You’ve had low back pain or neck pain for months. Or maybe you have suffered from headaches for years or an entirely different health issue other than pain. Your friend has recommended you see their chiropractor. You’ve been told by your friend that their chiropractor can perform “miracles”. So you make an appointment and you have an expectation that chiropractic care will fix you in one visit. Is this expectation realistic?
I’ve been a Chiropractor since 1995, and I have seen many scenarios come into my practice. It’s common for a new patient and some old patients to come into the office and expect the “miracle” one treatment cure. Although there are many patients who feel some relief in their symptoms or pain after one visit, this doesn’t mean they will be completely pain-free or will be fixed. Most patients, especially adults, will need repeated visits close together to get complete pain relief and to fix the underlying problem that caused the pain in the first place.
Most low back pain and neck pain, for example, is due to the nervous system (brain and nerves) being stuck in a “stressed” state. This “stressed” state creates muscle tension, spinal misalignments (subluxation), poor posture, and inflammation (swelling). Most patients seeking out a chiropractor have been stuck in this state for long periods of time before they visit a chiropractor.
The nervous system being under stress is like your circuit breakers (fuses) at home being under too much stress. Eventually the fuse blows and the breaker switch flips off. The part of the home supplied by that electrical circuit no longer works. Chiropractic adjustments flip your “breaker switches” back on by adjusting your spinal misalignments. This allows good nerve or electrical flow to your brain and from your brain to all of your body parts. When your brain works well, your body parts work better and you can heal better. This is worth repeating. Your body has the ability to heal itself if your brain works well.
Your body has the ability to heal itself if your brain works well.
Your brain and nerves have the ability to be “freed” up from their stuck stressed state. Maybe you have heard your brain is “plastic”. This means your brain has the potential to be remolded like plastic if it were melted and changed.
When you receive a chiropractic adjustment to correct your stuck bone or spinal misalignment it “frees” it up and “sparks” the nerve to communicate with your brain better.
When you keep repeating the adjustments your nerves branch out to other nerves to make new nerve pathways to your brain. This is like roots of a plant branching out when being watered. This ability to build new nerve pathways to the brain is called plasticity. This nerve growth takes time and just doesn’t happen in one visit.
Over time, the repeated chiropractic adjustments you get cause your nerves to fire over and over again through your new nerve pathways. Your nerves get healthier and more efficient and coordinated at firing. Your brain will function better, your body will function better, and your body will heal better. Your body will be in a less “stressed” state. You will be less tense, your strength will improve, you will become more flexible, and your posture will improve.
This is why your chiropractor may recommend two to three adjustments per week for multiple weeks in your initial phase of care. Eventually you will need less frequent adjustments as your brain and nerves learns to hold your improved state of strength, mobility, and alignment.
How long will you need chiropractic care?
Most patients will start to notice improvements in their symptoms within 6-12 visits. It may take longer than this, however, to make a more positive and lasting change in your spine and nervous system. Everyone responds differently because there are other factors which will determine how well you will respond to chiropractic care.
To improve the health of your brain and spine not only requires repeated chiropractic adjustments, it also requires positive reinforcement in your lifestyle. Here are some examples:
Regular movement during the day is important to stimulate your brain and nervous system. If you are like most people, you are likely sitting at a desk all day. If you do, I would highly recommend you take regular breaks to get up and move. Better yet, get a standing desk or what is called a treadmill desk. Read more about that here.
Regular exercise is important to stimulate your brain and nervous system. If you partake in regular exercise your brain and spine will be healthier. Pick a physical activity you will enjoy so you are more apt to do it on a regular basis. There are some guidelines mentioned in this article.
Eat whole foods. The health of your brain is also dependent on a healthy chemical environment. In other words, are you eating a typical crappy North American diet high in refined flours, sugar, and vegetable oils? Or are you eating a healthy diet rich in nutrients from meat, poultry, seafood, vegetable, fruits, nuts and seeds? 50% of the daily calories consumed by the average person in North America are refined flours, sugar and vegetable oils. This diet promotes inflammation in your body, compromises your brain and nerve function, and is one of the major cases of chronic illness. I have written extensively on this subject matter. Here are a few of those articles:
What is the Paleo Diet and Could You Benefit From It?
Refined Sugar Can Cause Osteoarthritis
Foods that Cause Inflammation: 3 Food Toxins You Should Avoid
Anti-inflammatory Diet to Solve Your Low Back Pain?
Stress management. Do you manage stress well? If you’re the type of person who can let challenges in your life bounce off of you, you will likely respond better and more quickly to chiropractic care than a person who doesn’t manage stress well. There are many ways to manage stress: meditation, gardening, art, exercise, watching comedies, playing with your pets, vacations, and getting outdoors in nature are just a few examples.
Sleep. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep is vital for proper brain function and for proper healing. Here are some recent articles I wrote on the importance of sleep and sleep deprivation:
Sleep Deprivation Can Cause Chronic Pain
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
So, in general, if patients have a healthy lifestyle, they will need less chiropractic care. If patients don’t have a healthy lifestyle, they will need more chiropractic care to get better and manage their condition(s) thereafter.
Do you need lifetime chiropractic care to keep you well?
A healthy brain and nervous system are vital to stay well once you get well. Regular chiropractic adjustments play an essential role in keeping your brain, nerves, and spine healthy.
Everyday accumulative stress (eg. prolonged sitting, mental stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, poor diet) takes its toll on your nervous system. In our modern, industrialized world it’s hard to avoid these stressors. Regular chiropractic adjustments helps “reboot” your brain and nervous system and helps you cope with those stressors so you can live at a higher level of function and passion for life.
Regular chiropractic adjustments play an essential role in keeping your brain, nerves, and spine healthy.
Preventative chiropractic spinal and nerve check-ups would vary from once a week to every two months depending on your circumstances.
Ultimately, how long you want to benefit from chiropractic care is up to you.
Although many patients will experience fast results with chiropractic care, it’s very rare that chiropractic care will fix your health issues in one visit. You will need repeated chiropractic adjustments over a period of weeks or months in order to retrain your brain, nerves, muscles and spine to become less tense.
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