I’ve started going to a chiropractor for back and neck pain (and knees and shoulder, oh my!). If you’ve never been for a chiropractic adjustment, here is a bit about what to expect during an appointment.
A chiropractic adjustment is a procedure through which a chiropractor uses their hands or a small instrument to apply a controlled, sudden force to a patient’s spinal joint. Also known as spinal manipulation, this procedure aims to improve spinal motion.
These procedures are done at the request of patients who suffer from neck pain or low back pain — the two most frequent issues that prompt people to seek a chiropractic adjustment. Patients require no special preparation before receiving an adjustment.
What can you expect during a chiropractic adjustment?
During your initial visit, the chiropractor will review your medical history and ask pertinent questions about the reasons behind today’s consultation. Then they will perform a physical evaluation, paying special attention to your spine. In some cases, they may recommend additional diagnostic tests, such as X-rays, MRIs, and others.
During the appointment
During a chiropractic adjustment, the patient will be placed in a specific position to allow the doctor to treat the areas that have been giving them pain. On many occasions, patients are placed face down on a padded table that has been specially designed for this purpose.
By using their hands, the chiropractor will apply a sudden and controlled force to a joint in your spine, forcing it to go beyond its range of motion. Patients may get worried at this time because it’s common to hear popping or cracking sounds when this happens. However, this is not a sign that something is wrong. It just means that gas trapped in the joints is escaping.
Alternatively, your chiro might use an activator, which is a handheld device that provides the adjustment. This technique is easier on the body than adjustments by hand for some people, and I prefer this technique.
During the procedure, the professional will move joints in precise ways to relieve pain. Mechanical receptors in the joint are stimulated through stretching or massage. When receptors pick up on this stimulation, neurotransmitters will be activated, sending signals to the brain to tell it to relax your muscles.
Many patients report being in less pain after the procedure. That is a big reason many people seek this type of self-healing therapy.
After the session
It is common for people to experience minor side effects for a few hours or days after receiving a chiropractic adjustment. These may include headaches, tiredness, or pain in the area that has just been treated. Others report feeling a boost as though they had a good workout.
Once the procedure is over, your chiropractor may recommend some actions you can perform at home to extend the benefits of the therapy you just received. They may encourage you to do an exercise and stretching routine, for example.
Or, the chiro may suggest using icing or heat therapy, or topical analgesics. They might also provide you with nutritional and diet guidelines to control your weight and improve your general health, explain different methods you may use to control stress, and allow your muscles to relax.
Following your “homework” will allow you to get the best and longest-lasting results from your chiropractic adjustment. The doctor might also ask you to return to the clinic to receive electrical muscle stimulation.
What else do chiropractors do?
Chiropractors specialize in treating strains, pains, and aches, as well as any problem that involves the musculoskeletal system. The treatments are an alternative to traditional medicine, and they do not involve drugs.
Besides adjustments, a chiropractor may also offer their patients:
Soft tissue therapy – When there is tension in the connective tissue, soft tissue therapy can relax the muscles, release the tension, and relieve spasms in the affected area.
Stretches and exercises – These activities can help to restore and maintain joint mobility and stability.
Joint bracing and taping – This is done to support sprained joints or muscles, thus allowing them to heal.
Referrals to other specialists – Chiropractors understand that to achieve complete healing, it may be necessary for patients to receive guidance on nutrition and diet. This helps to reduce inflammation while it also promotes weight management and better nutrition.
What are the most frequent conditions that chiropractors treat?
People have many different reasons for seeking chiropractic care. The following are among the most common conditions:
- Neck and lower back pain
- Stiff muscles and muscle aches
- Recurring headaches
- Whiplash and other consequences of car accidents
- Joint pain and dysfunction
Chiropractors do not only concentrate on the affected area, by the way. They also make sure that the surrounding muscles function as they ought to. All with the goal to reduce pain long-term for the patient.
Who is eligible to receive a chiropractic adjustment?
Chiropractic adjustments can be an effective treatment for people of all ages, from children to adults. Generally, patients tend to be adults.
In any case, patients should receive a screening to determine whether they are good candidates for chiropractic care. If the chiropractor considers that the care that they offer is not appropriate for your condition, they should refer you to a healthcare provider who will be better able to help you.