by Dr. Willena C. Brooks
Telephones ringing. Staff running frantically...too busy to notice you're standing there. A loud but calm voice being heard over the intercom -- "Dr. Smith you're needed in Room Seven. Dr. Smith you're needed in Room Seven." Tons of sick-looking people crammed into an over-populated waiting room. Just as the friendliest face in the crowd, a little girl holding onto her favorite teddy bear, motions for you to fill the empty chair next to her, the mean lady behind the glass at the check-in counter says, "Have a seat honey, you're going to be here for a while."
Sound familiar? Possibly, depending on how many times you or one of your loved ones has had to visit the doctor. Although things may differ a little from chiropractic office to chiropractic office, rest assured!
Your first visit to the chiropractor shouldn't resemble this at all (and if for some strange reason it does...run!). Chiropractors may vary with regards to their practice of chiropractic as well as how they manage their office. However, when it comes to new patient encounters or "first visits" many similarities do exist.
As with any first time visit to a doctor, you will need to fill out "new patient" paperwork which usually consists of gathering your medical/health history, family history, and insurance information (if applicable). As a courtesy to the patient, some doctors or offices may allow for such forms to be downloaded from their website prior to your visit, to decrease the amount of time you have to spend in the office. If the office doesn't have a website or just prefers not to make their forms "public," they may be willing to mail or fax such paperwork upon request.
After filling out all necessary paperwork, the doctor will review your health history with you. He or she will also offer a brief consultation regarding your chief complaint (i.e., the reason for your visit). If he or she believes that chiropractic care may provide benefit and give you the results that you're seeking, he or she will then recommend that a complete physical exam be performed. If the Doctor of Chiropractic believes that you would actually benefit more from another healthcare professional, then he or she will refer you to the necessary location or recommend you talk your condition over with your primary care physician.
Upon receiving your consent, the doctor will then perform a complete physical/chiropractic exam. The "physical exam" portion of his or her evaluation will probably resemble examination procedures undergone in other offices. Depending on your condition or chief complaint, the doctor may perform a very extensive exam of that particular body region and/or associated areas. After performing the "traditional" physical exam, the doctor will then perform a chiropractic evaluation. This chiropractic evaluation will include testing of your reflexes, joint or spinal ranges of motion, muscle strength or weakness as well as the performance of standard orthopedic, neurologic, and postural assessments.
If the doctor believes, due to information gathered from your health history and/or physical examination, that x-rays are necessary to aid in the diagnostic process, x-rays may be taken "in-house"; or they may refer you to an outpatient "imaging center" or local hospital. X-rays or any other form of diagnostic imaging or testing should only be performed if necessary.
Once all of the information is gathered and processed, the doctor will then go over his or her findings in what is commonly referred to as the "Report of Findings." The Report of Findings usually explains what the doctor believes to be the cause of your condition (diagnosis). Based on the doctors' clinical experience, he or she will recommend a treatment plan that they believe will benefit you the most in the shortest amount of time.
Many doctors choose to give their Report of Findings and recommendations for treatment on the second patient encounter so there is a strong possibility that you'll have to return to receive the doctor's report. In such a scenario, it's very unlikely that you'll receive a chiropractic adjustment on your first visit being that the doctor has yet to develop a sound treatment plan. However, depending on how acute or intense your condition is, the doctor may actually decide to begin care during your first visit.