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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

What is Chiropractic and how can it help me?
How many years of college does a doctor of chiropractic attend?
How are chiropractors licensed and what kinds of conditions do they treat?
Are there different types of chiropractic treatment available?
How did Chiropractic originate as a healing art?
Are x-rays necessary?
Are there chiropractic specialists?
What should I discuss with my chiropractor about my treatments?
What can I expect on my first visit, and what does an adjustment feel like?
How long will it take to get better?
Can a chiropractor refer me to a medical practitioner?
What is the cost and will my insurance cover chiropractic care?


 Q:  What is Chiropractic and how can it help me? 

Chiropractic is a healing art and science that asserts disease stems from the inability of the nervous system to maintian a healthy functioning body due to misalignments in the skeletal structure producing pressure on the adjacent nerves. Chiropractic is also a drug-free and non-invasive (non-surgical) form of healing.

Chiropractors are trained and licensed to treat disease without the use of medications. The types of conditions that may respond to chiropractic care are numerous and include the most common ailments in our society such as low-back pain, headache, migraines, and muscle strains, just to mention a few. Basically, any condition that could benefit from restoring the proper nerve transmission to the affected area could benefit from chiropractic care. So, will all conditions respond to this type of treatment? Simply put, no. If you have a broken arm, you need an orthopedist. If you have a damaged organ that could be beyond natural repair or a malignancy, you may need a medical specialist to address those problems. The good news is that chiropractors spend more time being trained in x-ray diagnosis than general medical practitioners and even though conditions such as fractures (broken bones) cannot be treated chiropractically, chiropractors can detect such conditions and refer you out to the proper specialist.

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 Q:  How many years of college does a doctor of chiropractic attend? 

Chiropractors complete the same two year pre-med requirements as medical doctors. They then attend an accredited college of chiropractic for four years where each chiropractic student receives a total of over 4,000 hours of instruction in the field of health sciences. Chiropractors receive instruction in human anatomy (the study of the parts of the human body) physiology (the study of how the organs in the body work) biochemistry and nutrition, as well as extensive training in radiology (take and diagnose x-ray) as well as chiropractic technique, physical therapy, diagnosis of disease. In addition, each chiropractic student is required to perform a clinical internship program as a student doctor within an approved chiropractic college clinic. A chiropractic must also successfully pass a National Board examination before graduating and a State Board of Chiropractic examination before he or she can become a licensed practitioner.

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 Q:  How are chiropractors licensed and what kind of conditions do they treat? 

Each chiropractor must pass a State Board examination in order to become a licensed chiropractor in that state. Each state has a different scope of practice (defines what a licensed Doctor of Chiropractic can practice.) The scope of practice varies from state to state based on a consensus of chiropractors and lawmakers. For instance, some groups of chiropractors would rather see chiropractic concentrate solely on the diagnosis of subluxation (the misalignment between two vertebra that results in nerve interference to the area of the body those nerves supply) and the adjustment (correction of the misalignment) of those subluxations. Other groups within the chiropractic profession believe Chiropractic should be expanded to the use of physical modalities (physical therapy, massage, etc.) in adjunct to the traditional manipulative care. So, in some states, your chiropractic treatment may consist of the diagnosis of subluxation and the treatment of such; while, in another state, the scope of practice may extend to also include physical therapy, massage, acupressure, nutritional counseling, and other forms holistic (natural healing) therapies.

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 Q:  Are there different types of chiropractic treatment available? 

Yes. In fact, there are several. Chiropractor's refer to these different ways to apply a chiropractic adjustment (the moving of a vertebra to relieve pressure on a nerve) as "Techniques." Most of these techniques rely on the direct physical application of a directed force into the troubled area of the spine to get the vertebra to slightly change position. There are other techniques that rely on the stimulation of different muscle sites to help influence a better alignment of the misaligned vertebra (bones that make up the spine) or that use tractioning (mild pulling) to relieve pressure on the spine and improve alignment of the vertebra. For instance, a technique called Cox flexion-distraction, named after Dr. James Cox, uses a mild pumping traction application to reduce disc herniations (slipped discs.)

You may want to visit our Articles and Links page to read about some of the various ways chiropractors correct problems with the spine as well as check out our Chiropractic Dictionary, which contains a section devoted to defining the various more commonly recognized adjusting techniques utilized within the chiropractic profession.

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 Q:  How did Chiropractic originate as a healing art? 

Chiropractic was founded by Daniel David Palmer, a healer, who performed his first chiropractic adjustment in 1895. Palmer noticed that his first patient, Harvey Lillard, had a vertebra in his spine misaligned in the region that supplied blood supply to the head and neck. Mr. Lillard also had a problem of being hard of hearing. Palmer believed that the correction of the misalignment might help improve Mr. Lillard's hearing and rendered the first chiropractic adjustment by physically moving the area of the spine where the neck turns into the upper back. Mr. Lillard's hearing was reported to have improve and word of this new treatment began to spread. Palmer developed his technique and his practice and opened the first college of chiropractic, which is now known as Palmer University. The term "chiropractic" is derived from the Greek "chir-" referring to the hand + "prassein", to do = to do with the hands (to manipulate) dates to 1898, the year Palmer founded the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. 

