Chiropractic Maintenance Care: Rationale Explained

A well-referenced paper presented at the 10th Annual Vertebral Subluxation Research Conference in Hayward, California explains why your chiropractor suggests that you continue with chiropractic maintenance care, sometimes called wellness care, after your initial spinal problems have been corrected/stabilized.  The paper defines maintenance care as dealing with patients who have no chief complaint but have their spines checked for vertebral subluxations and adjusted to maintain proper function and optimal health.  Researcher Dr. Lisa K. Bloom, an Associate Professor at New York Chiropractic College says there are two concepts that, if understood, offer a good rationale for chiropractic maintenance care.

The first is the concept of Immobilization Degeneration (ID). One of the primary components of the vertebral subluxation complex is decreased movement of the spinal joint. Bloom points out that 40 years of research tells us that when a joint loses normal movement, ID begins to occur at a measurable rate within one week.

The second concept we need to understand, Bloom says, is how a subluxation can exist in a patient without any symptoms occurring. When a subluxation occurs, the misalignment of the joint oftentimes does not produce enough pain, for a long enough period of time to get through to the areas of the brain responsible for pain detection.

Commentary: Two good reasons for lifetime chiropractic maintenance or wellness care are presented here. One, degeneration from a subluxation begins to appear within one to two weeks. How long do you want to wait to get it corrected? Two, many times patients do not feel pain immediately when a subluxation occurs much like you don’t feel immediate pain from a cavity in a tooth. Pain may not show up until the degeneration causes a large amount of damage. Again, how long do you want to wait?

One of the most misunderstood and misused concepts in healthcare is that of “chiropractic maintenance”. Let me explain.  Some folks go to the chiropractor because their back “went out” or they’re in some sort of pain. And because chiropractic adjustments are so effective in taking pressure off nerves that cause pain, symptoms clear up pretty quickly. Well, relatively quickly depending on how long symptoms have been apparent. Symptomatic relief usually takes a few days to a few months, but the spine is still not stable just because the pain/symptoms are gone.  There is a difference between feeling good and remaining stable. Most folks that use chiropractic care simply for pain relief end up coming back sooner than later because the problem was not fully corrected before they stopped care.

And then, some folks go to the chiropractor not only to get rid of the pain but to do what they can to keep the pain from coming back. This process can usually take anywhere from 2-6 months. There’s a good chance in some cases that the pain never returns and the person thinks everything is OK.  But then, there’s maintenance care. Some folks look at maintenance care as a preventive measure to keep that serious problem from coming back.

There’s a bigger reason why chiropractic maintenance is a good idea. In fact, I think “chiropractic maintenance” is a better idea than crisis or corrective care. While some view “maintenance” as a preventive measure, that’s only a small part of the benefit that “maintenance” affords you.

The best comparison I can think of is your car. Just about everyone maintains their car at some level or another. We know to change the oil every 3-5000 miles, to rotate the tires on a regular basis, to have the front-end aligned, to check the radiator, the transmission fluid and so on. Obviously, doing these things will help prevent breakdowns and maybe even accidents. But what routine maintenance on your car REALLY does for you is to give you peace of mind. Not only do you have the comfort of knowing your car is safer to drive it’s also less likely to have a breakdown. You know that now your car will run better. And because it runs better and you worry less, you can enjoy driving and focus on those other things that make your life better.

Ongoing chiropractic “maintenance” care does that same thing for your body and your life. Keeping stress off your nervous system allows your body to function better and helps prevent all sorts of problems in the future. It also helps you be better able to handle future stresses. In short, “chiropractic maintenance” will make every aspect of your life more effective and enjoyable.

– Dr. Brandon January – Chiropractor (Edmond, OK)