March 20, 2011

My first (and second) chiropractic appointment

Hearing some of my classmates talk about their first experiences with their respective student clinic interns, I expected my first visit to be purely diagnostic in nature. It was only my first physical exam, so it shouldn’t be too long to take, right?

Well, like all journeys, a map must be drawn, plotted and marked. Indeed, there was no exception for my first chiropractic appointment. I have heard that the physicals would take two hours “if you were really awesome with your intern”, as one classmate said. Not too long after I walked into an exam room, however, I realized just how thorough this physical exam was.

I was pretty surprised about the thoroughness of the exam itself: I was asked about my family history, common maladies (e.g. headache, fever, cold, flu, congestion, etc), prescription and OTC drugs, exercise habits, psychological condition (verified by a simple three-object short-term memory test), and, of course, how long I’ve had my physical “complaints.”

And that was just the start: he proceeded to tap a hammer on my ribs, elbows, and knees; listen to my heart and lungs in no less than 9 different places on the abdomen; take my blood pressure on both arms; flex, extend and rotate my neck; and flex and extend at the waist.

All of the above took 2 hours, which still wasn’t enough to cover the complete physical.

The next week, I rated the pain in my neck and left knee on a scale of 1 to 10 and indicated whether the conditions improved, worsened or remained the same. My intern then put me through several drills, including lunges, marches and leg-hip coordinations. I also did some stretching of the hamstrings and a yoga technique to assess my flexibility (or lack thereof). After all of that, I was given a consent form to read (with only about four pages of size 12 font) and sign with the staff doctor present.

In the second hour, he carried out a static palpation of my spinal column, from the upper cervical portion down to the sacrum. The first thing I noticed was when I felt fingers press with such high pressure against the thoracic zone -- I immediately winced like a delinquent second grader getting slapped by a meter stick. According to him, the sharp pain was there because my thoracic vertebrae were tight and unwilling to bounce back and say, “hey, I’m okay!” It turned out that all of my years of reading and writing in school at such a hunchback angle have finally come to bite me.

Even after this, he told me that he needed to draw up a treatment plan with his staff doctor (hence the map) before he could deliver any real adjustment. Four hours of appointments, and not one adjustment was made. Even so, I understood the purpose of long exams: they’re there not only to give you, as the doctor, an idea of what the patient is presenting, but to help you establish a record of ethical practice, which is supplemented by record-keeping and daily signatures.

It’s only going to get more exciting from here, so stay tuned for Part II of my fantastically wild chiropractic odyssey...

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