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How Many Chiropractors Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?

Posted Mar 28 2011 2:47pm

So… how many chiropractors does it take to change a lightbulb?

Just one… but it’ll take you 40 visits!

Although comical, jokes like this come from a general basis of some perceived negative. Does it really take forty visits anytime you need chiropractic treatment? Of course not. However, there is another perception about chiropractic that contributes to the above joke: Once you start going to a chiropractor, you have to go forever. Is that true? Do you have to go forever if you begin seeing a chiropractor? The answer, again, is of course not.

I’ll be the first to admit that I understand the frustration with the concept of multiple visits associated with chiropractic treatment. The fact remains, though, that we can’t fix twenty years of abuse and neglect with one adjustment. The number of treatment visits that will be required for each individual case is dependent on many factors. An individual’s history of injuries, surgeries, sports, genetics, occupation, exercise, weight, diet, hobbies, etc. all play a role in the amount of treatment necessary. The length of time that a particular condition has been developing is also extremely important when trying to design a treatment plan. Every aspect plays a role in determining reasonable expectations for the amount of care necessary to optimize outcomes.

Perhaps more, but at least as, important than the above factors is: What are the patient’s goals?

If all the patient wants is to “feel better,” then a couple appointments may be all that is necessary. But, keep in mind that how things feel is not always a good indicator of how things really are. Did you know that the most common first symptom of heart disease is… death? There are tons of people walking around with severe heart disease or cancer who have no symptoms and think they’re fine. In the same sense, your spine and nervous system has an inborn ability to adapt and compensate for dysfunction in an effort to decrease symptoms. Think about it… from the time we learn to walk, our parents teach us how to ignore pain. “Shake it off… be tough… work it out…” From nearly day one, we are taught to ignore our symptoms! The end result is that we ignore the warning signs that would allow us to fix a problem while it is small and easy. Ultimately, by the time the body has lost its ability to compensate any further, the patient enters my office and says, “I’ve only had this pain for three days.” Well, actually, you’ve had this dysfunction for much longer, but your body finally gave up three days ago.

If the patient’s goal is resolution or long-term improved health, then physical pain or symptoms are only a small part of our rationale for care. Obviously, our first goal of treatment will be to minimize and/or get rid of the pain. After that, we dig a little deeper to determine what led to the dysfunction in the first place. While continuing care and retraining the body to work and function differently than it has adapted to, we begin planning out any rehabilitative care or lifestyle changes that may be necessary. This could include regular stretching and/or exercise at home, dietary restrictions, supplements, physical therapy, ergonomic changes at work or home, etc.

Beyond that, again, it depends on the patient’s goals. If you wish to keep your teeth and keep them healthy, you regularly brush, floss, use a mouth rinse, and visit the dentist a couple times per year regardless of symptoms. These visits are primarily check-ups so that the dentist can discover potential problems before they become big problems. A little cleaning, a good check-up, some advice on home care, and they can usually send you on your way. However, if you’ve not been taking care of your teeth, whether by the lack of maintenance or by abusing them with sugary foods, then the dentist may have some work to do. If you’re seeing him a couple times per year, then he can catch these problems early and there is much less treatment and cost involved. On the other hand, if you’ve neglected these problems for some time, the damage may be much worse, increasing the amount of treatment and cost involved with your dental care.

In the same fashion, if you wish to remain physically active with a healthy and strong body, you must regularly exercise, eat properly, reduce stress, get plenty of rest, and visit the chiropractor once in a while regardless of symptoms. The same examples from our dental analogy above apply here. If you’ve taken care of yourself, there is often very little for the chiropractor to do, but this gives an opportunity to catch problems before they escalate. If you’ve abused or neglected yourself, there is a good chance that your problems will involve more treatment and costs associated with your care. Either way, dental or chiropractic, you’re going to need us sooner or later. You can either take care of yourself and see the dentist regularly… or you can wait for your teeth to fall out. In the same sense, you can either take care of yourself and see the chiropractor regularly… or you can wait until you need surgery.

- Dr. Gray

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