The most common of all chiropractic stigmas is “Once you start, you have to keep going forever.” Just as with any stigma, there are two sides to this story. I will address some of the truths this stigma is based on, but will focus more on the misconceptions of chiropractic treatment, its goals, today’s societal outlook on health care, and more.
The truths from this chiropractic stigma surround chiropractic treatment and individual practice models. In most chiropractic offices you will be confronted with an option for maintenance or preventative care. This happens typically towards the end of a treatment plan. As with any health care decision, the decision of what and how to approach your health is completely yours. This maintenance or preventative plan is the “coming back forever” option.
The amount that an office tries to push an extended treatment plan on a patient is likely where most of the negativity comes from in that the patient feels pressured to make the decision to continue extended care. As a quick disclaimer, just because I am a Doctor of Chiropractic, does not mean I will defend each and every other chiropractor and their practice decisions. My opinion is a well informed patient should be allowed to make his or her decision on their own health. I do, however, refuse to neglect the fact that there are many patients who are not well informed. The following are the misconceptions and social health factors that surround this stigma.
1) You Don’t HAVE to Do Anything
For the general public, maintenance care will typically be a return every month to 6 weeks. The goal here is to maintain the state of function accomplished by the original treatment plan. It can also be used as a preventative approach to decrease the chances of re-aggravation of the original injury. Again, those who try to scare their patients into this plan suck and I will not defend them. But the notion that chiropractic is some sort of trap that keeps you coming again and again is ridiculous.
At the end of the day, you always have control over your health. Our job (ALL health care professionals) is to identify the problem of your health concerns, come up with a plan to solve it and help the patient make an educated decision. If you don’t feel as if that is the case with you currently, find health care professionals that will allow that decision making to occur.
2) You May Actually WANT to Keep Coming Back
The funny thing about this stigma is it usually comes from those who have received little or no chiropractic care. For those who have never had chiropractic care, they have also never had any reference to what the body feels like when it is moving and operating at an optimal level. Once they have been under care long enough to finally understand that feeling, they start to understand how crappy they really felt BEFORE seeking out care.
Most patients that I see that return on a regular basis don’t need me to explain why they need to receive maintenance care. They understand, because they’ve experienced the difference. Some will choose not to elect for this type of continual care, and that’s fine. What often happens is they will go about their lives for 6-8 months and then have a bad experience that flares up their previous condition. When that happens, I end up seeing them again, and unfortunately, instead of being a check-up and see you in 6 weeks visit, they need to be seen for 3-4 weeks again in order to get them better.
After two or three instances of this happening, sometimes the patient decides they want to try and prevent further problems. If an educated patient chooses the “it’s not broken, so don’t fix it” method to their health, that’s okay. But the vast majority of my patients that return on a regular basis are there because they WANT to be there.
3) An Uninformed View of Pain and Chronic Conditions.
Today’s society has quite a skewed image of their health when it comes to musculoskeletal conditions, pain, or chronic disease. Pain and chronic conditions do not usually pop up out of nowhere. and there is usually an underlying factor that causes this. The majority of patients do not understand that their body degenerates and wear in a chronic nature. Chiropractic uniquely identifies the functional factors that cause this wear and tries to treat and prevent it from occurring. Many other health care professions look to visualize the location or tissue that is hurting using. Until there is an structural identifier of pain, many neglect it as an issue. For a more in depth look at these schools of thought, check out this past article on compensation and injury.
4) Nearly Every Health Care Profession Involves Maintenance or Returning Care
We aren’t the only profession pushing for maintenance or returning care. As much as we probably don’t want to admit it, we aren’t even the only ones that push wellness care. Ever been to a dentist? An ophthalmologist? Do you have diabetes? How about high blood pressure? Do you take any medications? All those have some sort of maintenance component to them.
Dentists have done the best job of promoting wellness care. Most don’t wait until a tooth hurts to go to a dentist, they go to try and PREVENT tooth decay and cavities and to have healthy teeth. How many people don’t know that you should receive preventative chiropractic care every 4-6 weeks, but know that they need a dental check up and cleaning every 6 months? Do you want a healthy spine free of decay? Well then you probably better not wait until you can’t walk to receive chiropractic care.
The medical profession constantly practices the maintenance care. In the medical profession high blood pressure, diabetes, or another chronic diseases, are typically treated with medication. Your treatment plan will then consist of taking “x” pills every day. Let’s ignore the holistic methods of controlling or preventing diabetes and high blood pressure such as proper diet and exercise. What happens when you stop taking that prescription? Your blood pressure or blood sugar sky rockets back up. At a chiropractic office, the “pill” is actually our ability to manipulate and affect the body physically with our hands.