You may also have an X-ray of your spine. Many chiropractors use X-rays to diagnose back problems. But not all chiropractors agree that the information gathered from an X-ray is valuable enough to make up for the radiation that the patient is exposed to.
When the chiropractor has all the information, it's time to sit down with you and talk about treatment. If the treatment plan includes an adjustment, you could have it the same day or at a later appointment.
What do spinal adjustments feel like?
The most familiar type of spinal adjustment is the hands-on approach: You lie on a table while the chiropractor uses his or her hands to feel for certain parts of your spine and then make quick, gentle pressing motions. Some people call this "cracking" your back because of the popping sound that is sometimes made. But nothing is actually "cracking." The sound happens when the tissues of the spinal joint in question are stretched.
Spinal adjustments normally don't hurt. If you're already in pain because of your back, it may hurt to move. But the adjustments are aimed at making you feel better.
Some chiropractors use a drop table for adjustments. Parts of the table drop slightly when the chiropractor presses down on a patient's back. The table is noisy, but the adjustments are gentler than the hands-on method.
Some chiropractors use a hand-held tool called an activator to do spinal adjustments. This is even more gentle.
How to choose a chiropractor
Ask your medical doctor to help you find someone. Some medical doctors aren't willing to consider chiropractic treatment. If you and your doctor can't agree on how to treat your low back pain, you may want to consider getting a second opinion or finding another doctor who is more aware of the benefits of chiropractic treatment.
Try to interview one or two chiropractors before you start treatment.
Look for someone who:
- Is willing to coordinate treatment with your doctor or other health care workers.
- Will tell you about home treatment and exercises.
- Diagnoses problems with a physical exam and an interview, using X-ray in unusual cases.
- Is willing to refer you to a specialist when needed. This may include an orthopedist, a neurosurgeon, or an oncologist for further testing, or a registered dietitian for nutritional counseling.
- Uses slow, gentle manual techniques.
Avoid someone who:
- Uses X-rays as a standard diagnostic test, especially full-body X-rays or X-rays of children. These give unnecessarily high levels of radiation.
- Bases his or her practice on the unproven theory that subluxation (partial dislocation of two joint surfaces) causes many diseases.
- Uses manipulation to treat such problems as lung and ear infections, skin conditions, eye problems, and learning disabilities.
- Promotes regular manipulation as a way to prevent illness or joint problems.
Chiropractors are not your only choice for providing spinal
Other practitioners who can do this include: