If You See A Chiropractor Once, Do You Have To Go Forever?
Earlier this year, I ran into an old acquaintance at a local farmers market. In the middle of our conservation, she mentioned that she was concerned about a family member who was seeing her chiropractor several times every week to manage pain.
"Once she stops chiropractic care, won't her pain just become worse than before?" she asked me. "Can visiting a chiropractor ever become...addictive?"
I explained that her family member would not necessarily "rebound" or become worse if she eventually terminated chiropractic care. Ending the care prematurely, however, without careful coordination with the doctor, could prevent maintenance of the relief she was experiencing or the spinal correction she had achieved—much like taking a retainer off one's teeth after wearing braces.
Her concern echoes a question I sometimes hear in my own practice: If I start seeing a chiropractor, will I be "locked in" to a forever relationship?
Can you become dependent on chiropractic visits?
Let's start with a condition typically associated with chiropractic care: lower back pain. If you're experiencing pain at any level, particularly in the lower lumbar region (as my acquaintance's family member did) chiropractic care can help tremendously.
While many medications may block pain, chiropractic is all about safely and effectively getting to the cause. One randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial evaluated the levels of pain in patients with problems in their lower back before and after a lumbar adjustment. Every indicator of pain improved for the treatment group.
However and wherever someone experiences pain, it can be very debilitating. Occasionally, a patient might imagine booking more chiropractic visits might help resolve the condition better or more quickly. In my experience, it is very rare that only one or two adjustments of a long-standing or new problem will bring about complete relief.
As with any area within health and wellness, balance is key. Eating too much healthy food can become unhealthy. Megadosing certain nutrients can be as problematic as not getting enough. Likewise, chiropractic care is not necessarily a "more is better" intervention, as any skilled chiropractor will tell his or her patients.
Chiropractic provides people something hopeful and useful that they can turn to again and again. Especially for people frustrated with conventional health care, chiropractic care can be a natural and effective way to manage pain and support good function.
There is a big difference, however, between addiction and awareness. In this context, the term "addicted" suggests using something habitually and developing a dependency, even when it may no longer be needed. (As a practitioner, I don't wish for this as an outcome.)
Awareness, on the other hand, relates to knowing that there are options outside the box. From there, it involves communicating clearly with your chiropractor, discussing a plan of care that can best benefit you, and determining the best long-term strategy for your condition and goals. Being aware that chiropractic is an option for you is a good thing — and it doesn't mean you'll become hooked on it forever.
It's important to establish big-picture goals with your chiropractor.
While a single chiropractic visit can create great results, success ultimately depends on several factors, including the condition itself, a patient's overall health, how consistently he or she visits, and how willing someone is to incorporate complementary measures such as nutrition and exercise.
Being clear about what goals you'd like to accomplish during your consultations can help you and your chiropractor work toward resolutions. Whenever I see a new patient, we always agree to a timeline and plan before moving forward. A chiropractor will always work with a patient to achieve mutually determined goals. For some people, this is more long term, and for some, more short term.
Will I have to see a chiropractor forever?
A chiropractor can usually provide a realistic timeline during your first few visits. This establishes a framework to get excellent results. Nothing says you have to attend forever — but as you experience the benefits, you may want to return with some consistency.
Ultimately, everyone's health journey is unique. Whether you want to address a specific concern or maintain vibrant health, chiropractic care offers a promising approach, and even one visit can make a tremendous difference. Maintaining an ongoing partnership with a chiropractor, however, can support the condition you're currently experiencing and prevent or reduce the impact of health issues down the road.
That said, you won't be locked in forever, and it's highly unlikely that you'll rebound negatively if you stop. More likely, you'll be well aware of this additional option available to you on your health journey and utilize it as you and your chiropractor best see fit.
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