According to the American Chiropractic Association, more than 30 million Americans seek chiropractic treatments. Chiropractic helps provide relief from pain in the lower back, shoulders and neck. Chiropractic is also used to treat headaches and joint pain in the arms and legs. This article will explain how chiropractors diagnose your treatment by conducting a thorough patient exam, making a diagnosis and creating a course of chiropractic treatment.

What is chiropractic care?

Chiropractic care is a drug-free and non-invasive form of healthcare. It is used to restore proper function to the nervous system and aims to help heal your body naturally. Chiropractic care includes the use of gentle spinal adjustments and conservative manual therapies. When the spine is not positioned normally, it can irritate the nerves exiting the spine. And when spinal nerves are irritated, they don’t function normally and can affect the function of the tissues they interact with. Learn more about how chiropractic care works.

Consultation: Getting to know your health history

During your initial visit, the chiropractic doctor will gather information about your overall health and your medical history. You’ll be asked to fill out some paperwork and your answers will help your chiropractor make a diagnosis. The chiropractor will ask you details about your problem areas. Most common questions include:

  • Where are you experiencing pain?
  • How would you describe your pain?
  • When did your pain/condition begin?
  • Is your pain/condition the result of an injury or accident?
  • Is there anything that aggravates or helps alleviate your pain?
  • Have you tried any other treatments and did they help?

The chiropractic doctor may ask additional questions about your diet, activity level and if your job requires sitting or lifting. Be sure to bring copies of any relevant tests such as X-rays or MRI, lab work and a list of medications you’re currently taking.

Here’s a great video that explains the process:

Your initial visit is also your opportunity to ask the chiropractic doctor questions. It’s a good idea to write down your questions ahead of time so you remember them. If need be, a family member or friend can accompany you on your visit and be your ears and write important information down.

Your initial chiropractic exam

Once the chiropractic doctor has an understanding of your health history and current condition, they will conduct a physical exam. The physical exam helps your doctor develop a diagnosis. It is common for your chiropractor to evaluate your posture. The chiropractic doctor will also perform a thorough exam of the spine and extremities. They are looking for abnormalities, such as if one of your hips or shoulders are higher than the other.

The chiropractic doctor may ask you to walk several steps so they can observe your stride and the ways that your arms and legs move. You may be asked to bend over, turn from side to side or lift an object. This helps the chiropractic doctor evaluate the range of motion in the area(s) where you are experiencing pain or discomfort. Lastly, the chiropractic exam may include muscle tests to evaluate the strength and tone of your muscles.

X-rays and diagnostic studies

Diagnostic studies are used to help chiropractors diagnose your treatment. After the initial consultation and chiropractic exam, the chiropractor may recommend X-ray studies to help make an accurate diagnosis of your condition.

Many chiropractic offices provide same-day, on-site X-ray services, which eliminates the need for scheduling a separate appointment for diagnostic studies. X-rays are covered by most health insurance plans. Depending on your condition, the chiropractic doctor may order additional studies such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scans or bone scans.

Your chiropractic treatment plan

Once the consultation and exam are complete and the chiropractic doctor has reviewed any diagnostic tests, they will determine if you are a good candidate for chiropractic care. If you are not a good candidate, they will refer you to an appropriate specialist.

Your chiropractic treatment plan is customized to your specific needs for optimal results. Maintaining consistency with scheduled appointments helps build on previous treatments. It is common to receive recommendations for home care as an extension of your chiropractic treatment. This can include the application of ice or heat, performing home exercises and avoiding certain positions or activities that may aggravate your condition.