Like millions of Canadians per year, you may have originally come into your Chiropractors office with an injury. It was diagnosed, and treated and eventually the pain went away. Some of you continued beyond that initial intensive care to more corrective care and actually made some progress in dealing with the actual underlying issue whether it was faulty biomechanics, a misalignment, or perhaps some damage to your spine from a long standing injury. Now you have been recommended that you should continue on with maintenance care. In our office, approximately 60% of you will continue with maintenance care. Why? For most of us, much like regular dental check-ups, taking vitamins, and exercising, it inherently just makes sense. After all what constitutes a healthy spine? A health spine is simply put, one that is flexible and strong, and protects the spinal cord and nerves adequately. Our spines are subject to stresses 24 hours per day unlike your teeth, so stiffness and misalignments can and do occur over time in most of us. A really important key to remember is that the spine protects our nervous system. So a healthy spine = a healthy nervous system = a healthy body. Problems in the spine can build up over time, silently, without any symptoms, which if left uncorrected can create damage to the spine over time. It makes sense to take regular care of your spine. Most of us get that concept.
After a while and for a few of us, the question inevitably comes “well, I feel fine now – so why do I still need maintenance treatment?” Really, it is no different from asking, “I’m not overweight, so why should I keep exercising?”, or “I don’t have a toothache so why should I go to a dentist?” Like a lot of things, when the initial symptoms that drove you to our office, such as pain or stiffness, disappear, it is “out-of-sight, out-of-mind”. We know it makes sense, but if we are no longer in pain, how do we really know that our health efforts are working? – whether that is regular chiropractic treatments, brushing our teeth, taking vitamins, or exercising. For some of us, the effects of regular chiropractic care are fairly immediate – we notice we think clearer, have more energy, sleep better at night, get sick less often, our sports performance is better, stronger, our mood is better, and we tend to make better health choices such as eating better.
Once we reach higher levels of health, the effects of regular care become less dramatic. After all, we are maintaining a higher level of health now. So we begin to question the methods that got us to that level to begin with. For instance, I hear quite often, “I feel healthy, so how do I know that vitamins are still working?” We need a bit more reassurance that our time, money and effort spent on our health is really worth it. We know it makes sense but it’s tempting to start to let some of our efforts go. This is where the research comes in.
What does the research show? The research from all areas of science – medical journals, physiology, neurology, biomechanics, immunology, anatomy, etc. show that having a flexible and strong spine (a “healthy” spine) can produce healthy effects not just in the spine but throughout our bodies. This can include healthy effects on our organs such as our bowels and lungs, our immune system, our mental state, and our entire neurophysiology!
Here are just a few recent interesting studies:
- From the Journal of Spine, a 2011 article by two medical doctors concluded that for chronic suffers of low back pain, “those patients who maintained spinal manipulation treatment maintained their good results while those patients who did not maintain returned to their pre-treatment”. To obtain long-term benefit, this study suggests maintenance adjustments after the initial intensive manipulative therapy.
- A large research study of over 17,000 people showed that regular wellness chiropractic care reduced work loss by up to 75%.
- In a study by Professor F Splendori – Chiropractic therapeutic effectiveness, social importance, incidence on absence from work and hospitalization, Italy, 1988, it was concluded that regular Chiropractic care improves productivity and overall quality of life, and those under regular care consistently make healthier life choices.
- The first conventional HMO in the US to use chiropractors as a primary care physician found that after just two years of utilizing chiropractors, their hospitalizations were reduced by 80%, outpatient surgery was reduced by 85%, and prescription drug use was reduced by 56%.
A three year study published in Topics in Clinical Chiropractic in 1996 examined senior citizens over the age of 75 years of age and revealed that seniors who receive regular chiropractic care experienced the following:
- Chiropractic patients spend 15% less time in nursing homes and 21% less time in hospitals than the non-chiropractic patients
- Report “better overall health” on quality of life surveys (87% of seniors under chiropractic care described their health as “excellent” or “good”, compared to only 65% of non-chiropractic patients)
- Have fewer chronic conditions
- Were less likely to utilize prescription drugs than non-chiropractic patients
- Were more likely to exercise vigorously and be active in the community
The above are some of the multitude of research studies on maintenance care. One area of particular interest to me is the research on the effectiveness of regular chiropractic care on depression, anxiety and mental function which I will highlight in a future newsletter.
For now, I would give you one piece of advice – Get Adjusted Regularly!
In Health, Dr. Gertz