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Chiropractic Basics

If you are new to chiropractic care, you may have questions, such as: What is a chiropractic adjustment? Will it hurt? Will I have to get tests done? What questions should I ask my doctor? What is expected in follow-up care? Here’s a quick overview of what to expect.

What To Expect – First Visit 

The main goal of your first visit is to have an examination and reach a diagnosis. You will be asked about problems you have been encountering and about the nature of your pain. The examination may include a few tests, such as an X-ray, to evaluate your health status.

Once you have been diagnosed, your chiropractor will develop a personalized treatment plan. The plan may include how many treatments you will need and what other procedures might occur. Depending on what is causing your pain and the severity of the issue, you might receive treatment the same day. Or, adjustments and treatments may be scheduled for another time. Learn more about what to expect before your visit here.

Does Chiropractic Care Hurt?

Chiropractic manipulation is a highly controlled procedure that rarely causes discomfort. Techniques emphasize minimal force and gentle pressure. Many patients report a popping sound during their adjustment. The popping noises sometimes heard are your joints releasing tiny pockets of gas. This is completely normal.

Be a Partner in Your Treatment

Try to be as relaxed as possible and allow your chiropractor freedom to make the adjustments. Your chiropractor will talk you through adjustments to explain the process. Remaining relaxed will pay off, as almost all patients find great relief when normal flexibility is returned to the affected vertebrae.

Questions To Ask Your Chiropractor

Asking questions will help you become more acquainted with your chiropractor and chiropractic health in general. Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • How long have you been practicing chiropractic?
  • What are your qualifications?
  • Do you commonly treat my condition?
  • What type of diagnostic testing is needed?
  • Will I need care from other health care professionals?
  • What are the side effects and possible complications of the process, if any?
  • What type of patient education do you provide?
  • How long will it take to get well?

What to Expect – Post Visits

How Will I Feel After My Session?

After your first session, if you are like most people, you will feel more relaxed and less concerned. Many people find they breathe more fully. Some patients continue to move and stretch in various ways to release any tension they may be holding. Occasionally a feeling of “letting go” may occur, allowing you to unwind chronic tension patterns. Over several sessions you will likely feel more relaxed.

What If I Feel Sore?

Any adverse effects are typically minor and brief in length. The likelihood of initial soreness or increased pain after a chiropractic adjustment has been found to be similar to that of starting an exercise program. There are several ways you can speed up the healing process after a chiropractic treatment. Self-care plans will help you restore your body to good health and help you experience the results of the treatment more quickly.

To promote healing after an adjustment, your chiropractor may instruct you to:

  • Use an ice pack on the treated area (for any swelling or redness)
  • Try light stretching exercises
  • Sleep on a suitable mattress
  • Avoid heavy lifting
  • Refrain from intense physical exercise for at least 3-5 days
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Drink plenty of water

Scheduling A Follow-up Session

Patients sometimes make the mistake of receiving treatment once and then fail to follow up with their chiropractor for the recommended treatments afterward. For optimal results, you should complete the treatment plan that you discussed with your chiropractor.

Learn more about what to expect after your chiropractic visit here.

Maintaining Good Back Health

You can develop habits that promote and maintain good back health. Here are 10 suggestions as you go about your daily activities.

Lift Safely

Safe lifting involves using your legs to spare your back. Bend your knees, tighten your abdominal muscles, and keep the object being lifted close to your body. For more tips, see Safe Lifting Techniques, which provides an illustrated step-by-step guide.

It is also a good idea to be aware of unsafe lifting techniques, so that you can avoid them. Unsafe lifting techniques usually involve positions that will cause you strain when you add a load to them.

Minimize and Avoid Twisting Motions

The use of twisting motions should be carefully monitored, and scaled back or eliminated as appropriate. When lifting heavy objects, twisting should be avoided. When doing heavy work, such as housework, try to keep twisting to a minimum. In other activities, pay close attention to how you are moving your spine, as well as any warning signs such as pain or tightness, that may indicate trouble. Scale back on the twisting according to the warning signs your body gives you.

Drink Plenty of Water

Our bodies are comprised of approximately 70% water. Enough water keeps us fluid, rather than stiff. Drinking plenty of water enhances the height of intervertebral disks, keeping them the healthy shock absorbers they are. Water is necessary for nearly every bodily process so is good to have in generous supply, at least 6-8 8-ounce glasses per day. It is almost impossible to drink too much water.

Live an Active Life and Strengthen Your Abs

Exercise and activity keep the muscles of the spine strong. The most important muscles to strengthen to avoid back pain are the abdominals. Include stretching in your fitness program to avoid stiffness, which causes pain. Another reason to stay flexible is that stiff muscles are a precursor to injury.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is generally an excellent way to prevent all kinds of diseases and discomforts. For the spine, it avoids compression and loading of the intervertebral disks, prevents postural abnormalities, such as anterior pelvic tilt, and interrupts a sedentary lifestyle, with its accompanying stiff and/or weak muscles.

Find the Best Sleeping Positions

Finding a sleeping position that works for you can help you avoid placing unnecessary strains on your back or neck. Doctors tend to vary when recommending ideal sleep positions, so being guided by your comfort levels and using your own judgement are good accompaniment to his or her advice. 

Warm Up

For those who exercise, and that should be everyone, warm-ups are a must. Warm-up means 5-10 minutes of light aerobic activity just prior to the exercise session. The purpose of a warm-up is to acclimate the muscles to a more intense activity level gradually enough to prevent injury, and therefore, pain. Recommendations by experts vary as to whether the warm-up period should include stretching.

Cool Down

The cool down period after an exercise period must include stretching. During cool down, your muscles are still warm from exercising, and are very receptive to stretching. Stretching will be less painful during cool down, as well. Stretching relieves muscle tightness, which is one cause of back pain. Stretching also helps to balance the action of muscles, enhancing ideal alignment, and relieving joint strain.

Purposely Interrupt Long Periods of Sitting

If you sit for long periods of time, force yourself to get up from your chair as much as your work environment will permit. Sitting loads the spine and compresses the disks, leading to disk problems. Slaving over a computer for long periods of time can also cause posture problems, such as kyphosis, and neck problems.


Information in this section is taken from Anne Asher’s 10 Tips for Preventing Back Pain. May 6, 2014. Health Disease and Condition