in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapies found that chiropractic treatment was as effective as epidural infections for lumbar disc herniation.
  • A 2010 publication in Chiropractic Osteopathy reported that "spinal manipulation/mobilization [as in chiropractic adjustment] is effective in adults for: acute, subacute, and chronic low back pain; migraine and cervicogenic [related to the cervical spine or neck] headache…[and] dizziness."
  • A 2004 United Kingdom trial in BMJ found that chiropractic spinal manipulation was more effective than exercise for relieving back pain.

Speak with your general practitioner or chiropractor to learn more about scientific support for this treatment.

The Unique Theory of Chiropractic

While chiropractic care draws from centuries-old traditions of spinal manipulation, physical therapy, and other ancient medical techniques, the unique theory of contemporary chiropractic draws largely from one influential practitioner. In 1895, Daniel David Palmer, one of the first modern chiropractors, allegedly cured a patient's deafness by manipulating one cervical vertebra in his neck.

Daniel David Palmer put forth the idea that the vast majority of disease originates from partial dislocations, or "subluxations" in spinal nerves.

After this experience, Palmer coined the term "chiropractic," which translates to "done by hand," or "done practically," referring to the manual adjustment he had performed. Palmer developed the distinctive theory of chiropractic, in which he put forth the idea that the vast majority of disease originates from partial dislocations, or "subluxations" in spinal nerves. By realigning the nerves, he suggested that chiropractors could cure most illnesses at their source. He saw subluxations as both a physical and a spiritual disorder, with the body's condition being directly connected to a person's psychological and metaphysical state.

There are many proliferations of chiropractic, but most can find their roots in the basic principle that nerve health and spinal alignment can impact patients' overall wellbeing.

Chiropractic Patient Satisfaction Rates

Your chiropractic experience and success will be unique to you, depending on your particular diagnosis and treatment plan. However, understanding general chiropractic patient satisfaction rates can help you understand what you might expect from your care:

  • According to a 2002 study from the American Journal of Public Health, chiropractic patients were more satisfied with chiropractic care than physical therapy after six weeks and more satisfied with chiropractic than traditional medical care after four weeks.
  • The May 2009 issue of Consumer Reports conducted a study on back pain relief with manual treatments and found that the top therapy for patient satisfaction was chiropractic. 88 percent of subjects found that this therapy "helped a lot," and 59 percent were "completely satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their chiropractic treatment.
  • A 2001 study from the Journal of the Musculoskeletal System surveyed nearly 3,000 patients from Canada and the United States. 85 percent of subjects reported that their chiropractic explained concepts clearly and 88 percent felt respected by their practitioner.
  • According to a RAND Corporation study of 486 Los Angeles-based chiropractic patients, 92 percent labeled their care as "excellent" or "the best."
  • A 1993 mailed survey by the Northwestern College of Chiropractic found that women tended to experience better patient satisfaction than men from chiropractic care.

Your own satisfaction will depend on the quality of the practitioner you choose, the severity of your condition, and your cooperation with your chiropractor's instructions.

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