Dr. Gray's Straight Talk

Honest and blunt healthcare discussion and advice.

Regular Chiropractic Care… beneficial or not?

Posted by Dr. Gray on Monday, October 6, 2008

I often get asked about the potential benefits of ongoing, or “maintenance-style,” chiropractic care. “Is it necessary?” “Is it beneficial?” “Is it a waste of time and money?” “Is my chiropractor just trying to keep me coming in?” “How long do I have to keep going?”

The short and sweet answer is, it depends on what your goals are. If all you want is for that pain you’ve been having to go away, you may be able to achieve that following only a couple treatment visits. However, if you want it to stay gone, it becomes more complicated. If your goals include going beyond pain relief and incorporating general health and wellness, then the scenario is different again. If you think your chiropractor is just trying to keep you coming back, you’ve got a communication failure with your doctor.

It is estimated that in the United States, the annual costs associated with the treatment of low back pain (LBP) total approximately $100 billion. High recurrence rates and chronic disability are believed to play a large role in the overall cost of back pain, and studies have shown that only a fraction of LBP patients remain pain free and recover completely, even one year after the problem first occurred.

In a recent study, 30 patients with chronic, nonspecific low back pain lasting at least six months were separated into two groups. The first group received 12 treatments over a one-month period, but no treatments for the subsequent nine months; the second group received 12 treatments over a one-month period, along with “maintenance spinal manipulation” every three weeks for the following nine months.

Results: Patients in both groups experienced significant decreases in low back pain scores after the first series of treatments. The greatest difference, however, was seen in disability scores over the duration of the study. Analysis of the data showed that in patients who received maintenance spinal manipulation, “the disability scores were significantly lower after the 10-month period than before the initial phase of treatment.” In the other group, however, “the mean disability scores went back to their pretreatment level.”

Based on these results, it is clear that regular chiropractic care not only helps reduce LBP and disability associated with LBP, but that continued chiropractic treatment following the acute treatment phase assists in keeping pain from recurring. Although this is a small study, and further research needs to be done, most of the latest findings are confirming the benefits of chiropractic as a part of your overall health care strategy. Chiropractic care not only works, but it offers true long-term benefits when used properly and as part of your ongoing wellness plan.

So back to your questions: “Is it necessary?”Sometimes it’s a necessity, but it’s almost always advisable. “Is it beneficial?”Absolutely. “Is it a waste of time and money?”Only if your priorities place other things above your health. “How long do I have to keep going?”Only as long as you wish to experience the benefits of chiropractic care. A better question would be, “How frequently must I go?” “Is my chiropractor just trying to keep me coming in?”If you think this, you’ve got a real problem. Either your doctor is not explaining to you the reasons for his recommendations, you’re not understanding his explanations, or you’re not listening. Regardless of the reasons, there is a trust issue that must be dealt with before you continue. Be very direct with your doctor, he works for you, and ask him to clarify what your current treatment plan entails and why. If he refuses to take the time to answer, you are still dissatisfied with his answer, or you still feel like you’re being ‘milked,’ then it’s time to pick a new doctor. Neither of you are necessarily at fault, but you may be incompatible. If he is open to making sure you understand and will work with you to help you achieve your own health care goals, you’ve got a good guy. Help him out by referring your friends and family to him.

Reference: Descarreaux M, Blouin JS, Drolet M, et al. Efficacy of preventive spinal manipulation for chronic low-back pain and related disabilities: a preliminary study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics; October 2004;27(8):509-514.

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