There is a lot of misinformation about chiropractic out there, I call them chiropractic myths. In an effort to clear up the confusion, I will be taking these myths head-on. Have you ever heard someone say that once you start going to a chiropractor, you have to go for the rest of your life? I have heard this specific myth the most frequently over the last 20 years of my practice, which is why I’m going to debunk it first.
The simple answer to this statement is no, of course not. But let me address some of the underlying questions behind this one. Why do some chiropractors pressure their patients to come in every week? Why do some people who go to chiropractors have to keep going back? Does chiropractic treatment weaken the joints so that you need to keep coming back?
Why do some chiropractors attempt to have their patients come every week for treatment until the day they die? When someone brings this up, the first thing I always ask is, “Do you know of any profession that does not have the good, the bad, and the ugly?” Every single one has people who are good and some who are not: clergy, professors, cashiers, policemen, parents, drivers, dentists, surgeons. Unfortunately, it is no different in chiropractic. There will always be greedy chiropractors who are out to make money instead of caring for people. However, there are also excellent chiropractors who genuinely care about their patients and getting them better over making an extra buck.
There are people who love their chiropractor, so why do they have to keep going back if he or she is so good? Think about this, once you go the dentist, do you have to go again? What if you take your car to the auto technician, do you ever need to go back? Do you go to the barber once but never go again? Some problems in life require more than one visit to someone who can help. Wouldn’t it make sense that if someone has a problem with their neck or back, they might need help with it more than once in their lifetime?
I have some patients I see once every year or so, and I have some patients I see every week. Why would ANYONE need to see a chiropractor EVERY week? Some patients have advanced pathologies (bad problems) and need more care to keep them out of pain, such as a person who was in a horrible car accident 20 years ago and now has severe pain and biomechanical dysfunction. Another example might be an elderly person who has developed severe arthritis, and chiropractic treatment is the only thing that gives them any relief from the pain. The truth is that some people have really bad problems, and they need lots of care just to make it through life. For those people, the choice is either to get chiropractic treatment or to live the rest of their life on pain medication. As you can see, some people actually do need treatment on a weekly basis.
What about people who don’t have an advanced pathology? Does the “average” person need to see a chiropractor all the time? First let me tell you this: when I see a patient for the first time, my goal is to get them fixed as quickly as possible and for them to stay fixed for as long as possible. The vast majority of problems a chiropractor treats respond relatively quickly. Obviously, every patient is unique and every doctor is different, but in general, seeing a chiropractor is the fastest way to getting all fixed up. There is an abundance of research that proves this. Workman’s compensation studies, private insurance studies, government studies, and large meta-analysis studies have all concluded that chiropractic care gets better results faster, or at least as fast, and is less expensive than traditional medical treatment. So, if you want to get better the quickest and cost-effective way, find a good chiropractor!
Okay, so the “average person” feels better pretty quickly. That person may never come back, and some patients choose not to, or at least not until they are in pain again. Let me ask you something, do you think the best way to take care of anything is to wait until it breaks? Don’t we do preventative maintenance on important things in our lives? We change the air filters in our homes to prevent problems with our air conditioning units. We change the oil, rotate the tires, change filters and tune up our cars to prevent more serious costly repairs. We vaccinate our pets to prevent them from getting life threatening diseases. We do all kinds of things to prevent more serious problems from developing in our lives.
There is an assumption that as long our backs feel fine, they are fine. This assumption is wrong. It’s not true of the back or anything else in the body. Often the pain is the last thing to show up when something has been wrong for a long time. The wise thing to do is to maintain good back health in order to prevent serious problems from developing. I know I’m crazy, so feel free to call me that if you think what I’m about to say is crazy, but I think everyone ought to see a chiropractor as part of their normal health care to prevent problems from developing. I even think that this care should start with children! Seriously, kids have a rough life from the start. From birth, to learning to walk, to playing sports, they experience all kinds of things that can cause biomechanical problems.
What about the idea that chiropractic treatment weakens the back, so once you start, you have to keep going back? The reason this idea is flawed is a basic misunderstanding about back problems. Simply put, the vast majority of back problems develop because the back gets stuck. Once a back becomes stuck, it gets stiffer and tighter and more stuck! At the most basic level, chiropractic treatment loosens these stuck, stiff areas and restores them to move the way God intended. Chiropractic care has nothing to do with making the spine strong or weak. Making a spine weak or strong has everything to do with exercise. People who don’t exercise often need more chiropractic care because their spine gets stuck and stiff more frequently than those who exercise regularly. I preach exercise every day to my patients, and I have written about its importance more than any other topic. I want my patients to have the healthiest spines possible for their entire lives.
People are, of course, free to choose what they want to do with their backs. I have patients who only come in when they can barely walk, and I do my very best to get them walking and feeling great as soon as possible. I also have patients who see me for preventive care on a regular basis, and I do as much as I can to stretch the time between treatments as long as possible. However, in both cases, my chiropractic treatment does nothing to weaken a patient’s back causing the need to come in for the rest of his or her life.