Seeing a Chiropractor for the first time
We cannot help you choose which chiropractor to see, but our list of the most commonly asked questions may be helpful if you are seeking chiropractic treatment.
The first step you should take is to check that the chiropractor you plan to see is registered with us by searching on our homepage. All chiropractors legally allowed to practise in the UK must appear on this register.
You may want to ask your GP or friends and family for recommendations about individual chiropractors. While recommendations can be valuable, it is important to find a chiropractor who can meet your specific needs.
Before starting treatment, it may be useful to ask the chiropractor you plan to see a few questions about how they work, the clinic they work at, and the techniques they use.
If you’re unsure whether a chiropractor can help your condition, you may wish to arrange a free, no obligation discussion. This may be over the telephone or at the chiropractor’s clinic. This will enable you to find out whether chiropractic treatment can help your condition. You should ask whether the chiropractor commonly treats your condition.
If you go ahead and book a treatment consultation, during the first consultation the chiropractor will assess your condition before explaining their treatment recommendations. You don’t have to agree to the treatment the chiropractor recommends then and there - if you are not happy to go ahead or if you want more time to reach a decision, just say so.
A visit to a chiropractor is similar to other healthcare appointments. When you attend the first consultation, which will typically last 30 minutes to an hour, the chiropractor will take a detailed case history and carry out a physical examination of you. This will help the chiropractor to establish a working diagnosis for your condition and to reach a view about the best course of care for you.
Before you agree to go ahead with the recommended treatment, the chiropractor should explain it to you, along with the likelihood of that treatment helping your condition and any risks associated with the treatment (including any side effects that you might experience).
If the chiropractor does not think they can help improve your condition, or they have concerns about any serious health conditions, they will tell you and may suggest a referral to another healthcare professional, for example a GP.
Before your treatment starts, your chiropractor must clearly explain to you what they found during your examination, how they propose to treat you and the benefits and any significant risks associated with your condition and proposed treatment.
You should take the opportunity to ask the chiropractor any questions you may have and ask for further explanation if anything is unclear.
Before starting any treatment, you will need to give your permission (consent) to the chiropractor. Agreement should also be reached about how much you will pay for your treatment. Chiropractic treatment is only rarely available on the NHS, so usually you – or your health insurer – has to pay.
There is no need to tell your GP that you are seeing a chiropractor unless you want to.
Treatment is usually painless unless an area is swollen. If this is the case, your chiropractor will alter the treatment you receive. You may also hear a clicking or popping noise – this is perfectly normal and commonplace with chiropractic treatment.
Some patients also report temporary aches and pains during and after treatment. Again, this is nothing to worry about and is perfectly normal.
Generally people keep their clothes on during treatment, but sometimes it may be necessary to remove some items of your clothing. If that is the case, you will be informed of this and provided with a gown to wear. If you are not comfortable undressing, you should explain this to your chiropractor before your first treatment – they can then advise you on suitable clothing to wear to the clinic to enable them to examine and treat you.
Yes, of course. It’s fine for you to bring along a relative or friend if it makes you feel more at ease. Your chiropractor may also want another person (a ‘chaperone’) to be present during your treatment; this may be a clinic assistant, for example.
Chiropractors treat patients in different settings, such as a private or group practice, multi-disciplinary group practice, and other healthcare facilities.
Most chiropractors will treat you in a private room. Some chiropractors use an open plan room with several treatment tables and patients in there at once. If you would prefer to be treated in a private room that is something you should check the chiropractor can offer, before you book any treatment.
Most chiropractors only see one patient at a time, however some chiropractors treat several patients at the same time. When choosing a chiropractor you should consider what treatment setting you are comfortable with.
When your chiropractic treatment starts, the chiropractor will devise an initial short plan of care. That plan of care will include the chiropractor reassessing your progress regularly. Treatments may take place one or more times per week. Most patients will see improvements in their condition within just a few weeks. Following the initial care plan, many patients will not need further treatment.
