Q: I want to see a chiropractor but I have heard that once you go, you never stop going. Is this true? I don’t want to have to go for the rest of my life.
A: Chiropractic treatment may consist of a variety of steps, depending on what ails a person and on what short- and long-term goals for care may be. Early in your treatment you and your chiropractor should develop short- and long-term goals. A short-term goal may be to reduce pain and restore normal function to a joint. A long-term goal may be to restore a long-absent feeling of full independence and ability to deal with every physical aspect of daily living. Once the doctor has a firm understanding of where you are and where you want to be, he or she can put together a plan to get you there.
In my office we refer to this as the types of care. The relief phase comes first – get rid of pain. Next we focus on the corrective phase – removing muscle flexibility and strength imbalances that brought the problem on in the first place. Finally we move into the stabilization phase. This is when we verify that a long term change has been made and strengthen the area to prevent the return of the pain. Not everyone has a goal of correction. If that is the case, then they may only work with us until pain is removed to their satisfaction. Others want to see long term functional changes in their body and they must understand that pain will go away first, but this type of change takes time.
Treatment may include some or all of the following: Adjustments to the spine and areas of joint dysfunction; the use of modalities like ultrasound or electrical stimulation to control pain and help heal soft tissue; manual therapies like deep tissue massage to break up scar tissue adhesions or relieve spasm; exercise to stretch and/or strengthen muscle and improve balance and coordination; education in areas like ergonomics, to improve posture, and in any number of other areas, like nutrition, footwear and general health practices.
It is always your choice of how much care you want, but it is our job to make you aware of the effort required to achieve the desired goal and make an effective plan to make that happen for you. There is no right or wrong answer, just what you want.
Regardless of what may have first brought you to a chiropractor, remember that you should consider chiropractic care as an ongoing part of your health care, just as you pay regular visits to a dentist, medical doctor or any other health care provider. As for coming for the rest of your life… well that is up to you as well, but I commonly see that people find out how good their body CAN feel and don’t like to just put up with nagging pain anymore so they will often return before the problem ever gets that bad again. Think of physical medicine like chiropractic as you would brushing teeth. You are never going to brush so well that you never need to brush again. Similarly, you will never stretch or get adjusted so well that it is never required again – you must keep up with the stresses that you put your body through every day and regular chiropractic is a great way to do that. If that is not your way of doing things then you don’t have to go back unless you want or need to again.
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