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 Q:  Are x-rays necessary? 

A: X-rays are not always necessary; however, it will be up to your Doctor of Chiropractic to determine what would be best for you. X-rays are taken because the information these pictures of the spine contain help your doctor to determine your diagnosis. X-rays have also helped doctors find other very serious problems such as disease of the spine that could be missed without them. They also give clues as to what to expect in the amount of treatment that may be needed and even the type of treatment that may be best for you. In fact, the way the vertebra (bones of the spine) have formed, can have a significant impact on your treatment. The only way this important information can be gathered, is by x-rays. More good news about x-rays is that modern x-ray technology has greatly reduced the exposure of radiation a patient now receives during an x-ray exam.

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 Q:  Are there chiropractic specialists? 

Yes, some chiropractors do specialize but many choose to be general practitioners and simply add a specialty to broaden their practice. For instance, some chiropractors love to care for children and may take special certified courses to become chiropractic pediatricians. There are similar programs in chiropractic for radiology (advanced X-ray diagnosis) orthopedics (advanced bone and joint studies) neurology (advanced neurological studies) nutrition, and sports injury.
Doctors who participate in graduate programs, which are sponsored through national chiropractic organizations like the ACA (American Chiropractic Association) or the ICA (International Chiropractic Association,) will usually place the initials that represent the specialty in his or her name. Therefore, John Smith, D.C., C.C.S.P. would indicate that Dr. Smith had completed the Certified Chiropractic Sports Physcian program, and his additional training will aid him to better treat and understand patients with sports injuries.

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 Q:  What should I discuss with my chiropractor about my treatments? 

If you are going to see a chiropractor for the first time, you should ask the receptionist when you call for the first time for a consultation (a scheduled appointment to meet and talk with the doctor.) Some doctors will even provide this as a complimentary (free of charge) service for new patients. During the consultation you will be able to explain your condition to your doctor and ask him or her questions about what he or she can do to help you.) Some important questions to have answered might be ones like:

  • Has the doctor treated others who have the same symptoms as you are presenting with and what were the results in those cases?
  • What tests, examination, x-rays, lab tests, etc. are generally required? [Keep in mind that these recommendations may very depending on what is discovered upon examination, the results of any initial tests, and the severity of your condition.]
  • What type of treatment is generally utilized? Mostly you will want to find out how the doctor performs an adjustment but you may want to also want to inquire if physical therapy, massage therapy, or other forms of therapy are also available and would be beneficial to your recovery.
  • How much time will be needed for an average visit? Visits can be a short as a few minutes or about a half an hour if other therapies are involved.
  • How will the office handle billing and if you have insurance, will the office check to verify your coverage. If you have to pay a portion of your bill that insurance does not cover, how is this handled.

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 Q:  What can I expect on my first visit, and what does an adjustment feel like? 

Let's answer the second part of that question first. Will an adjustment hurt? Most often, the answer a patient would give is no. In fact, many patients relate a strong feeling of relief when an adjustment is made. There are some cases, such as ones that involve arthritic joints, where an adjustment may cause initial discomfort. Sometimes a doctor will apply moist heat and ice prior to or after an adjustment in these cases. This helps any discomfort to dissipate and also helps the adjustment to work better.

Now, let's handle the first part of the question, what to expect on your first visit. This information is merely meant as a guideline and may vary depending on your condition and how you and your doctor determine what is the best way to manages it. In most cases, however, your first visit, after any consultation, should consist of a chiropractic history and examination.


A history helps the doctor to determine what to look for in the exam that will follow. It is always helpful to write some things down like dates that are important, when this condition started and if it had occurred before, when were those times it was present. It is also good to have a list of any current medications you are taking. It is especially important to not hold information back for your doctor. Not admitting you have anything wrong with you will not help your doctor in determining your diagnosis. Other things that may be asked on your history is the health of your relatives to help determine if could have a genetic condition, the time of day or night the symptoms bother you if they are not constant, the type of pain or dysfunction you experience, what makes the symptoms better, and what makes them worse. Your answers to all of these questions will help your doctor better determine what to look for on the exam and how to manage your case. In some cases, you may even be asked about your eating habits or be asked to fill out a nutritional questionnaire.


During the examination, your doctor will check the areas of your complaint and will probably measure the motion of your joints (how far you can turn, bend, etc.) and note the range where you experience pain or discomfort. These figures help to access your present conditions and can also be used later to chart your progress. Your reflexes may be checked, your blood pressure may be recorded. Your muscles may be tested to see if there is any loss of strength in an affected area. Your posture may be checked as well as your gait (how you walk.) All of these tests are commonly referred to as orthopedic and neurological tests. The names may sound a bit scary but they are all really quite simple and do not involve using needles or electricity. Actually, you may well find that this examine is one of the best physical exams you have ever had.


