The Intake Exam and What to Expect

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When I initially met Dr. Tom*, I was thrilled about his principles of treating the body as one system and not as individual symptoms. Though I was hesitant about chiropractic care, I was excited to meet a healthcare provider that was inline with functional medicine. I’ve always had anxiety about doctor appointments, but my first appointment wasn’t my usual anxiety of being questioned about my current issues. It was more about finding answers and if this man could help me find those answers. And if he could, did he have the ability to help  me?

My first new patient appointment was bright and early at 9am on Friday, April 27th. I scheduled it first thing in the morning so I didn’t have it on my mind the entire day. I spent the previous week agonizing over this visit, and I didn’t want to drag it out a second longer than necessary. It’s like ripping off a bandaid – quick and fast before you have time to tense up or chicken out.

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created by Brandi Clevinger using the image from © alexkich at
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The Dreaded Pain Scale

Let me backup a second. I need to address the questionnaire I was given the previous week. It was a two page (back and front) packet filled with questions regarding my medical history, current and past issues, and even about my mom’s pregnancy with me. Yeah – in depth, but I get the point of it.  

I’ve always had issues when filling out these forms. Nothing is easy when it comes to my health. If asked, “what is your pain level on an average day?” I cannot answer it. I don’t have an average day. Each day fluctuates depending on weather, activity level on previous days, what is coming in the approaching days, stress, etc. I could be okay one hour and the next hour be horrible. Again – not average by any means.

Also, I don’t like the pain scale. What is a six for you will most likely be a three for me depending on the pain. I have a high pain tolerance for most of my pain and continues to build up over time. It’s like drinking. When you have the first alcoholic drink in your life, the first couple of drinks may get you intoxicated. As you drink on a regular basis, the more drinks you can handle before you feel it’s effects.

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Explaining the Pain

Anyways, I answered the questions to the best of my ability. It even had a diagram of the body – front, back, left and right side views. It asked me to indicate where I experience discomforts (pain) and the type it is (burning, sharp, dull, throbbing). There were so many marks on the diagram it looked like a toddler had gotten ahold of it. I knew this would lead to many questions from the poor sole that had to decipher it. It’s worse than reading hieroglyphics from back in the Egyptian times.

Despite feeling like they would kick me out as soon as they saw my marked up questionnaire, I confidently (somewhat) handed it over to Charlotte* who then gave it to the nurse. (Are they nurses or assistants in a chiropractic office? – I need to ask. Update: They are chiropractic assistants.) The nurse chiropractic assistant, Sue*, escorted me back to the intake room to start the intake process. I’m not sure she knew where to start when glancing over my questionnaire, nevertheless, she dove right in to clear up some uncertainties. She began with asking why I marked a number on the scale then wrote off to the side: depends. I told her there are factors to how I’m feeling on certain days. She understood.

As she went through the rest of the form, she asked a question here and there. Nothing too intrusive or made me feel as though she doubted my answers or how I perceived my body pains. I slowly became comfortable and my answers became more relaxed as though I was in a conversation with an ally and not defending myself.

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meme from @healthgoals chiro on Twitter

Crossing all the ‘t’s’

She left to confirm with Charlotte that the intake was done correctly. (I later found out that Sue started working there not too long before I came to the office. I think she said she was there for a month or so. This was why she was confirming with Charlotte who had been there for two years.)

Charlotte came in to clarify past surgeries (like my hysterectomy) and the reasons for them. She asked why I was there – for new issues or past issues. I told her it was a combination, and told her that a stomach infection, food poisoning, MSG complex, and fibromyalgia led me there. Her perplexed look made me a little uneasy, but she quickly smiled and ask if I would mind explaining further.

After breaking down the hellish three weeks I had, she was understanding of why I was there – searching for answers and – with some hope – a solution. Charlotte asked more questions about my gut, and then asked if she could take me home to ask more questions because every answer I gave led her to more questions. Haha That made me feel comfortable and my humor started coming more easy.

The Intake Exam

Thermal Scan

With the questionnaire complete, we moved on to the thermal scan. This scan is a roller looking device that is rolled from the base of my neck down to my tailbone along my spine. It picks up thermal images of my spine to gauge skin temperature.

