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  • Dr. Mark Freund

What to Expect on Your First Chiropractic Adjustment

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

first chiropractic adjustment

Are you getting ready for your first chiropractic visit or adjustment? Natural Care Chiropractic has you covered. This blog post will find exactly what to expect from the chiropractor. Your initial consultation with a chiropractor will include a thorough physical examination and treatment consultation lasting 45 minutes or longer, depending on your needs. From the moment you step to the front desk, through your consultation, and into setting a follow-up treatment plan, keep reading to learn what going to the chiropractor for the first time is like.

Dr. Mark Freund and Dr. Nicole Gopaul of Natural Care Chiropractic have treated many first-time chiropractic patients. Often, the patient has tried other treatment methods but is still frustrated with pain or discomfort. What surprises most new patients is that chiropractic does not encourage drugs as part of treatment. Chiropractic focuses on treating the root cause of pain, unlike drugs that act as a 'bandaid' for symptoms but don't correct the issue. Chiropractic is based on healing the body as a whole. The human body is resilient, and chiropractors use their spine and central nervous system knowledge to guide the body to self-heal and improve musculoskeletal health and function.

Before Visiting a Chiropractor

If you're dealing with neck, back pain, or other muscle pain, you might consider seeing a chiropractor. Chiropractors treat painful conditions that affect your muscles and bones. It can be intimidating if you've never been to one, so that is why you should visit our chiropractor. We can guide you and clarify what to expect during your chiropractic appointment.

You shouldn't feel nervous about seeing a chiropractor. However, we understand that you want to know what you should do before visiting our chiropractor. Chiropractic care is a hands-on form of treatment, and our office offers personalized care to help address and possibly prevent issues that affect the spine, nervous system, and other joints in your body. You want to maximize your adjustments to ensure you get the most benefits. Here are some things you can do before seeing a chiropractor:

  • Take notes of your symptoms – If you are looking to visit a chiropractor, you likely want to address your pain. Before your visit, take notes of your symptoms, including where the pain is happening and if certain activities worsen it.

  • Arrive early for your first appointment – If it is your first appointment, it is a good idea to arrive 10-15 minutes early to fill out paperwork.

  • Complete forms – If you want to complete your paperwork ahead of time, you can print out all patient paperwork on our website and bring it to your appointment.

  • Dress comfortably – Your first chiropractic visit is usually also your first treatment. Dress in loose-fitting, comfortable clothing to your appointment so your chiropractor can directly access your areas of complaint.

After your initial consultation, your chiropractor will assess your condition and implement a treatment plan to address your needs.

Initial Consultation

Once you have filled out the patient intake forms and are called in to see your chiropractor, a physical exam will occur. Normally, your chiropractor will take this time to assess your range of motion, judge your reflexes, and measure your muscle strength. The chiropractor will pay close attention to the neck and spine areas, the main areas of chiropractic care, and will receive the largest amount of time and attention from your provider.

Your initial consultation and assessment with a chiropractor are very important. We will work to understand your goals for treatment and take a detailed record of your current condition using a physical exam and sometimes x-rays. Chiropractors not only treat damage to hard and soft tissue but also help patients experiencing injury or disease find relief from their body's stress. Whether in serious pain or looking to restore your body's natural balance, we welcome you to experience chiropractic treatment and find the solution you're looking for.

chiropractor examining the spine and back of patient

After completing this, the chiropractor will examine any areas of the body that you have specified are causing additional pain or discomfort. This normally involves an X-ray of the spine. This will not only pinpoint any major pains or abnormalities but also give your chiropractor an understanding of the structure of your unique anatomy.

Range of Motion of the Affected Part

One of the first components of a chiropractic exam is to test the range of motion in the affected area or the area experiencing pain. Symptoms of a limited range of motion include pain, swelling, and stiffness. When this occurs, limited flexibility can impact a patient's ability to perform daily activities.

During your first chiropractic visit, your chiropractor will test the movement of a joint from full flexion (flexed) to full extension, looking for signs of discomfort, resistance, and compensation as your joints are moved. This is important as it allows the chiropractor to set a baseline for flexibility, design an appropriate treatment plan, and monitor progress over time.

Muscle Tone and Strength

To examine muscle tone, your chiropractor will ask you to relax your body and then passively move each limb at several joints to test for any resistance or rigidity. Your chiropractor will conduct a few general functional tests to test muscle strength, such as holding up both arms or legs.

