“Why do I have to keep going back to the chiropractor?” is a common complaint from patients who grow frustrated at having to return to their chiropractor’s office for multiple visits. These patients may wonder if they should begin looking for a different chiropractor because their current one hasn’t fixed their problem, or it goes away temporarily but keeps returning.
In most cases, this isn’t true, and here is why.
First of all, do these same people complain when they have to go back to their massage therapist again, or are they surprised that they have to go to the gym regularly to get the results they want? Probably not. These practices have a cumulative effect, with results building up over time and improvements maintained with regular visits.
The practice of Chiropractic is similar. When the musculoskeletal system has pain, discomfort, or loss of alignment—whether due to injury, poor posture, chronic overuse, or for any other reason, the nearby (or even distant) muscles, tendons, and ligaments adjust accordingly to accommodate it. When you go to the chiropractor for an initial adjustment, the body resists the changes induced by the treatment and tries to re-establish its former pattern. This is especially the case if the individual continues the same poor posture or overuse as before the adjustment.
Akin to how regular yoga practice increases flexibility and regular strength training increases muscle tone and mass, regular chiropractic care trains the musculoskeletal system and increases its ability to hold and maintain a proper alignment. In most cases, one visit simply doesn’t do the job.
The number of treatments necessary will also depend on the reason for and urgency of the Chiropractic care. Is it for an acute problem that is causing significant morbidity, preventing the patient from going to work or doing other activities of daily living? For this kind of patient, frequent appointments will most likely be needed in order to restore functioning. Is it for a patient who herniated a disc two years ago but has been doing well? Regular but infrequent appointments should suffice to maintain the improvements.
It is important to take into consideration the patient’s role in the whole process. Patients can foster the process of their care by following their chiropractor’s instructions. After all, what is done in-between the Chiropractic appointments may be just as important as what is done at the appointments. Instructions from the Chiropractor may include advice on proper posture, ergonomics, or maintaining an exercise program.
Although patients may feel better after just one visit, they shouldn’t be surprised if their problem returns or the pain comes back. If it does, it certainly doesn’t mean the chiropractic treatment was a failure and they wasted their time and money. Their best course of action is to continue following the advice of their chiropractor and return for any repeat visits that are recommended. Over time, they should begin to see improvement of their condition.