Chiropractic: a lifetime sentence?

[originally published in KCN, July 2000]

Jail Time“You know, once you start, you have to go for the rest of your life.”

That’s the buzz on the “playground of life” — and one of the many aspects of chiropractic that has been misrepresented by the uninformed.  But then again, this is the “playground” we’re talking about — a setting in which we are all too easily attracted to hearse and rumors to formulate our opinions.

“Is it really true?” you wonder.  The questions multiply.  “If you do go, will you get addicted?  Is chiropractic a lifetime sentence?”
Yes!  The answer is yes!  You’ve caught us.  Chiropractic’s sole mission over the past 105 years has been to foster hundreds of thousands of “chiro-junkies” that will create an endless stream of income, paving our way for an early retirement!

Okay, now that I’ve maintained your attention with the answer you all really wanted to hear, let me set the “playground-talk” straight by telling you what you need to hear:  the truth.

It’s a tough question to answer.  First of all, it starts out on the wrong foot by implying that lifetime chiropractic is a negative Mowing Lawnidea.  Which is silly if you stop and think about it.  There are many things we choose to do for a lifetime because we recognize and value their benefits:  tuning our cars, having our hair cut, mowing our lawns, getting our teeth cleaned, working out at the gym, eating healthy foods, attending church, etc….  So the issue really is whether you recognize and value the benefits that  having a chiropractic lifestyle would bring.  Sort of a difficult concept to grasp.  After all, we don’t look at our spines in the mirror very often, and certainly don’t show them off to others.  And only chiropractors really get excited over things like postural correction, improved spinal biomechanics, and optimum nerve flow.  But what if we looked at this from the perspective of enjoying and getting the most out of life.  You see, spinal problems often stand in our way doing the things we Women in exercise classlike to do or being the best we can be for others.  Instead, what if we looked at chiropractic as a means of shedding a few strokes off our golf game, being able to pick up our grandchildren, working in our gardens, running  faster marathons, being less irritable around our friends and family, having more energy, or just simply feeling really good?  It puts a different spin on it, doesn’t it?

Most people present to chiropractors’ offices in pain.  Often times, this is pain that they’ve dealt with for years.  Having tried multiple remedies with little success, chiropractic is called upon in desperation.  Since most of the spinal problems that ultimately contribute to these pains have been slowly brewing over the passage of time, stemming back to events such as past accidents or even a traumatic birth, permanent correction can be very difficult and take time.

Most patients begin with chiropractic in the Initial Intensive Care phase.  Because the goal is to feel better as quickly as possible, frequent visits are needed to reduced the most obvious symptoms, as chiropractic adjustments typically do not hold for Initial Intensive Careextended periods in the beginning.  The number of repeated visits over the next days, weeks, or months, will vary with each patient’s age, severity of condition, and lifestyle factors.  In many cases, chiropractic is able to diminish painful symptoms in a relatively short period of time.  Halting care this early on, while it is always the patients prerogative, isn’t recommended, as more progress needs to be made improving spinal function in order for a more lasting correction to take place — diminishing the likelihood of a relapse occurring.  Using chiropractic care only in this phase is like treating chiropractic as an “expensive aspirin” — albeit a very effective one.

Rehabilitative CareAs the most obvious pains begin to fade, the focus of care shifts to stabilizing and strengthening the spine.  This phase is known as Rehabilitative Care.  With spinal functioning showing improvement, adjustments will hold for longer periods making visit frequency less than before.  During this stage, special attention may also be given to prescribing special exercises, dietary changes, or other self-care procedures to empower and give the patient more ownership in the management of his condition.  As with the first phase, the amount of time needed to complete this phase depends on many factors, which includes how well the advice of the chiropractor is followed on home care issues.

When the original condition reaches a point of maximum restoration, the final phase of care may be embarked upon.  This Wellness Carephase is known as Maintenance or Wellness Care.  The goal of this phase is to preserve the patient’s progress with “regular chiropractic check-ups”  — catching little problems before they have a chance to create larger ones.  Wellness care goes beyond this line of thinking, however.  As a patient, if you’ve stuck with chiropractic up to this point, then chances are you have gained a bit of an education on just how important a properly functioning spine, and its effect on the nervous system, can be to your overall health.  Because our nervous systems control virtually every aspect of our lives, it makes sense that we include chiropractic in our push to maintain wellness and our strive for optimum health.  Few things as complicated as the human body can be “fixed” and then ignored.  It’s a good thing we don’t have this attitude with jet planes.  Numerous hours of mechanical maintenance are needed for every hour of flight to ensure top performance and safety.  Our spines and nervous systems are constantly being assaulted by the stressful “flight hours” we put on our bodies everyday.  A wellness approach to health also needs a solid maintenance plan, which not only incorporates physical components such as healthful foods, exercise, and chiropractic, but also includes vital positive mental, social, and spiritual aspects.

colic-jmptUp until now, the concept of Chiropractic Maintenance Care had not been investigated by the research community.  A recent study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, looked at chiropractic patients over the age of 65 who have been under chiropractic Maintenance Care for 5 years or more.  The study revealed some pretty impressive findings.   Compared to the national average, the patients reported making only half the annual number of visits to their medical providers.  And while their number of chiropractic visits was almost double the national average for medical visits, their average annual health care cost was nearly 70% less!  When asked, “How important do you feel chiropractic treatment has been in maintaining and promoting your health?” 95.8% of the patients felt it was either considerably or extremely valuable.

Whether or not someone decides to benefit from a chiropractic lifestyle is really up to them — not the doctor.  Patients can drop in and out of care as they like.  No one is forcing them to do anything.  Everyone has different health goals.  Our obligation as chiropractors is to recommend the care that you need and give you the care that you want.  Deciding to make chiropractic part of your lifestyle is an educated choice you make for yourself when you see first hand how it can positively impact your life.

Now, if I could only figure out a way to make chiropractic addictive….

____________

Sources used for this article:

For skeptics only:  the simple truth about today’s chiropractic. (brochure).  Back Talk Systems Inc. 1999.

How to get faster relief and better results from your chiropractic care. (magazette).  Back Talk Systems Inc. 1997.

Rupert, Manello, and Sandefur.  Maintenance care:  health promotion services administered to US chiropractic patients aged 65 and older, part II. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.  23(1):10-19.  2000.

Types of care and the chiropractic lifestyle.  (brochure).  Back Talk Systems Inc. 1995.

Wellness and the chiropractic lifestyle.  (brochure).  Back Talk Systems Inc. 1997.

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