Types of Chiropractors
Depending on the type of chiropractor one visits, and what ailment the patient is seeking alternative treatment for, the expectations about the chiropractic session differs. The end result, however, should be that the patient finds that proper alignment can reduce symptoms, and perhaps eventually help allow the body to heal itself. Following this treatment goal, the patient may then choose to either discontinue further treatment sessions with their chiropractor or continue to seek maintenance care to minimize future injury and maintain a state of satisfactory wellness. In general, there are two main types of chiropractors: straight and mixed. The straight chiropractor believes that misalignments, or subluxations, can interfere with nerve impulses, and that can then in turn affect the brain’s ability to regulate all of the body systems. Symptoms may subside, but that does not necessarily always mean that the subluxations have been completely resolved. Additional treatment, monitored by x-rays and computerized tests will be done until the subluxations are corrected. Mixed chiropractors will work to resolve symptoms and provide pain relief, as the spinal manipulations re-align the spine. They will decompress the joints through a variety of techniques, from manual adjustments, to electrical stimulation, to various exercises and therapies, and they might even include other alternative and complementary techniques in their practice, such as massage and acupuncture. The mixing of practices and care styles often give these mixed chiropractors different and more effective treatment options for some ailments. They are also able to work with other practices, like massage and acupuncture, both in the same office and through patient referral, benefiting both the alternative treatment practitioners and the patients who need a variety of care styles. Mixed chiropractors are the most common type of those who practice chiropractic care, but patients who are specifically looking for straight chiropractors may still find them.1
In general, chiropractic exams include consultation, case history, a physical examination that may also include a recommended x-ray, and an assessment of the areas of pain, the cause of this possibly extreme discomfort, and the duration of that pain when it occurs. Chiropractors will determine what makes the pain feel better or worse. Occupational, psychosocial, family, and dietary history will also be discussed. The chiropractor will manually palpate the spinal segments (static and in motion) to determine which areas are fixated, or restricted.2 A typical exam may last 45 minutes, during the initial consultation process. The DC might also need to perform general tests, such as ones for respiration, pulse, blood pressure, and reflexes. They will also assess the range of motion, muscle tone and strength, and neurological integrity. By the end of the exam, it may be expected that the condition will be diagnosed, a determination will be made if the situation can be treated with chiropractic care, a treatment plan will be introduced, and possibly the estimated general duration or time-frame of chiropractic treatments will be discussed. The patient might see multiple chiropractors to find the one that works for them and their needs.3
The Treatment Plan
Most chiropractors will begin treatment at the first visit, after learning what is ailing the patient and what that patient has already tried to treat their physical issue. Recommendations for future treatments will likely focus on particular joint dysfunctions, as well as soft-tissue work. That may include methods to help the soft tissues heal and to reduce pain. Electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and traction are common soft tissue therapies. Chiropractors will also recommend exercises patients can do at home, so that continued work can be done and maintained between adjustments. It is important that patients follow these exercises at home, as it will help their chiropractor in future treatment while strengthening the body and preventing future issues from occurring or shortening the duration of treatment needed to resolve the issues. Patients will be educated in various ergonomic and posture choices. There may be dietary and supplementation suggestions. Patients might need to be advised on seating and sleeping arrangements. It is not uncommon for patients who are new to chiropractic care to be unaware of the little things that they do throughout the day that might further the existing problems in their condition. It is this lack of education that could have been the root of the problem in the first place, and it is the subsequent education that might resolve the issue. During the treatment, chiropractors may employ heat and cold, as well as massage therapy. Patients will be able to and should expect short-term goals, such as restoring movement and pain relief, as well as long-term goals, which can include maintenance and normal functionality. Typically, the number of chiropractic treatments a patient might expect tend to range from 1-3 visits per week for about a month, to less frequent follow-up visits over a longer period of time.4 This can vary, depending on the condition of the patient and the type of chiropractor seen.