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Posted on 08-18-2014

Once You Start Going to a Chiropractor, You Can’t Stop

How did this idea become a criticism of chiropractic health care?  It doesn’t seem to be a criticism of modern medicine.  For instance, does anyone tell their friend who just started taking blood pressure medication, “Now that you’ve started that, you’re going to be taking it the rest of your life.”   How about the diabetic and her insulin?  Will she be taking that for the rest of her life?  The list goes on and on.  Think cholesterol meds, anxiety meds, depression meds. thyroid etc, etc, you get the point.  Most folks who go on these meds are “destined” to remain on them for the rest of their lives, if they follow their doctor’s orders and if they don’t make some substantial changes in their eating and exercise habits.  We have yet to consider the secondary medications they will be taking to “counter” the side effects of the primary drugs.  In all likelihood, these too, will become long term commitments by the patient.

Let’s address this “long term” chiropractic discussion and the continuing need for chiropractic adjustments, once you’ve started.  First of all, most chiropractic patients present with some kind of structural/functional deviation from the norm.  They have postural imbalances, uneven weight distribution, asymmetrical muscle tone and restricted range of motion.  Almost all of these signs of subluxation (this is what chiropractors diagnose and treat by specific corrective adjustments) can be present long before symptoms of pain and systemic disorder present themselves.  Often these patients have ignored the signs, because they come and go to some degree and seem “self-limited.”   Sometimes appropriate care is delayed even longer as the patient seeks medical services or physical therapy first.  To put it simply, by the time these suffering individuals present in the chiropractic office the problem has “grown-in” to their body.  The abnormal posture has become the new norm.  The forward head carriage, the rounded shoulders, the loss of normal curves have become habitualized, not only in the musculature, but within the nerve system, even in the brain.  These compensations become deeply ingrained in the muscle memory.  

My favorite way to explain this compensatory phenomenon involving muscle, nerves and brain function goes something like this.  Imagine that you happened to get a small stone in your shoe.  You were “too busy” to take off your shoe and remove the stone.  You think it isn’t that bad, “I’ll tend to it later.”  In order to function somewhat “normally” you will alter your gait and foot placement so as to avoid putting pressure on the stone.  This altered gait, or compensation, if done long enough, will become the new normal.  It is conceivable that if you compensated for a period of several weeks or even months, before removing the stone, your gait would remain altered long after the stone was removed, as would the patterns associated with this compensatory limp. These patterns will be imprinted in your neurological circuitry.  That is to say your brain.

So, getting back to the premise of the title statement, “Once you start going to a chiropractor, you can’t stop.”  It isn’t really true.  Pain relief often happens with just a few visits.  Improved function almost always happens in the moment of the first adjustment.  But to change the nervous system firing patterns takes time. It is like a pitcher learning a new grip and a new pitch, or a golfer learning a new swing and making it natural and repeatable.  It takes time to unlearn the wrong firing patterns in the brain and in the muscles.  It also takes time to relearn the new more efficient and appropriate patterns.  Even so, when under stress, we often revert back to the old patterns. While these patterns may not cause pain right away, they are less efficient, less strong and make us more prone to injury.  

A corrective care program is different than a pain management program.  It can take 6 months to a year and even more.  Consider the corrective care plan of an orthodontist.  It can take 3 years or more.  Add in life, stress and the fact that we keep doing the same things that caused the problem in the first place and you can see why an individual might make maintenance a priority.   No one has to keep going, but it “feels good” to feel good.  And it’s natural.  No side effects.  No addictions. No drugs necessary to counter the effects of a good adjustment.  It only makes sense that once you have achieved a spinal correction that you would protect your investment by keeping up with your care.  

To say that ‘after you start seeing a chiropractor you have to keep going,” is like saying that once you have lost weight by watching what you eat, you have to keep watching what you eat.  Or once you got those nice muscles and flat abs by going to the gym, you have to keep going to the gym.  

For me, once I realized how good I felt by being adjusted regularly, I didn’t want to stop.  In fact, it made such a difference in my life, that I decided to become a chiropractor too.  I for one, will never stop getting adjusted, or adjusting those that I love.

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