This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
After reviewing your medical history, the chiropractor will discuss your general health with you and conduct a thorough physical examination, which will include orthopedic and neurological evaluations. The session might include a review of past X rays or you may be asked to have new ones taken. The course of treatment will probably include a series of adjustments to help realign your spine, neck, or other problem areas.
The chiropractor may ask you to lie down on a padded massage-type table for spinal adjustments or you may be seated on a stool or in a special chair that provides access to your back. You may be treated fully clothed or asked to undress and wear a hospital gown.
Before doing any manipulation, the chiropractor should explain exactly what the process involves. Typically, chiropractic is performed using very little force, although techniques vary. As the chiropractor applies pressure to your spine, you may hear (and feel) a popping sound, like a knuckle cracking. You should not feel any serious discomfort from the adjustment, however. If you do, it is important to let the chiropractor know immediately. Many patients find the experience relaxing. Most describe feeling less pain, reduced tension, and more flexibility in the areas that were adjusted.
Some chiropractors (called "straight" chiropractors) adhere strictly to D.D. Palmer's theories, using only spinal adjustments to treat problems. Others (known as "mixers") combine spinal adjustments with adjunct therapies such as massage, heat or ice treatments, rehabilitative exercises, acupuncture, cranial manipulation, and nutritional counseling.
An initial visit usually lasts at least an hour. Subsequent visits may only take 10 to 30 minutes. Sometimes one session with a chiropractor is all that is required to relieve pain. An average course of treatment for an acute problem involves three to five visits a week for two weeks.
Chiropractors generally have working relationships with M.D.s and D.O.s (doctors of osteopathy) and will refer you to one--often an internist or a neurologist--if your condition persists and further testing or treatment appears necessary.