How many of you have heard this question? I get it all the time. The answer is simple and complicated at the same time. It depends a great deal on why you are seeing a chiropractor.
The reasons that people seek chiropractic care will vary from person to person. Some come for acute episodes of pain and others come for chronic issues that stem from prior injuries. No matter what the reason, they all benefit from the care. But to answer the original question of do they need to come forever, let's consider what the treatment is doing for them.
I have this discussion a lot with patients, especially new patients, and I enjoy the conversation because it helps to bring Chiropractic treatments down to its basic level. Patients sometimes have the understanding that their spine is “out of alignment”. I don’t like to use the “alignment” word. I explain to patients that it is very common for the joints of the spine to become “restricted” in their movement. The restriction can come from many different reasons. For example, not moving enough, sitting at work all day long, injury, overuse, and simply tight muscles, and tight muscles can come from many reasons, such as working around the yard, shoveling snow, and simply picking up or playing with your children. When the muscles that surround a spinal joint become tight, that joint then begins to become restricted in the amount of movement that is should have, and that creates that achy pain that we all get now and again. Pain causes muscles to tighten and that will increase the restriction, therefore causing more achy pain and therefore more muscle tightness, and therefore more restriction, and there fore more achy pain, and therefore more muscle tightness…….do you see the circle?? Chiropractic adjustments relieve the restriction within the joints and break the circle, therefore allowing achy pain and muscle tightness to reduce. I usually recommend some stretching and ice to help along with the treatment, and patients tend to have a noticeable decrease in symptoms. I think it’s neat to understand the physiology behind the treatment and important for patients to understand what they are accomplishing with at home therapy.
So let's look at home therapy and specifically stretching. Stretching helps to accomplish the same thing that the adjustment does. How many times have you been stretching and had a few "cracks" in your neck or lower back?? Also, how many times have you gotten the "cracks", but not in the exact spot that you needed it?? That is where we come to the answer to the question. Feeling good is all about a healthy body, and part of that healthy body is good range of motion within healthy joints. So will stretching every day keep you out of pain and from coming to the chiropractor? Maybe?? But some of us, it's not that easy. We have certain joints in the body that just don't respond well enough to home stretching to feel good, and they need to be manipulated to attain and maintain a full healthy range of motion. Do I have patients that come in once a week and need to? Yes! Do I have patients that come in once a month and need to? Yes! Do I have patients that come in once a month that could be stretching enough to come in less? Maybe?? Do I have some patients that need to come in on a regular basis to supplement thier at home stretching routine to feel good, and some just good enough to get thru the day?? Absolutely!!
So you can see that the answer to the question is not simple. But there is an answer. And do I enjoy seeing all of those patients for all of those differrent reasons for coming in as often as the need to? Very much. And I feel that chiropractic has a very important part in medical care becuase it is very effective for many people in the way we have been discussing.
If you are looking for another neat read, look at the most common source of lower back pain, the sacroiliac joint.
Thanks very much for reading and have a great day!