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I Went to the Chiropractor for the First Time and It Wasn’t What I Expected

By Nicole Long | April 9, 2018
I Went to the Chiropractor for the First Time and It Wasn’t What I Expected

Did you know going to a chiropractor can actually improve your overall health & wellness, and it doesn’t have to be scary? It’s true!

I’ve never really considered going to a chiropractor—I’m healthy, moderately active and I don’t really have much pain on a regular basis. But I work for a health and wellness company that encourages its employees to take an active role in their health, and many of my coworkers swear by their chiropractors. I wasn’t sure what a chiropractor could really do for me, but after a bit of word-of-mouth research, I found out that chiropractic care actually has benefits for your whole body! So I decided to give it a try.

Before scheduling an appointment, I wanted to learn more about chiropractic care and what it could do for me. During my research I came across a lot of resources that I found helpful like the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), The Performance Health Academy Blog and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Even after I researched chiropractic care, I was still a little nervous, somewhat curious and slightly excited. Needless to say, I was feeling a range of emotions, but it turned out all my worrying was completely unnecessary! Read on to find out about my first visit (plus a few tips for yours!).

Your First Visit Is Mostly About Gathering Information

As with any healthcare professional, your first visit to the chiropractor involves a lot of learning on your part, and on the part of your chiropractor. They do tests to see what’s going on in your body, so you can work together to find a solution. My first visit lasted about an hour, and it involved a few key steps:

Paperwork

Generally, you can expect to fill out paperwork or a questionnaire explaining your health history, reason for your visit, surgical and family history, any pain you are feeling or any previous injuries you may have. At my appointment, there was a case manager that came in to explain who I would be meeting with and how the appointment would go. This made me much more comfortable about the whole process—I actually felt at ease and excited to keep working through the next steps! Here is an example of the type of forms you will be asked to fill out.

Vitals

Next, I met with an office assistant who took my vitals, including my blood pressure, temperature and pulse. She also performed neurological tests, which tested my reflexes.

Movement Assessment & Range of Motion

I finally met the chiropractor! We started out by talking a little about the reason for my visit, and what my goals were. Next, he performed a Selective Functional Movement Assessment, which basically helps the chiropractor find the root and cause of any symptoms—they do this by breaking down dysfunctional patterns logically rather than simply finding the obvious source of the pain.

Check out some of the exercises that can be part of a movement assessment:

X-rays

The next step in the process was an X-ray. Having an X-ray done of your spine can help the chiropractor determine your treatment plan and can aid in the adjustment. That said, not all chiropractors will recommend an X-ray at your appointment. It turns out some chiropractors say that X-rays should be part of routine chiropractic care, while others argue X-rays aren't necessary for every patient. When researching potential chiropractors, feel free to ask if they recommend X-rays for all patients and how the X-rays can benefit your treatment plan.

If your chiropractor does recommend an X-ray, one piece of advice: wear proper clothing! I made the mistake of wearing jeans to the appointment. And that meant had to change into some not-so-attractive disposable medical shorts… NOT a good look. I would recommend wearing loose-fitting clothing you can move in (that helps for the movement assessment too!) and nix the jewelry. I was smarter for my second appointment and wore my workout gear, so the medical shorts didn’t have to make a second appearance.

Round Two: The Adjustment!

Okay, your second visit isn’t just about the adjustment. But that is one of the highlights! Here’s how my second chiropractic appointment went down:

Review of Results

It all started with me talking to the chiropractor as he reviewed the results of the tests performed on my first visit. My chiropractor talked to me about my X-ray and movement assessment, going through both step-by-step. He pointed out things that were normal, and areas that could use a bit of improvement.

Treatment Planning

Some of the findings from my tests were things that I could fix at home, and others could be helped with hands-on chiropractic care, like an adjustment. In my case, I didn’t have a normal c-shaped curve in my neck. This can be caused by minor whiplash, sports injuries or even sitting forward all day (I spend a lot of time at work staring at a screen). The chiropractor recommended at-home care in the way of a rolled up towel or ergonomic pillow. These can help restore the curve in your neck.