When testing muscle tone and strength, a chiropractor will account for patient size, activity level, age, and so on. The purpose of this test is to determine if the muscles that are supporting your spine are weak or damaged.

Neurological Integrity and Nerve Flow

In a healthy body, nerve impulses circulate from the brain to the rest of the body and then back to the brain. However, when an injury is present, it can pinch or choke nerve tissue, disrupting nerve signals going to or from the affected area.

chiropractor explaining spinal adjustment

Spinal nerves are incredibly delicate and sensitive and can cause burning, tingling, radiating, or shooting pain when compressed. Testing nerve flow and neurological integrity is crucial to understanding spinal health.

Diagnostic Studies

Depending on your condition, diagnostic studies may not be necessary. However, if your chiropractor believes that image testing can help reveal the source of your condition, he or she may require it. This is especially true if nerve damage is suspected.

The most common diagnostic studies performed during the first chiropractic visit include the following:

  • X-ray exam

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan

  • Other laboratory exams

Chiropractic Adjustment for Pain Relief & Management

Many of you may be wondering what a chiropractic adjustment feels like! The idea of having your neck or back 'cracked' can be a daunting thought, especially after watching a barrage of youtube videos! We've all done it. If this is you, don't worry! Many people visit our clinics with these questions, and the outcome is always much less scary than they thought. To help you understand the feeling of a chiropractic adjustment, first, you need to know what it is and why we do it.

Tension and stiffness build up in the joints of your spine (back and neck) from injury, poor posture, stress, and day-to-day life. This causes the muscles and nerves to become tight and sore. A Chiropractic adjustment releases the tension in these joints by quickly and gently moving your joints past their restriction. Chiropractic Adjustments have been proven to be extremely safe and effective, and the feeling after is usually relief and euphoria.

When you visit a chiropractor, you will be directed to a table where you'll lie face down. Then your doctor will take steps to relax your muscles before adjustment for the best possible effects.

This can be done via massage or electrical stimulation. Finally, they will use their hands to adjust your neck and spine, relieving joints of built-up tension. At first, it may feel uncomfortable since the sensation will be new. There will also likely be some popping sounds, which are nothing to stress. Popping results from the movement of bubbles of pockets of air and are completely normal during a chiropractic adjustment.

getting a chiropractic adjustment

Chiropractic adjustment realigns or changes the spine's structure, so the body must adapt to the new position, which can create soreness and new stiffness but should be temporary. If you ever feel discomfort, speak to your doctor. They will assure you that the feeling will fade over time, but it's good for them to know exactly how your body reacts at each step.

So what is the popping noise?

Nitrogen (gas) is located between the joints of your body, the adjustment moves the joint, and this changes the pressure of gas inside, causing the clicking or cracking noise you hear, just like the noise bubble wrap makes when you pop the bubbles.

So what does this actually feel like?

The adjustment is a very quick process that is over before you know it has happened. The immediate feeling is often very relieving and euphoric. This is because an adjustment causes the body to release endorphins and feel-good hormones from the brain, and your muscles respond by relaxing. It is similar to the feeling of a good stretch but much faster. Moving your neck and/or back can feel much lighter and freer because the joints move better.

Studies have shown chiropractic adjustments to be extremely safe and associated with minimal risks. Mild soreness can occur in some cases but is often not long-lasting and can be a part of the healing process.

What happens during a chiropractic adjustment?

If you have back or neck pain due to a car accident, slipped disc, or other spinal issues, you may be considering chiropractic treatment to find relief. However, if you have never visited this type of practitioner before, you may wonder what to expect. Learning about the adjustment process beforehand may help you feel more relaxed about moving forward with the treatment.

The Initial Consultation

When you first visit a chiropractor, you may be asked to offer a medical history that includes a variety of information, such as:

  • Any chronic ailments you suffer from

  • The nature of your spinal pain

  • What might be causing your pain

  • Your immediate family's medical ailment history

The more information you can provide your chiropractor, the better he or she can understand the nature of your problem and how to help.

Speaking To the Chiropractor

Once you have the chance to speak directly to the chiropractor, he or she may ask you to expand on your written medical history. For example, the practitioner may ask if your pain stems from an accident and what kind of treatment you received at the time. You may also be asked to describe the nature of your pain, when it occurs and how it affects your daily life.

first chiropractic adjustment appointment

The Adjustment

A chiropractic assistant may check your vitals before the adjustment and the initial exam begins. The chiropractor may check for several issues throughout your exam, including your head and neck's range of motion, whether there is any muscle atrophy and whether there might be any neurological damage present.

