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How Many Times Do You Have to See a Chiropractor?

Patient getting an adjustmentWhen you start a new form of care like chiropractic, it’s typical to have many questions. One of the most common questions is about the frequency and duration of chiropractic itself. This is especially true when you are brand new to complementary and alternative medicine like chiropractic.

At Precision Spinal Care, I have years of experience helping my patients decide how long chiropractic is right for them.

The First Step in Chiropractic: Assessing Your Spine Condition

Working directly with your chiropractor to fully understand your spinal condition is the first step in determining how long you will need chiropractic care.

Before you and your chiropractor can work together to decide how many sessions are right for you, your chiropractor needs to fully assess your condition. Determining your medical problem and creating a plan of care are, therefore, critical.

Because people seek chiropractic care for various reasons, the type and duration of treatment will vary. For example, one person may see a chiropractor because they have neck problems from a motor vehicle accident. However, another person may see a chiropractor because they have age-related disc problems in their lower back. Because of their different medical problems, both people will end up with very different chiropractic treatment plans.

Your chiropractor will also assess your condition’s baseline, or starting point. Because the goal of chiropractic is to improve your condition, your chiropractor will monitor these parameters throughout your treatment.

Some baselines are subjective, meaning that you can report them yourself to your chiropractor. They include:

  • How severe your pain is
  • How often your pain occurs
  • What aggravates your pain
  • How your pain impacts your quality of life and activities such as work, sleep and housework
  • What your range of motion is

Conversely, other baselines come from tests and imaging like:

  • Orthopedic and neurological exams
  • Orthopedic measurements
  • X-ray spinal imaging
  • Advanced spinal imaging such as MRI

When your chiropractor has fully assessed your medical condition at your first appointment, it is time to set your care goals for chiropractic treatment.

The Second Step in Chiropractic: Setting Your Care Goals

At your first appointment, your chiropractor will perform a full physical evaluation. They will also discuss your medical history with you. Most importantly, however, they will attempt to understand what you hope to achieve with chiropractic care. Common goals include:

  • Improved pain: Pain is one of the most common reasons that people seek chiropractic care. Your goal may be to reduce your overall level of pain, or to reduce the frequency with which your pain occurs. In either case, your chiropractor can work with you to determine a reasonable goal based on your condition.
  • Improved quality of life: It is common to see your quality of life take a beating when you are suffering. If you have back or neck problems, it can be difficult to participate in common activities like walking or even getting a full night’s sleep. A care goal can involve quality of life improvements. These include being able to walk further distances or being able to take part in an activity that you currently avoid.
  • Improved range of motion: Stiff and painful joints can make it difficult to move. In turn, your activities can be limited. Chiropractic goals can include improving your range of motion to be able to achieve motions like raising your arms or touching your toes.

The Third Step in Chiropractic: Following Through With Your Care

Your actions are often the most important part of your chiropractic care plan. Together with your chiropractor, you will come up with a plan of care to treat your condition. Although part of the care will happen at the hands of your chiropractor in their office, other parts of your care will happen at home.

As a result, with your goals of care in mind, it is important to follow through with your care plan. These may include:

  • Attending your scheduled chiropractic appointments: In order for chiropractic to work, it is important that you make it to your scheduled visits.
  • Participating in exercises at home: Your chiropractor may instruct you to complete certain exercises and stretches to improve your condition.
  • Making improvements to your ergonomics: Based on your medical condition, your chiropractor may recommend special pillows, back supports, or belts to improve your neck and spinal alignment.
  • Improving your posture: Your chiropractor may advise you on how to improve your condition by changing your posture when sitting, standing, or walking.
  • Incorporating orthotics: In some cases, your chiropractor may prescribe back braces to improve your condition.
  • Eating a healthy diet: Your chiropractor may make dietary recommendations to support a healthy healing process. This may include cutting down on foods that may promote inflammation, like processed foods.

The Fourth Step in Chiropractic: Monitoring Your Progress in Chiropractic

At every visit, your chiropractor will check in with you to keep an eye on your progress towards your care goals. They will continually reassess your progress with this goal in mind. A formal reevaluation is usually conducted within the first 30 days. Questions that your chiropractor will ask themselves during your visits include:

  • Is the condition improving?
  • Will the condition continue to improve with continued treatment?
  • Is continued treatment still necessary?
  • Should a different treatment be considered?
  • Should the frequency of treatment change?
  • Should new imaging or tests be ordered?
  • Should you be referred to another type of provider for additional care?

Your chiropractor should keep an open channel of communication and tell you what they are observing on these topics. Additionally, you should always feel free to ask your chiropractor about your progress, and what they recommend regarding your future care.

The Fifth Step in Chiropractic: Determining How Long Treatment Should Last

Because everyone’s body and medical condition are different, treatment durations can vary. That said, injuries typically through three phases: the inflammatory phase, the repair phase, and the remodeling phase. A typical treatment scenario may, therefore, resemble this example:

  • Inflammatory Phase (within the first 72 hours of injury): This phase takes place after an acute injury, like a car accident. If you injure your neck or back and seek medical care within the first 72 hours of injury, they will often treat you with an anti-inflammatory drug or muscle relaxants. Further, they will rule out fractures or other complications.
  • Repair phase (8 to 12 weeks after injury): Damaged spinal ligaments often take 8 to 12 to repair themselves. Because chiropractic focuses on repairing damage to the spine, you should consider giving chiropractic care 8 to 12 weeks to see improvement in your condition. Your chiropractor will reevaluate you during this time to make sure you are making progress.
  • Remodeling Phase (12 weeks and later after injury): This phase is often considered the maintenance phase of care. The goal of this phase is to improve your strength and flexibility after your injury has healed. Physical therapy, massage, and occasional (monthly) chiropractic visits may be recommended in this stage of healing.

As a certified NUCCA chiropractor and credentialed spine care specialist, I will do a thorough examination of your spine. After the exam, I will go over my evaluation with you in detail. Together, we will set reasonable expectations and milestones for recovery and further evaluation. I will reevaluate you to make sure you are meeting these goals.

If we determine that chiropractic is not the best solution for your needs, I will recommend the type of specialist who is most appropriate for you.

We understand that you need to explore all your options when you look for expert chiropractic care. At Precision Spinal Care, we are happy to help you determine the best way to address your specific needs and discuss all the options with you and your family.

Call our office at (757) 382-5555 to speak to the doctor or set up a consultation. You can also set up an appointment through our webpage.

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