What to Expect When Visiting a Chiropractor for the First Time
So you've had an accident, and now you're in pain. Your physician, friend, co-worker, or mother has advised you to see a chiropractor, and you're willing to follow his or her advice.
When you first set your appointment you may be a little apprehensive about it. What will it be like? What will the doctor do to me? And what should I wear? These and many other questions may be running through your head, so here are some helpful tips and answers to get you started.
The first crack at chiropractic care
You first visit is typically a diagnostic visit, where the physician gets a perspective on your injury and how to best treat your pain. You should write down any questions you have for the doctor so that you'll remember them. The doctor will likely have x-rays or other imaging done to establish a baseline of your condition and help determine treatment needed. A physical examination and medical history will also be taken into consideration when creating your treatment plan.
After you and the chiropractor have thoroughly looked over your imaging and other test results, the doctor will create a treatment plan. The chiropractor will then go over the treatment options that he/she has in mind and answer any questions you may have. This is also the best time to work out any payment issues you may have. The first visit to any chiropractor will either be free, or at least the least expensive visit, and this is the best time to ask questions about costs, how your insurance coverage may work, and/or payment plans.
The cost of chiropractic care can vary widely depending on your treatment needs. Some injuries require long term care and will likely be more costly than other injuries. Treatment can cost anywhere from $30-$300. Generally speaking, most treatment plans for chiropractic care involve multiple visits. The more visits your treatment plan requires, the more expensive your care will be. Don't let this put you off of getting the care you need. Payment plans are available to help turn your bill into low monthly payments. Some clinics may offer financing options either through the clinic or an outside lender.
You should also talk with your insurance provider because many insurances do cover a lot of the cost of chiropractic care. Some insurance providers may require a referral from your primary care physician in order to authorize payment. It's also important to speak with you insurance provider and understand the requirements they may have for payment. Some insurances will require you to have a doctors referral in order to pay out on your claim. Also check with the chiropractor's office to see if they accept your insurance.
What to wear
Once your initial visit is over, treatment visits will follow. Many people find themselves wondering what they should wear. You will not be asked to remove clothing, though the doctor may ask you to remove your shoes to get a better idea of your spinal alignment. You don't have to wear workout clothes or those grubby sweats you have hidden in the back of you drawer. Comfortable clothing that isn't too loose or restrictive is probably best.
You won't be required to perform strenuous exercise or any crazy acrobatics during treatment, but it's best to have clothing that permits easy movement. An adjustment can sometimes require bending and stretching and restrictive clothing may hinder treatment. It's probably best to avoid clothing like skirts or restrictive blouses. If you're wearing layers, be prepared to remove some of your outer layers, like jackets or vests.
What is an adjustment like?
Once your treatments begin, you may be concerned about adjustments being uncomfortable or even painful. Rest assured that your treatments are very rarely painful and will sometimes have an immediate positive effect. Inflammation and muscle spasms caused by your injury are typically going to be the cause of any discomfort during treatment. Adjustments can cause you to feel pressure or slight discomfort, but once the procedure is performed the sensation goes away. Adjustments are short, quick movements performed by the chiropractor, so any discomfort you may feel will be over with quickly.
Typical adjustments are likely to involve high-velocity, short-lever arm thrust applied to a vertebra. There will probably be a popping sensation from the joint. The popping sounds are caused by a release of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide stored in the joints. Most patients report a relieving sensation, although some report minor discomfort. It's just like popping your fingers; sometimes it just feels good, and less often there is a little pain. If the surrounding muscles spasm or the patient tenses up during the care, there is a higher chance of discomfort, so try and relax.
Though the idea of popping joints is closely associated with chiropractic care, don’t feel disappointed if you don't hear that pop. Tense muscles are a chiropractors' foe and if you are tense, you may likely be treated to some muscle soothing remedies before treatment. Adjustments are most effective if you are relaxed. Heat or ice can be applied to the treatment site as well as electric stimulation or massage to get the area ready for treatment. Many chiropractors work with licensed massage therapist and will often recommend massage therapy along with chiropractic adjustments to speed up the healing process. Your muscles can cause you alignment injuries if they become too sore, stiff, or inflamed. So don't skip out on the massage.
Will I be sore or stiff after?
If you are a first time patient there can be some muscle stiffness and mild soreness 12-24 hours after your treatment. Most physicians will warn you about this side effect. The stiffness will likely feel like you've just worked out. It is a common reaction for first time patients and there is no cause for concern. The use of ice and gentle stretching can alleviate this side effect.
Post care, patients often report having a warm or tingling sensation throughout the body. This positive reaction is thought to be caused by the extra release of endorphins from treatments as well as increased vascular activity.
As treatments progress and your body heals, you shouldn't experience any more soreness. Rarely, a more serious issue can arise with inflammation and stiffness following treatment. Don't be afraid to see out medical attention if you feel that your pain is severe or something is not right.
How long before I see results?
Most patients report feeling at least some form of relief from their pain after their first adjustment. For the best result and lasting healing, it's important to stick to the treatment plan provided by the chiropractor. Depending on your injury type, it can take as few as 1-4 weeks of weekly visits to achieve healing. Maintaining a healthy alignment is also key to lasting relief from pain. Your chiropractor will likely create a yearly maintenance plan to help you stay feeling your best. Be patient with your chiropractor and your body, because true healing and lasting relief is achievable with time and care.