Course of the treatment
Before it can become clear how chiropractic treatment works, possible reasons underlying the development of a mechanical dysfunction should be considered. Then we will move on to the course of treatment one has to take in overcoming acute or chronic pain syndromes.
It is commonplace to have regular control-checkups for teeth, eyes, heart and blood pressure. Unfortunately, though, it is still rather uncommon to give our mechanical apparatus the same level of attention. Most people start to think about looking after their back when, after years of negligence, pain dysfunction or even an operation forces them to.
Faulty habits or postures, falls or accidents can trigger a chain of reactions leading to back pain or other discomfort. Sometimes it is only a slight cartilage irritation or ligamentous strain which may stay unnoticed or cause pain only initially. In order to prevent irritation at the site, our brain coordinates the involved segment to move very little, or not at all, and the neighbouring joints to move more for compensation. This altered movement pattern can work for weeks or even months. But life goes on, with minor or major incidents adding further mechanical strains in need of compensation. Once all possible compensating mechanisms are used up, the pain threshhold is crossed at the site of the new injury. Then, even a slight, poorly coordinated movement such as sneezing, putting on socks or just sleeping in a faulty posture can bring on sudden excruciating pain. The usual causes of pain, though, are more obvious injuries such as overloading, overexposure (working on something for too long) or accidents.
However the pain phase came about, if the complaint is merely treated with medication reducing pain and inflammation, a mechanical dysfunction at the site involved will remain. By reestablishing normal joint movement a chiropractic treatment not only reduces pain but prevents pain-reoccurrence at the same site.
This is the phase when most people become active to gain relief. The body of a young, adaptable person without pre-existing mechanical problems, needs around 2-7 days to heal and find ways to relieve the painful area. The usual medical way to shorten the pain phase is the usage of analgesic, anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant medication. The loss of function and its consequences are usually not addressed. Chiropractic takes a different approach. By loosening up fixated joints the functional improvement usually speeds up the healing process, giving pain relief and reduction of joint swelling. The surrounding muscles stabilizing the area can return to a normal, evenly spread function. However, the use of anti-inflammatory- and painkilling drugs accompanying the chiropractic treatment shouldn’t be ruled out.
In addition, neighbouring or statically important distant subluxations will also be addressed.With fewer problems overall the site involved can calm down quicker. During the pain phase we recommend you repeat the treatment within a week, preferably after 2-4 days. On average it takes 2-5 treatments to stop an acute pain.
If you have had a sprained ankle, you will know that, given appropriate care, improvement can be fairly quick. But until a ligament has healed completely, i.e. being as resilient as before, it can take weeks or even months. The same principle applies to back injuries: the back pain subsides and function returns quickly- however, since the healed tissue is not yet strong, the involved area often fails to withstand the exposed load of daily life, causing pain and discomfort to return. The chiropractic care in this phase aims at spreading movement equally throughout the back to unload the healing site.
Besides joint manipulation facilitating the healing process, some general stress-factors should be addressed. Patients are encouraged to question their unconscious habits, such as faulty movement patterns: Does my back suffer under the way I sit at work, lie on the sofa or sleep at night? We will advise you on how best to use and protect the spine. Now that the pain has gone it is time, if indicated, to discuss strengthening exercises. During the stabilizing phase, treatments can spread to 1-3 weeks, depending on the symptomatic progress.
As gravity exerts an unavoidable physical load on our bones and muscles, and other non-mechanical stress factors of daily life add to that burden, even a healthy and well functioning spine might get out of balance at some point again. Preventative chiropractic care aims at solving initial mechanical problems before serious symptoms arise. Some people can go for months or years without treatment, others need more regular checkups, depending on factors such as daily workload, age or medical history.