One issue down, one to go!

The next area we tackled was my pelvis. I suffer from pelvic torsion, which means that one side of my hip is more rotated than the other. This can be caused by driving (one foot is in front of the other) or even the way you sit (I sit cross-legged a lot). Because my joints are misaligned and stiff, that can cause the nerve impulse not to get to my glute muscles quick enough.

So when I work out, I overcompensate by using my lower back and hamstrings, rather than my glute muscles. As a result, I’m overworking some of the compensating muscles and my glute muscles are remaining weaker. We talked about treatment options, which included reactivating my glutes through strengthening exercises (who knew chiropractors did these?!) and prescribing weekly adjustments for the first few months.

Total Wellness Planning

One of the reasons I wanted to visit the chiropractor was to take a more active role in my overall health and wellness. I specifically chose an integrated clinic, which offered not only chiropractic care, but also physical therapy, massage therapy and nutrition consultation. We discussed the addition of multi-vitamins, fish oil and vitamin D to my wellness plan. One thing I learned through this wellness planning? Everyone’s health journey is different! Since health is personal, your approach should be tailored to your specific needs. My focus on an integrated clinic may not be right for you, but I found value in being educated about all the options available to me.

Chiropractic Adjustment

Time for the actual adjustment! But what exactly is an adjustment? Well, it can also be referred to as chiropractic manipulation, manual manipulation or spinal manipulation. It’s considered a generally safe option to help relieve low back pain and improve general physical function.

To be completely honest, I was still a little nervous before my chiropractor performed the spinal manipulation. But I really had nothing to worry about. We discussed the potential side effects, which can include mild soreness (like you might feel after a workout). If you do feel sore, you can use a cold pack to help reduce any temporary soreness you might experience.

In my case, I didn’t feel any soreness. I actually felt lighter and more balanced afterward. Apparently, this is a common phenomenon, but not everyone feels this lightness.

Warm Up & Exercises

After my adjustment, I was seen by a exercise therapist who walked me through a series of exercises to help with my pelvic rotation and weak glute muscles. Chiropractic adjustments combined with an exercise program can be an effective solution for treating sore muscles and joints. Want to try a few of the exercises I did at home? You’ll need a foam roller, an exercise ball and a flexible mini ball.

Using a foam roller to warm up is a great way to begin an exercise program.

  1. Find an open area with a decent amount of floor space.
  2. Begin by sitting in front of the foam roller.
  3. Gently lean back to rest your upper back (near your shoulder blades) across the horizontal roller. Your head should remain neutral and cradled in lightly laced fingers with your heels anchored on the floor.
  4. Allow your knees to fully bend and then straighten to roll the length of your back muscles.
  5. Reposition as needed by ‘walking’ heels in closer towards your buttocks.
  6. Control the pressure through controlling the amount of weight on the roller, using extra caution when rolling in boney regions.
  7. Slowly roll back into neutral starting position.

Pro Tip: You can also move the roller massager vertically and repeat.

If you suffer from pelvic torsion, like me, these exercises can help. You may feel a little funny doing them at first, but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of them as you practice. Plus, any laughing you do will just work your core even more!

Mini Ball Pelvic Clock Rotation

  1. Lay on your back with the Mini Ball under your buttocks.
  2. Rotate your hips like the face of a clock, pressing the outer rim of the ball both clockwise and counterclockwise.

Pelvic Rotation Side to Side

  1. Sit on your exercise ball.
  2. Tilt your pelvis from side to side while keeping your shoulders and head still.

Pelvic Clock Rotation

  1. Sit on your exercise ball.
  2. Pretend your pelvis is a "clock" and rotate your pelvis clockwise and counterclockwise.

Massage

After I was done with the exercises, I was seen by a massage therapist—a massage helps keep your muscles relaxed and neutral. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love getting a massage?!