Your doctor may determine from the results of the exam that the problem will require a set of x-rays. An x-ray is a simple procedure that involves standing in front of a metal box that holds an x-ray film. After the doctor has the x-ray film developed and reviews the findings on the film, he or she will share these results with you. Often, films may be taken the same day as the exam, however, the report of findings for the exam and x-rays may scheduled for your next visit.

Report of Findings:

When the doctor has determined a diagnosis from the history, exam, and x-rays, if needed, he or she should discuss these findings with you and set up a course of treatment. This is the time to ask about how many treatments the doctor believes will be needed to see some initial results and how much recovery should be expected over this course of time.

The First Treatment:

Your doctor will take you through your first chiropractic adjustment and may have other therapies that are applied as well. You can ask questions about what each therapy is and does while you are being worked on. Your doctor will generally also give you some good advice to follow such as not to lift, how to sit, sleep, etc. to help your condition heal faster and to avoid re injury. You may also be recommended one or more nutritional supplements and directed how many to take per day.
You should take the time to express how you fell after your first treatment is finished. In some cases, patients have reported immediate and full relief of symptoms after only one treatment, but this is not typical. It is more common to have some relief that gradually improves over the course of treatment. If you feel that there are times between treatments that you loose some progress, you should discuss this with you doctor. You might be doing something that is aggravating your condition but it may also just be part of your healing cycle.

The important thing is that your over-all progress improves over time. Also, in some difficult cases, your response may not be one of relief for a certain amount of time. Generally, your doctor can inform you if this is suspected. For instance, in an acute trauma, such as an auto accident, the condition may worsen the first week due to the bodies natural swelling response for the first three days. However, studies have shown that receiving the proper care for these traumatic accidents results in faster and better healing after this initial inflammatory process is over.

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 Q:  How long will it take to get better? 

This is one of the hardest questions to answer. It varies so much depending not only on the condition but the condition of each individual. For instance, some people heal more quickly than others, some people have more swelling from minor accidents than would be expected, and some people have a more severe injury than would otherwise be expected by the physical appearance. Everybody is different. So, how long will it take? well, there are some general guidelines such as muscle strains take about 3 weeks to heal. Sprains take longer, about 6-8 weeks. Low back disc injuries take the longest to heal, about 3 full months. The important thing to remember is that with treatment, you should feel better during the course of healing and heal better. this means the tissue that repairs the injured area is stronger than it would be if nothing is done. This can help prevent weakness in the area and also prevent re injury in the future. Your Doctor of Chiropractic will be able to assist you in determining what treatment plan and course of treatment time will be best for you. But what about if you have a chronic condition such as headaches or migraines? Your doctor will discuss with you how chiropractic treatment can be effective in treating and relieving many chronic ailments. The course of time need to get these conditions under control will be recommended and a maintenance plan of a visit or two per month may be recommended to keep the condition from returning once initial treatment is determined to be successful.

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 Q:  Can a chiropractor refer me to a medical practitioner? 

Yes. If your chiropractor determines your condition requires medical attention or if medical treatment is needed along with chiropractic care, your chiropractor can make the necessary referral. In many cases, if a referral is needed to an orthopedist or a neurologist, your chiropractor can probably provide you with a list of these specialist he or she refers to. If the required medical specialty is of a different nature, your chiropractor may refer you back to your general medical practitioner with the results of your tests. Your GP can then make the referral. In some cases, if you do not have a family doctor (GP) your chiropractor may be able to recommend one.

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 Q:  What is the cost and will my insurance cover chiropractic care? 

Charges for treatment vary for city to city. Treatments generally are less expensive in under-populated areas as opposed to larger cities. The total cost for treatment will be determined by the number of visits required, the amount per visit, any braces or nutritional supplements that are required, x-rays, if needed, and costs for examinations. The good news is that chiropractic has proven time and time again to be a lower cost treatment plan than most medical plans when it comes to treating such things as work related injuries. It is certainly much less expensive than a back surgery. Your Doctor of Chiropractic should be able to provide you with approximate costs during the report of findings. You can generally ask what others with similar conditions were charged to get an idea of affordability. You can also ask if the office has a payment plan. As for insurance, the doctor's staff may call on your behalf to check your coverage. Many plans do cover chiropractic care but just as with medical care, most of these plans cover a percentage. Good plans cover up to 80% of reasonable and customary charges. (Reasonable and customary are terms defined by an insurer to set a price the insurer feels is proper for any given service in a service sector. Again, these charges are generally less expensive in under-populated areas and higher in metropolitan areas.) Some plans offer coverage but may have limits on how much treatment you can have paid. It is always best to talk with the staff to determine what your insurance will pay and what portion of the charges may be billed to you.

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