Be ready to provide your medical history, which will be essential for preparing a course of treatment for you. Medical records, such as diagnostic test results, or imaging results, such as X-rays and MRIs, also will provide important information about your condition.
Certain things in your health history are particularly vital to a chiropractor. This information could provide important clues that will allow your chiropractor to properly diagnose your problem. Such clues include whether you have or have had:
Bone disorders, such as osteoporosis
Circulatory problems (poor circulation could be a sign that you have a subluxation, for example)
Dizziness or blurred vision
Heart conditions such as hypertension or high blood pressure
Infections, especially those affecting your spine
Injuries, such as bone fractures, muscle sprains, or disc injuries
Joint disorders such as arthritis
Be prepared to answer such questions as:
Did the onset of your pain immediately follow an injury?
Is there anything you do that improves or worsens the pain?
When and how did your pain start?
Where is the pain centered?
The physical exam
Here's what to expect:
The first order of business is checking your vital signs, reflexes, and blood pressure.
Sometimes measurements will be taken to determine arm and leg length. Next, you will be asked to do a series of simple and easy activities or exercises. These exercises will provide information about your motor skills, balance, and gait, among others. These tests also help determine your range of motion, muscle tone and strength, and integrity of your nervous system. Any abnormalities could provide clues about a condition. You may be asked to:
Bend forward, sideways, or backwards - Misaligned spinal vertebrae can sometimes be detected during this exercise.
Flex and extend your leg - This is a test for signs of sprain and helps determine the integrity of your joints (also called the "Yeoman's Test").
Grip something such as a rubber ball - Your grip strength is vital for showing signs of muscular or nerve damage.
Lie down and raise one leg - This is often referred to as the "Thomas Test," in which the chiropractor gently pushes on your raised leg to check for hip joint mobility.
Stand and raise one leg - This test can sometimes show whether you have sciatica, a nerve disorder in your lower back. Another test may involve pushing on your raised leg to determine whether you have pain, inflammation, or imbalance in the joints between your spinal vertebrae. (This is also called the "Psoas Muscle Test.")
Stand or sit - Posture can sometimes show whether you have misalignments in your spine.
Walk a straight line - This test measures your gait, and helps to determine if you have a normal walking pattern.
Walk in Place - Abnormalities in the way your pelvis and spine coordinate can be seen during this test.
Next, a short physical exam by the chiropractor will involve palpation, or use of the hands, to explore the alignment of your spine and other structures, as well as provide information on any stimuli that may cause pain. Depending on your condition, a series of diagnostic tests may follow. These tests may include MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, blood work, and other laboratory tests.
The chiropractor may also consult with you about making important lifestyle changes, such as exercise, nutrition, and smoking cessation to improve your chances of healing faster or preventing further injury.
Though there is no such thing as a "safe" sport, highly competitive sports, such as football, weightlifting, gymnastics, and wrestling, pose particularly higher risks of injuries, especially among children.
According to experts, as much as 20 percent of all sports-related injuries involve the lower back or neck. Running and weightlifting, and other sports that involve repetitive impact, expose children to a high risk for lumbar (lower back) injuries. Contact sports, such as soccer and football, expose the cervical spine, or neck, to injury. More than one-third of all high school football players sustain some type of injury. Soccer participants are easy candidates for mild to severe head traumas, neck injuries, cervical spine damage, headache, neck pain, dizziness, irritability, and insomnia. Heading the ball, the act of using the head to re-direct the soccer ball, has been linked with cervical injuries in children and adults. The trampoline and gymnastics also present significant risks for spinal cord injuries from unexpected and brute falls or contact with hard surfaces.
Here's a look at some of the other common injuries by sport:
- Bicycling - Poor posture can greatly increase your risks of a back injury during cycling. When riding a bike, your lower back is constantly flexing sideways and up and down. Upper back injuries can involve the flexing of the neck. And the bumps and jars incurred on the road during cycling can wreak havoc and possible compression injuries to your spine.
- Golf - Common injuries incurred during the sport of golf usually involve muscle sprains and strains to the lower back.
- Running/jogging - Running and jogging puts a great deal of stress on your back, since the constant pounding against a hard surface can jar, and possibly compress, structures such as vertebrae, joints, and discs.
- Skiing - Skiing involves a great deal of twisting and turning motions, as well as jarring landings, all of which can cause muscle sprains and strains and in some cases, minor spinal fractures.
- Swimming - Swimmers are known to incur lower back injuries. Motions such as the crawl or breaststroke can cause the lumbar region to be hyperextended. If the swimmer is not properly conditioned or warmed up, the hyperextension sometimes doesn't subside.
- Tennis - "Tennis elbow" is a layman's term for pain on the lateral, or outside part of the elbow, on or near the bony protrusion. Tennis elbow is caused when the tendon from the elbow bone tears or is ruptured. It is no surprise that professional tennis players can become inflicted with this with all of the stress and strain they place on the joint during play. In addition, tennis players are in constant motion, and the repeated twisting and trunk rotations can cause injuries. Shoulder injuries and turned ankles and knees also are common. The act of serving the ball also has been shown to hyperextend the lower back, and possibly compress discs.
- Weight lifting/body building - Body builders are at a significant risk for a host of serious back, shoulder, neck, and knee injuries. Resistance training has been known to cause muscle sprains and strains, ligament and tendon injuries, and in some cases, stress fractures (also called spondylolysis). Older people seem to be at higher risk since their bones and discs are more brittle.