The Length of the Adjustment

While the length of a chiropractic adjustment can vary from case to case, most visits usually take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. During the treatment, the chiropractor may ask you more questions about whether any movements or adjustments are causing or relieving pain. The initial consultation may take a bit longer while the chiropractor becomes familiar with your ailment and creates a long-term treatment plan.

Future Adjustments

Once your first adjustment is complete, your chiropractor will probably discuss future treatment options for you and may even prescribe a regular course of adjustments over the following months to ease your neck or back pain. Chiropractic adjustments can offer relief from spinal pain and discomfort, no matter its cause, and knowing what to expect during your first visit can offer you peace of mind.

What happens after your first chiropractic adjustment?

As a new chiropractic patient, you may wonder how you'll feel after your first spinal or chiropractic adjustment. Our chiropractic adjustment techniques are painless, safe, and highly effective methods that improve your spinal health and reduce nervous system interference.

You may also wonder if it will hurt and when you'll feel relief from your pain. Because the healing process affects each person differently, there's no foolproof way to know how you'll react or how your body will respond to your first treatment. But, you can take solace in knowing that a sense of relief and the healing effects of chiropractic care are sometimes felt almost instantaneously after your first chiropractic adjustment.

Instant Improvement

Many patients feel a lot better almost immediately after their adjustments. Especially if their bodies have spent years in misalignment, the relief will be highly noticeable and amazing. While patients' responses vary, many people feel more relaxed and flexible after leaving the office. Other people report feeling powerful energy surging through their bodies because their nerves are working properly for the first time. Some feel a bit tired as their bodies want to heal and go to sleep to do so.

during a chiropractic adjustment

Your chiropractor should warn you that the relief you feel may not be permanent. In more severe cases, the patient may need to return for several treatments before the spine is fully restored to proper alignment.

Slight Discomfort

Patients sometimes feel crooked or a bit off since they are now aligned for the first time in a long time, and their bodies have gotten used to the incorrect postures. In addition, people may feel slight soreness or aching in the spinal joints. Soreness around the subluxation is normal because it's the area where muscles have been pulling for a long time, so moving them any differently will cause some discomfort. Retracing is another common effect after an adjustment. People may revisit the discomfort of an old injury as their body is trying to heal. This is rarely a problem but is an indication of deep healing. This usually happens within a few hours of the treatment and doesn't last longer than 24 hours. A mild analgesic can relieve these painful symptoms.

Internal Changes

Sometimes patients don't feel any differently after their first adjustment, which is also completely normal. This doesn't mean that the adjustment didn't work or that nothing has changed. The normal energy flow is newly restored in your body, and it may take a few days before you notice a real outward effect. This shouldn't discourage you from receiving chiropractic care! In most cases, your body won't completely heal after just one adjustment. Your chiropractor should guide you in the process at every step and let you know how your body responds to the treatments as you go along. Don't be afraid to ask questions! Keep open communication with your chiropractor to effectively get the results you want out of your adjustments.

Potential Side Effects of Chiropractic Adjustments

Pain management is among the top reasons to see a chiropractor. But that's not the only reason to consider scheduling a visit. Chiropractic adjustment can help you heal from old injuries, improve your posture, get a better night's sleep, or just loosen up. Plus, it's a safe and drug-free technique that can be used on pregnant women, kids, and anyone who would rather avoid prescription pain pills. First, chiropractic adjustment side effects are uncommon, but some chiropractic patients have reported the following:

One of the biggest chiropractic care benefits is headache relief. But, they are also a common side effect post-treatment.

While the cause isn't entirely understood, some patients experience mild headache symptoms, usually in the forehead, after receiving chiropractic care. While this is not a dangerous side effect, it is uncomfortable. Stop headaches before they start by arriving at your session properly hydrated, well-rested, and relaxed. You can also take a basic pain reliever before leaving home to prevent any symptoms from arising during your session.

2. Dizziness

Chiropractic manipulations may exhaust your body's energy reserves, leaving you tired or dizzy. And some of the high-velocity adjustments can leave you seeing stars for a second or two. Don't worry! This is normal.

Plan a short rest before heading home if you often feel exhausted or slightly off balance after your treatments. Most chiropractic clinics have an area where you can lie down or nap for a few minutes if you need to.

3. Nausea

You'll be asked to lie on your stomach during your chiropractic adjustment. And for some people, this can cause an upset stomach.

