Before the course of treatment, the patient will always be examined thoroughly. The purpose of the examination is to decide whether the problem qualifies for chiropractic treatment and also to make as precise a diagnosis as possible.
The chiropractor will ask questions to get as accurate a picture of the problem as possible. The patient may be asked about working conditions, previous diseases, operations, medicine taken, as well as general questions about their lifestyle.
Before the examination, the patient will be asked to undress so that the chiropractor can see the whole body. Often, the patient's blood pressure and pulse will be taken. The chiropractor may listen to the patient's heart and lungs or conduct other examinations. Then the patient's problem will be examined in detail, for instance by orthopedic (bone) and neurological (nerve) tests and by testing the patient's joint and muscle functions.
It may be necessary to X-ray the part of the body where the patient is experiencing problems.
Treatment at a chiropractor is usually painless and, contrary to popular belief, seems completely normal and un dramatic. The chiropractor will choose the most appropriate treatment for the patient's problem.
Manipulation is the chiropractor's most important technique. With his or her hands, the chiropractor moves a joint a little further than the patient would be able to do on their own. The vacuum that exists in most joints in the body is overcome and small bubbles of gas are created in the synovial fluid between the joints. These bubbles can cause the audible 'snap' that can often accompany manipulation. This sound is not caused by bones grating against each other or by something being torn.
The purpose of this treatment is to normalize the functions of the joints and muscles and to ease, or remove, pain.
The chiropractor also treats the soft tissues of the body - the muscles and tendons. This may be done by different forms of massage and stretching.
An important part of chiropractic treatment is to teach the patient how to take care of their own body. The patient may be given a program of exercises to be done at home. Recent research shows that special training under supervision from educated personnel is valuable for patients with persistent pains in their back and neck. This kind of training now forms part of the treatment offered by many chiropractors.
Once the problem has been relieved, it is important to prevent similar problems arising in the future. The chiropractor will talk to the patient to identify any strains that their body is exposed to, eg at work, home or playing sport. It may be necessary for the chiropractor to contact the person's work place or sports club. Aids or supports may also need to be purchased.
Most people will consult a chiropractor because of pains in their back and neck. But poor functioning of the muscles and joints can affect people in many ways. The nervous system may also be affected and this can cause other symptoms, such as headaches from tension, sciatica and pains in the legs, chest or stomach.
Badly functioning joints and muscles may cause pains in areas other than where the problem is situated. These are called referred pains. The chiropractor also treats referred pain in, for example, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and feet.