I’m sure by now you are wondering the same question every chiropractic patient wonders…”how often do you need to see me?” While responses vary based on the technique and philosophy of each practice, our approach is to provide patients the tools to make the best decision about their own body. We never force a patient to do anything they aren’t comfortable with, so rest assured we’ll find the right approach for you. There are 4 basic types of care for you to choose from as follows:
A. Acute/Pain Relief Care: The goal of this type of care is obviously pain relief to reduce symptoms, swelling and muscle spasm. Most often these are men who have extreme mental or physical stress at work and moms. Visit frequency is usually higher, but only lasts 2-6 weeks until symptoms are relieved. Because this type of care only addresses the symptoms, and not the underlying cause, the condition typically worsens and symptoms will likely return within a number of months to years lasting longer in duration each time. However, this may be an excellent conservative option if considering medication, intense physical therapy or surgery.
B. Symptom Free/Corrective Care: The goal of this type of care is to improve or restore lost function. This is usually children or former athletes who don’t necessarily have symptoms, but notice they have become inflexible, display poor posture, experience weaker muscles, endure poor sleep, decreased libido or have diminished range of motion.
C. Chronic/Degenerative Care: The goal of this type of care is to maximize function and prevent any further degeneration. These patients often sacrifice their bodies like truck drivers, nurses and dental hygienists or are over the age of 55. Because these patients have overused their bodies or suffered with their health concerns for quite some time, advanced degenerative changes prevent complete correction of the cause of the problem. Degeneration can be arrested and symptoms significantly decreased.
D. Wellness/Maintenance Care: The goal of this type of care is to maintain a healthy spine. These patients are usually previous chiropractic patients, live a healthy lifestyle or are under the age of 12 and the focus is on optimal spinal development, just as an orthodontist does with teeth. They are typically symptom free and function well, but want to make sure they don’t lose the health they’ve worked so hard to maintain.
What causes the spine to break down you may be asking? A condition caused Vertebral Subluxation (or Subluxation for short) is the culprit. These Subluxations are misalignments of the spine that pinch or irritate the nerve as it exits the spine. This disrupts nerve impulses from the brain to the body. As a result, wherever the nerve goes doesn’t function properly. Over time, the affected tissue breaks down and malfunctions or creates symptoms. Degeneration, or Osteoarthritis, occurs in an effort to try to stabilize the unstable joints. Through your history and exam, we evaluate you to determine when and what caused the subluxation, not just when you started having symptoms or body signals. Part of our analysis may include taking an x-ray to ensure we can accept your case, but also as a road map to see how we can best serve you. Ultimately, over time, macro-trauma (car accidents, slips and falls) and micro-trauma (poor posture, sleeping habits and lifting improperly) combined with chemical (drugs, alcohol and nicotine) and emotional stress (relationship, financial and work) lead to degenerative changes in the spine such as herniated discs, bone spurs and losing the healthy curvature in the spine developed as a child.
A normal healthy curve in the neck should look like a banana from the side. Everyone over 13 years old should have roughly a 63 degree curvature in their neck. As we develop degeneration, our spine begins to break down. First, you begin to lose the normal healthy curve in your spine developing Phase I degeneration. This process typically takes about 1-5 years to develop. If left alone, your spine breaks down into Phase II where you not only lose the curve, but it may even reverse, going the opposite direction. Thinning of the intervertebral disc and bone spurs soon follow as this process develops over 5-15 years. Unfortunately, if left alone long enough, after 15 years of degeneration, the spine develops into Phase III degeneration which is irreversible! At this point, the joints are completely fused together. Therefore, we work to prevent the problem from getting worse and try to make patients feel as comfortable as possible. This process is like developing a cavity and leaving it alone until your tooth falls out.
Here are examples of a normal spine, compared to the different phases of degeneration that develop over time.
Understanding the degenerative process is one thing, but I’m sure you are still wondering “can chiropractic really help?” Factors like your age, lifestyle and history of trauma determine your potential for success. The younger you are, the greater likelihood your spine can be corrected. Observe this case study of an 8 year old boy who went from a 1 degree curve to a 43 degree curve over the course of a year.