The Research On Chiropractic Maintenance Care – How Often Should You See A Chiropractor For Optimal Spinal Health?
What the science says about regular chiropractic care – even if you’re not in pain!
It’s no surprise that most of the patients I see at Ascent Chiropractic come in because they’re in pain, and their main priority is getting back to feeling good.
When a patient comes in to our office – whether it be for back pain, neck pain, headaches or anything else – there are four stages of treatment. The first three are:
- Symptom Relief: Eliminate the cause of pain/inflammation & restore balance.
- Correction: Correct joint misalignment and instability.
- Stabilization: Fix muscle imbalances and strengthen stabilizing musculature.
The symptom relief, correction & stabilization stages of care work much like an anti-lock brake system on your vehicle. While the goal is to get out of pain as quickly as possible, in most cases dysfunction in the musculoskeletal system has been present for an extended of period of time (usually well before you started experiencing symptoms) and will require repeated treatment or “pumping the brakes” over a period of time in order to re-educate your musculoskeletal system to function properly.
How long these stages of care last are entirely dependent on the patient and their specific injury – there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment plan in our office. Sometimes this requires literally just one visit to our office, sometimes it’s multiple visits spread over several months. But what about after the pain is gone and the injury is healed?
That’s stage 4 of care: maintenance care.
Once your musculoskeletal system is healed and stabilized, you’ll want to keep it that way. The majority of our patients are under regular maintenance care, making sure their musculoskeletal system stays working at optimal levels and correcting problems before they start causing symptoms.
Whether that means once per week, once per month or once every six months really depends on the severity of the original injury, your overall fitness and how effectively you strengthened the supporting musculature in stage 3 above.
The evidence for maintenance chiropractic care
According to two recent studies, there’s solid evidence in support of the value of maintenance care.
The first, published in the journal Spine, reported that 10% percent of individuals that experience an acute low back pain injury will go on to develop chronic disabling low back pain. That’s a huge percentage of the population!
The good news is that they also report that spinal manipulative therapy (ie chiropractic care) is by far your best bet to avoid chronic low back pain, with the researchers suggesting maintenance chiropractic care every 1-3 months after the initial intensive treatment for an acute condition.
Another study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, followed 894 workers who had experienced a low back pain injury for one year. What they found wasn’t surprising.
“Physical therapy was shown to have the highest percentage of re-injured workers, followed by those receiving standard medical treatment (or no treatment at all). The lowest incidence of repeat injury was found among those workers who had received chiropractic maintenance care.”
The bottom line
So why not just wait to make an appointment with your chiropractor until you’re in pain? The fact is, your pain level isn’t a very reliable indicator of what’s going on in your body.
Your body can compensate for joint dysfunction to allow you to continue with your everyday life without pain, but pain usually won’t be felt in a joint until 80% of its function (or movement) is lost! By the time you feel pain problems are usually already in full swing!
Just about everyone has vision and dental specialists they see for checkups, but everyone needs to be seeing their spine specialist regularly too – their chiropractor! At Ascent Sports & Wellness Chiropractic, we make it our priority to detect and correct the misalignments in the spine before they lead to more serious problems. Ready to schedule an appointment? Call us at 262-345-4166 or schedule an appointment online.
Source: Iben, A., Lise, H. & Charlotte, L. Chiropractic maintenance care – what’s new? A systematic review of the literature. Chiropr Man Therap 27, 63 (2019)