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image from Nevada Chiropractor (

All I had to do for this portion of the test was to sit with my back facing Charlotte so she can roll the device along my spine. Now, this part has to be done on the skin and not through clothing. She left me alone prior to the scan so I could change into a hospital gown (naked waist up). The scan took about twenty seconds. Not long at all.

Surface Electromyography (sEMG)

The next part of the scan was for the EMG scan. This is similar to the thermal scan, but takes a few minutes to complete. She takes these flat tipped prongs, and places them on either side of my spine along the spine. This will examine the function of the muscles that support and move my spine.

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image from Nevada Chiropractor (


Pulse Wave Profiler

The last scan was the Pulse Wave Profiler or Heart Rate Variability (HRV). This will measure how well I adapt to my everyday stress. It’s super simple and takes about four minutes to complete. I sat in a chair with my left arm on a table and my left two fingers in the scanner. While it scans, I remained still and Charlotte left the room to take care of something. While she was gone, I did some breathing exercises to calm my nerves. I was really anxious about the results even though I knew it wouldn’t be until the following week to get the results.

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image from Nevada Chiropractor (

What were the scan results?

Once the scan was complete, Dr. Tom came into the room and chatted a few minutes about some of the scans and questionnaire. He asked questions about what’s been going on that was past issues as well as new issues. As I previously stated, he’s all about the gut and the body working as one system rather than symptoms. All of his questions had a purpose and that made me feel confident in my decision to be there.

We talked about all sorts of topics pertaining to the body and gut – diet, exercise, DNA, past infections, pregnancies, and more. All of it came full circle as to why I was experiencing certain issues and having nerve pain as suddenly as I had it.

Now the big questions: What are his thoughts on fibromyalgia? Does he believe it is a real diagnosis?

Is fibromyalgia real?

Yes, he believes it is a real diagnosis and does exist. Now, stay with me on this part and don’t click off this article when I say the next statement without fully ‘hearing’ me out. Dr. Tom believes that fibromyalgia is a symptom of another underlying cause. For example, when you have a cold, you may experience a runny  nose. The runny nose is a symptom of the cold. The cold is the reason you have the runny nose. The runny nose is fibromyalgia. Do you get me?

What do I think of this? I believe he’s right. Fibromyalgia, I believe, is an issue caused by another issue. This isn’t something new I’ve heard for the first time in that office. A friend of mine suggested this theory to me several months ago. When she suggested it to me, it made sense. The more she explained it, the more logical it seemed. Now I have another person with the same theory. I think they are onto something.

Do I believe fibromyalgia can go away if I ‘resolved’ the issue causing it? I don’t think so. I think if I found the culprit causing fibromyalgia, I really don’t think fibromyalgia will ‘go away’. I believe military trauma triggered fibromyalgia. The strain of a weapon on my shoulder caused many issues within my body resulting in fibromyalgia. I believe my symptoms can lessen, but I don’t believe it will ever just ‘go away’ as though I’ve never had it.

Renewed Hope

Back in the intake process, Dr. Tom concluded the visit with several X-rays of my spine. We talked about military, bio mapping, and cleansing the gut. It was enjoyable for me to speak with a medical professional about these topics. It was a nice change of pace to have an ongoing conversation with one of my medical providers regarding my health. Someone that listened to my medical issues and didn’t call me crazy or pass me off to someone one. He was willing, eager I dare say, to help me figure out what was happening.

Towards the end of the visit, before he moved on to other patients, he chuckled and said I brought an interesting case to him. He thought he had some ideas of what was happening, but he would definitely need the weekend to do his homework and research a few subjects. This made my hope soar.

We may not be able to figure out what is happening immediately – or at all even – however, I had a person capable of potentially helping me and he was willing to do that. Having that experience after everything I’ve been through for over a decade gave me renewed hope. Renewed hope in the medical field, my body, and a chance to live a life which didn’t confine me to a bed or couch. That’s one of the greatest gifts a person can receive.

Find out which care plan I selected. Be sure to read the rest of this chiropractic care series.

*All names have been changed for privacy.

Brandi Clevinger

A place where I talk about everything and sugar coat nothing.

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