As a finishing touch, my massage therapist added Biofreeze® Pain Reliever to my neck and shoulders, which provided me with a cooling sensation. Biofreeze is a great solution for temporary pain relief for sore muscles and joints, which makes it a great complement to any chiropractic adjustment.

Cool Down

Before I left, the office gave me a cold pack to use in case of any soreness. I didn’t have a need to use it, but everyone is different. “A cold pack can be a great tool to add to your wellness toolkit, since it can help control soreness, bruising and inflammation,” says Dr. Greg Doer, DC. Plus, it doesn’t just come in handy after a chiropractic adjustment. You can reuse it again and again.

How You Can Use What I Learned

I found my visits to the chiropractor incredibly useful, so I want to share what I think are the most important points for your first appointments!

Why make an appointment with a chiropractor?

Whether you are in pain or just want to integrate chiropractic care into your holistic wellness plan, knowing the benefits and learning about what to expect on your first visit will help you on your health journey.

Chiropractors are trained to provide a variety of musculoskeletal treatments. While spinal manipulations are a common technique, chiropractors can offer so much more. Many chiropractic offices offer rehabilitative exercises, strength and flexibility exercises, nutritional advice, active aging programs and massage therapy.

Is chiropractic safe?

One of the most common questions that people ask is around the safety of chiropractic care. So, how safe is it? According to the American Chiropractic Association, “Chiropractic is widely recognized as one of the safest drug-free, non-invasive therapies available for the treatment of back pain, neck pain, joint pain of the arms or legs, headaches, and other neuromusculoskeletal complaints.” While chiropractic is considered a safe complementary therapy, there can be some potential side effects, like soreness following a spinal manipulation.

What’s your role in your treatment?

“First of all, make sure your chiropractor is teaching you along with treating you,” says Dr. Jake LaVere, LaVere Performance Labs and Chiropractic. You want to make sure you’re educated and proactive in your treatment plan, working alongside your chiropractor to find a solution that will work for you. This will help you from both a preventative standpoint, as well as identifying when you’re in pain and what to do about it.

Another part you have to play? Motivating yourself to continue your exercises at home. It’s important to remain active, and keep moving, so your adjustments can be helpful for as long as possible. Plus, the exercises your chiropractor or therapist give you can actually help you correct some of the issues causing your pain. If you don’t do them, you’re really just slowing down your own healing process.

Dr. LaVere also gives this advice for new patients going to the chiropractor for the first time:

  1. Look at the reputation they have. Make sure that other people you know have seen them and get recommendations.
  2. Make sure that you do have conversations with them. Don't come in with negative expectations—be positive and that will give you a better experience once you step foot in a chiropractor's office.
  3. Make sure that when you meet them, you ask questions. They're not going to bite your head off, I promise. Your chiropractor wants to make sure you're at ease, because they know they have a better chance of getting you out of pain and getting you back into a functional lifestyle if you are. Some of the questions I asked at my appointment were:
        • What self-care tools do you recommend that I can use at home?
        • What are the benefits of chiropractic adjustments? Are there any side effects?
        • What’s your approach to chiropractic care? What techniques do you practice?

What should you wear?

Seriously, learn from me on this one. No one wants to wear those medical shorts when starting a new treatment plan with a new healthcare professional—they do not build your confidence! I found athletic/workout clothes and sneakers to be the most comfortable option for me, especially when performing the exercises and getting an adjustment. I was able to move comfortably without feeling too restricted. Try not to wear clothes that are really thick like a sweatshirt. Instead, opt for thinly lined clothing or wear layers so that the chiropractor can easily perform the adjustment and assess how you’re moving.

Where do I find a chiropractor?

So, now you might be ready to try chiropractic care! Where do you start? Simply use the Professional Finder to find a chiropractic clinic near you. For a detailed search by body part or objective (or even various healthcare professional types), enter your zip code and click “Continue.”

At the end of the day? Remember that your health and wellness plan is personal. What may work for one person may not be the right option for you. I found that chiropractic care is something that I plan on adding to my wellness toolkit, so that I can be a healthier me!

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