An accurate diagnosis is the key to managing all health issues. Without an understanding of the cause of pain and discomfort, it is difficult to effectively manage your presentation.
Chiropractors are trained as primary contact health professionals, which means that they have the capacity to diagnose a broad range of conditions. This also is what determines the decision of whether chiropractic care is appropriate in your case, or whether you would be better served by another health professional.
Diagnosis is reached through a combination of factors; taking a thorough history, a physical examination, and if required other investigations such as diagnostic imaging, blood tests etc.
There are two components of the diagnosis:
Tissue in lesion or pain diagnosis: this tells us what is causing the pain. With musculoskeletal problems, it is generally a structure that has been overloaded, either by a traumatic event or through prolonged, improper loading.
For example, a complaint of sciatica can come from a very serious cause like a prolapsed lumbar disc that is compressing the nerve destined to go down the leg. Or the sciatica can come from trigger points in overloaded ligaments and muscles in the in the lower back , buttocks or the back of the the thigh. Sciatica can also come from the irritated joints in the lower back and pelvis due to misalignment .
Headaches, like sciatica can come from a myriad of causes.
Headaches can come from very serious causes like extreme blood pressure, aneurysm of a brain or neck artery. Headaches can come from infection too! Generally headaches come from simple non dangerous causes like muscle tension and spinal misalignment in the neck. Chiropractic is very effective a alleviating theses causes. Sometimes headaches come from the way your jaw is working. In this case the chiropractor will refer you to a dentist. Sometimes headaches come from alterations in your blood sugar and other headaches come from dehydration.
So from the above examples of sciatica and headache , you can see that it important for the chiropractor to exclude serious causes before embarking on a course of treatment.
Functional diagnosis: This is an important component of addressing overload injuries. Many pain syndromes are caused by lifestyle habits, lack of mobility, or muscle imbalances. These components need to be identified, and addressed, for long term solutions to be achieved.
Diagnosis is a multifaceted process that takes some time. Your initial consultation will consist of a thorough history and examination, from which a diagnosis will be made. It will involve
History of complaint
Occupational and sporting history
Specific chiropractic tests
If required, further investigations will be undertaken. This may be diagnostic imaging such as x-rays or MRI, blood tests, Any further examinations will be explained to you, and will be undertaken in communication with your GP and other healthcare providers as necessary.