“I’ve always wanted to see a chiropractor, but they always want you to keep coming back.” It’s a sentiment that always seems to hang over the chiropractic profession, like a rain cloud over Charlie Brown. It has been propagated by the medical community and other skeptics, as well as people who are skittish about giving chiropractic a try.
But where did this come from? Is it valid? Is it unique to the chiropractic profession?
The idea that anyone who seeks a doctor of chiropractic will be forever tethered to the chiropractor's table is pretty silly. In our Muskegon practice, we put together a specific care plan for every patient, in order to alleviate their particular health challenge. We state, up front, that most conditions require maintenance down the road, but that part is UP TO YOU. No contracts in blood. No oaths. The ball is in their court.
But why don’t the conditions just stay fixed? Why do spines need maintenance? The reason is the time the problem has been there and the crazy stuff humans do to re-aggravate their conditions (I’ll have to tackle that in another post).
It’s no secret that we are not every body's first choice when it comes to health care so spinal problems usually fester for a long time until the patient shows up in our offices with neck pain, back pain, migraine headaches, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, or fibromyalgia (to name a few). They’ll often find that they have also developed visceral symptoms such as constipation, asthma, acid reflux, or IBS.
They start by ignoring the problem. They may even self-medicate with over the counter meds or worse (scoring some leftover vicodin from their neighbor who recently had a knee replacement).
When it gets so bad they can hardly stand it, they finally show up at their medical doctor’s office. If it is not a fracture, tumor, or infection, they are put on more pain medications. Those will often take the edge off for a while, but when they fail, the doctor puts them in physical therapy. If the PT clinic does nothing but passive modalities (muscle stim, ultrasound, etc.) the patient will get some symptomatic relief but in most cases the problem will keep coming back. They go back to their doctor, who starts talking about injections, surgery, and pain clinics.
A percentage of folks won’t even bat an eyelash at needles and scalpels, but most people get pretty freaked out at this point. Spinal surgeries don’t have the best track record, to say the least. So they start looking at alternatives. Depending on how long this whole process takes, the patient has had this problem for YEARS. The longer the problem has been there, the longer the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons have remodeled and become dysfunctional.
Because of this phenomenon, patients with chronic problems are a lot tougher to fix and they need maintenance care in order to keep things in place and stay healthy. Again, this is up to the individual patient. This concept makes sense to most people (especially if they’ve lived it) but gets a lot of scrutiny from the medical profession.
The next time you hear someone criticize your chiropractor for advocating spinal health maintenance, ask them if they are on any medications (as they probably are on a first name basis with their pharmacist). Have you ever met anyone on a blood pressure medicine regimen that only lasts 6 weeks?
You mean, they have to take those things daily? For life?
Think about that for a second. The same people who criticize a monthly adjustment have no problem whatsoever instructing someone to take a medication twice daily until kingdom come. How many people do you know have been taking aspirin or ibuprofen daily for their back pain and headaches....for years?! Apparently, those anti-inflammatories and painkillers aren’t permanent. Shocking.
I have never, ever needed to see a patient multiple times every single day in my office. In fact, chiropractic patients have to come in less and less over time while most people on medications have to take more and more. The body starts to get immune to medications so they have to up the dose in order for it to be effective. Meanwhile, your liver and kidneys have to filter all that gunk, not to mention all the other pills that you have to take to counteract the side effects from the first medication.
I understand people’s concerns with maintenance chiropractic care. There is a cost involved. And insurance doesn’t always cover it (if it covers anything at all). But with all the pills and surgeries you WON’T need, it pays for itself over time. Not to mention, how in the world do you put a price on being able to move, function, and feel good? Chiropractic care is cheap compared to the alternatives out there. Maintaining good spinal health is a habit. Just like exercise. Just like good nutrition. Just like getting enough sleep. So, do you have to keep coming back? Only if you want to stay healthy.