This is an excerpt from Chapter Six of Dr. Troy Dreiling’s book.
Like the building of a house, chiropractic does things in a certain order so that the spine can be strong and work correctly. For instance, when building a house, you must have a strong foundation before you try to put up walls. Equally as important, you must have walls before you add on the roof.
The same is true for your body. You must go through a plan of care in the right order so that it can heal itself fully and correctly.
There are three general phases of chiropractic care: the initial intensive or relief care; rehabilitation care; and wellness or maintenance care. Let’s take a look at each.
Initial Intensive or Relief Care
For the most part, patients report to a chiropractor because they have pain. In fact, more than 70% of patients specify back and neck problems as the health problem for which they are seeking chiropractic care.
In the initial intensive or relief care phase of chiropractic care, the main goal is to get rid of your pain and stabilize your condition as quickly as possible. Since pain is usually the last symptom to show itself and the first to resolve itself, progress is seen very quickly.
The number of times you visit a chiropractor during the relief phase will vary based on your particular condition. Typically, however, this phase lasts from a week to a month, with visits three times per week.
Corrective / Rehabilitative Care
The next phase is rehabilitative care. Do you believe that if you have no pain then you must be healthy? If so, you agree with most people, but like them, you would be wrong. Pain is a poor indicator of health and typically only appears after a disease or condition has been present a long time.
Let’s look at a few examples. A cavity in your tooth only begins to hurt when it has hit the nerve. At that point, you are looking at some major dental work. When it was a simple cavity, you had no pain. Or perhaps you can think of diabetes. By the time a diabetic feels leg pain, the diabetes is causing poor circulation to the extremities, often leading to severe procedures such as amputation. An earlier diagnosis could have prevented this with medication.
What does this have to do with your spine? Pain in your spine usually means a problem has advanced. The reduction of pain is great but does not mean the problem has been resolved. That is why you need rehabilitative care.
By the time you have reached the rehabilitative phase, you once again feel like participating in your normal activities. If you do so, however, without continued care, your pain is likely to reappear because your condition has not yet been fully stabilized.
The goals of rehabilitative care include:
- Increased muscle control and coordination
- Increased balance
- Reducing fear and avoidance of normal activities
This phase of care can take a few weeks to several months, depending on the severity of your condition. Typically, the amount of care is not quite as frequent as relief care.
However, it is important to realize that your condition may have taken years to develop, so it will take time to correct. For instance, the pain associated with low back pain may resolve easily with chiropractic. The problem is that recurrent episodes are common. This has been shown to be a problem in the multifidus muscle that cannot become strong and healed without rehabilitation.
In addition to regular adjustments during the rehabilitative phase, care may be accompanied by rehabilitation exercises, nutrition, and modification of daily habits.
Wellness / Maintenance Care
Once you have finished corrective / rehabilitative care, you then move on to the wellness phase. Your wellness program will be designed specifically for you and will include such things as good nutrition and exercise.
A good way to look at wellness care is to relate it to car care. We all know that it takes a long time for an engine to blow, but with regular maintenance, the car will run well for many years and many miles. Similarly, it takes a long time to develop subluxations in the spine. With regular wellness care, the vertebrae will not have a chance to get out of line. Treatment frequency can range from once per week to once every two months.
The goals of this phase of chiropractic care are:
- Improving health
- Encouraging normal spinal function
- Preventing the return of the original condition
- Catching small problems before they become serious
Wellness care is very important, especially given the state of health in the United States. Healthcare spending in the United States exceeded $2 trillion in 2006 and is projected to reach $4.2 trillion by 2017. 5 The problem is that most of this money doesn’t go for “health” care but for “sick” care.
Economist Paul Zane Pilzer summarized the situation well: “The sickness business is reactive. Despite its enormous size, people become customers only when they are stricken by and react to a specific condition or complaint … the wellness business is proactive. People voluntarily become customers – to feel healthier, to reduce the effects of aging, and to avoid becoming customers of the sickness business. Everyone wants to be a customer of this earlier stage approach to health.”