Minimize the chances of feeling nauseous during treatment by not eating a large meal before your appointment. Skipping out on foods high in fat and acid can also help keep your tummy calm during chiropractic care.

One of the benefits of chiropractic care is relief from pain and pressure in the neck. But neck joint manipulations may cause a momentary flash of nausea. This is usually due to your body's position and will quickly pass once that specific adjustment is over.

4. Soreness

If you're visiting the chiropractor for shoulder pain or other symptoms that require targeted treatment, you might be sore after your appointment.

During adjustment, many muscles that often go unused are suddenly engaged. This can lead to soreness and fatigue. And once your body is in proper alignment, you may start using these unutilized muscular systems again.

Gentle stretching and proper hydration can help. But you might also plan a restful 24-hour period after visiting the chiropractor. This will give your body time to adapt!

5. Toxic Release

Just like a deep tissue massage, chiropractic adjustment can release your body's stored toxins. This often results in cold or flu-like symptoms.

You can lessen the effects of this toxic release by resting well, drinking plenty of water, and eating right before and after your sessions. And while the symptoms are uncomfortable, experiencing a toxic release is a good sign. That means your treatment is working!

Conditions Chiropractic Adjustment Can Treat

Chiropractors treat conditions related to your body's structure. Their goal is to relieve pain and improve function. They don't prescribe drugs or do surgery. Rather, they adjust or manipulate your spine and other body parts to get them in the right position or proper alignment. Chiropractic care is based on the idea that when your body is in proper alignment, you have a better chance of healing yourself. Get an overview of some more common ailments—not all related to the spine.

Low back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek treatment from a chiropractor. Spinal manipulation often focuses on low back pain. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, some people with low back pain benefit from a chiropractor. Some research suggested that people with low back pain get better relief from a chiropractor than their family doctor.

chiropractic adjustment for low back pain relief

2. Neck Pain

Chiropractors often treat neck pain with neck manipulations. These are also called adjustments. Sometimes, these neck adjustments and exercises may work better for neck pain than pain medications. You may want to try a chiropractor if you have had neck pain for a long time that is not due to an injury. This type of neck pain may respond to chiropractic care.

3. Tension Headaches

The chiropractic adjustment for your neck may help if you have tension headaches. These common types of headaches cause pain in the back of your head and neck. Stress and bad posture can cause tension headaches. A chiropractor might adjust your neck and give you some stretching exercises. The chiropractor might also suggest healthy ways to reduce stress and relieve your headaches, including proper posture and body mechanics.

Research has shown that chiropractic spinal manipulations can decrease migraine frequency and pain and reduce the need for migraine medication. How this occurs is not known. The authors of the study suggest that chiropractic care reduces overall stress, which may, in turn, reduce the effect of migraines. Triggers for migraine headaches may include certain foods. Your chiropractor can also advise you on nutrition and some changes in your diet to help treat migraines and other types of headaches.

Whiplash is a type of neck sprain that often results from a car accident. Whiplash causes pain and stiffness in your neck. Pain may be worse when you try to turn your head. You may even feel dizzy or sick to your stomach. Chiropractic adjustment may help. A chiropractor may also have your exercise and stretch at home and show you how to use heat or ice to reduce muscle spasms and swelling.

6. Sacroiliac Pain

Your sacroiliac (SI) joint is a big joint at the bottom of your spine. SI joint problems cause a different type of low back pain. You may feel this pain in your buttock or the back of your thigh. Chiropractors treat this type of pain with a chiropractic adjustment. The chiropractor might also teach you how to avoid straining your SI joint. And he or she might give you some exercises to strengthen your core muscles, which are the muscles that support this joint.

7. Shoulder Pain

You probably think about back and neck pain when you think about chiropractic care. However, a chiropractor might also be able to help you if you have a stiff and painful shoulder. This condition is called frozen shoulder syndrome. People with frozen shoulders may have less pain and more movement after chiropractic care. Your chiropractor will stretch the muscles surrounding your shoulder and show you how to perform more stretches at home.

chiropractic adjustment for shoulder pain relief

Most often, wear and tear on the knee joint causes knee osteoarthritis. This is a very common condition. Chiropractic care might help. Chiropractors sometimes do back adjustments along with knee adjustments. This type of treatment may work better than knee exercises alone. Some people treated with chiropractic adjustment have less pain and better movement after a few weeks of treatment.

Now that you know what to expect, your first chiropractic adjustment will be a breeze! Make an appointment with Natural Care Chiropractic today to have your first adjustment and get back to feeling healthy and pain-free.


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