If you don’t feel significantly better within a few weeks after starting treatment, your chiropractor should be discussing other care options with you or seeking to refer you to another healthcare professional. You should be cautious if a chiropractor recommends a lengthy (3-, 6-, 12- month) care plan after just 1 or 2 visits.
Although most patients can expect to see improvements within a few weeks of starting chiropractic treatment, patients who have complex conditions, or whose work means their condition is likely to recur, or who have very long-term problems may require a longer-term care plan. How long they need to be treated for will depend on how quickly their condition responds to treatment. That is something the chiropractor is unlikely to be able to judge at the start of treatment.
You can decide to stop treatment at any time you like. You will not be expected to pay for treatments you have not received.
There are strict guidelines in place about taking x-rays. Your chiropractor should only recommend that an x-ray is taken if there is a valid clinical reason for doing so.
Some chiropractors take x-rays either to check that the patient does not have any serious health conditions affecting their spine, such as a fracture or tumour, or to help them decide where to adjust the spine.
In most cases of non-traumatic musculoskeletal low back pain, an x-ray is not needed. If your chiropractor recommends an x-ray, ask them to explain why they need it to treat you.
Some chiropractors can take x-rays in-house but others may need to refer you somewhere else to have an x-ray done, which they will need to look at before they start your treatment.
There are many different chiropractic techniques. Some chiropractors perform joint manipulation using only their hands, while others use various instruments. Additionally, some chiropractors treat using quick but firm manipulation, while others have a lighter touch. Chiropractic treatment is largely driven by the individual preferences of both the chiropractor and the patient but adjustment choices are made for clinical reasons.
At the start of your care, your chiropractor should have told you what improvements they hope to achieve and when these might happen. The chiropractor will monitor your progress at each visit.
Some conditions may only improve after a few treatments. If you do not experience the expected improvements, your chiropractor should reassess you, so that they can decide whether to change their treatment approach, or whether you should be referred for further investigation or treatment by a different healthcare professional. If your chiropractor thinks you may need to see another healthcare professional they will ask for your consent to refer you, and to communicate with that healthcare professional about your treatment.
Will I be able to take time to consider whether or not to have further sessions or treatment?
Yes. The chiropractor's role is to deliver their recommended course of care to you, but it is your decision whether or not to accept their treatment recommendations. Your consent is needed for any treatment to take place, and you should know and understand what you are consenting to.
Costs vary depending upon the location and the nature of the clinic.
If you have not visited the chiropractor before, they will need to assess your condition before they start treatment. The assessment and the first treatment may be charged for separately, or the charge may be combined, so do check what is included in the initial visit fee before you go ahead. Fees should be clearly explained in advance and you should not be required to pay significant up-front fees.
Chiropractic isn’t widely available on the NHS, but the NHS does fund chiropractic treatment in some areas within the UK. Most people who have chiropractic treatment pay for it privately and it is covered by some health insurance schemes.
Chiropractic is generally very safe when performed correctly by a trained and registered chiropractor. Chiropractors are trained to ensure that any treatment you receive is a safe and appropriate treatment for you.
It is common to experience side effects from treatment, such as mild to moderate aches and pains, stiffness and tiredness but these side-effects are usually mild and generally pass in a few days. More serious side effects are very rare, but have occasionally been reported following spine manipulation.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition, that may increase certain risks - which is why your chiropractor takes a detailed medical history and examines you prior to treatment. It is important that you give the chiropractor accurate information about your medical history. The chiropractor is obliged to treat anything you tell them as confidential, in the same way a doctor is. Any particular risks that may be relevant to you should be explained by the chiropractor before you consent to treatment.
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Fully qualified and legally registered chiropractors provide safe treatment and a high standard of care.Find out More
The Code clearly outlines the standards of performance, conduct and ethics that are expected of chiropractors in the UK. Chiropractors must meet these standards in order to join and remain on our register.Find out More
Our guidance is published separately from the Code but should be read alongside it.Find out More