We understand that the first appointment can be a bit daunting, especially if you have never seen a chiropractor before. Its always a worry that you may forget to mention something that may be important or the pain that has been there for a while suddenly changes or disappears on the day of the appointment. You may have concerns or worries about your complaint that you really want your clinician to understand. Or be worried about having to take all your clothes off!
Tip 1: Write it down or better still take a picture
Your chiropractor is going to ask you a lot of questions about your complaint – when does it bother you? What type of pain is it? Does it spread? Sometimes it can be easier to remember details if you just take a note e.g. “it hurts first thing when I get up but after a few minutes it seems fine” or “I can only walk a few metres before it starts to hurt and I have to sit down”.
Sometimes pictures can say a thousand words – if you find that you are doing a specific task or sport when the complaint starts try asking someone to take a picture or a video of that task, it will make it a lot easier for the chiropractor to visualise what may be causing the issue and give you some tips to adapt or correct the movement.
If you feel that it may be due to posture or your work station again a photo can be very helpful and your chiropractor may have lots of ideas for improvements (many of which are very low cost).
Tip 2: Do some homework
Have you had x rays and scans? Original copies of the actual scans will really help your chiropractor, if you don’t have these your chiropractor may, with your consent, ask to request them on your behalf. However, any reports from your scans are easy to obtain from your GP (all you have to do is ask!) and will be very helpful to your chiropractor.
Are you on medication? If so, please bring a list with you to your first appointment.
Tip 3: Wear some comfortable clothing
Very often, at the first appointment, your chiropractor may ask you to change into a gown provided by the clinic (this is so that they can examine your posture and movements in detail). If you have a pair of shorts and a vest top you may feel more comfortable in your own clothing. Following the initial appointment, you may occasionally be asked to change simply to assess progress.
Tip 4: Have realistic expectations
Normally the chiropractic initial appointment is between 45 mins and 1 hour. If you have multiple complaints or injuries it will be difficult for them all to be examined and treated in that first session. It is, however, important for the chiropractor to know about them. This is because everything in the body tends to be connected – so pain in your big toe may be connected to your headaches! What tends to happen is that the main complaint will be examined and treated initially with more interest and attention given to any secondary complaints at follow up sessions, as time allows.
Tip 5: Remember to make time for yourself
Embarking on a course of chiropractic care can seem like a bit of a mission in the early stages with follow up treatments needing to be attended at fairly frequent intervals initially. Remember that once you are back on track you will be able to switch your focus back to your busy life without a constant background niggle.
Tip 6: Pain changes
One of the most common things chiropractors hear at the first appointment is that the pain isn’t actually that bad today. Pain can be weird like that because even the thought that someone is going to help is enough to start to reduce its severity. Don’t worry it doesn’t mean that you are a fraud! Pain is your bodies last warning sign that there is something that needs attention – if we compare it to the warning systems on your car; you may be able to ignore the flashing light on the dash board, even the occasional beeping noise when you turn the engine on but it gets very hard to ignore when the car starts to make a load banging noise every time you put your foot on the brakes or even worse when the brakes stop being very effective -there have usually been a lot of little signs that things are not quite right for a while before you start to feel actual pain; maybe you notice a twinge when you make a certain movement so you don’t do that movement for e.g.
As you progress through your course of treatment you may also find that the pain changes as you become more aware of the way your body works and more confident that you will get better as well as the fact that the treatment will start to have a positive effect on the way you move and feel.