By Dr. Elan Michael
Growing up with a grandfather, who was not only a chiropractor but lived and breathed chiropractic care, the idea of preventative medicine was always second nature to me.
In America, we encourage dental health and hygiene, blood screenings and non-stop testing, yet the idea of preventative treatment for the spine eludes us. Chiropractors may call this maintenance care, but spinal hygiene is important to ensure our backs function at their full potential.
Back pain is usually reoccurring or chronic, and most patients are symptom-guided, which means they seek care when and only when they feel pain. However, why must we wait until we feel paralyzing pain from the low back if studies show regular maintenance care can prevent us from experiencing those symptoms?
A 2018 study set out to study the benefits, if any, of maintenance care for low back pain, compared to symptom-guided therapy, essentially examining preventative care and spinal hygiene. The conclusion noted maintenance care was more effective than symptom-guided treatment in reducing the total number of days over a year’s time with bothersome non-specific low back pain. By taking care of our spines, like we do with so many aspects of our body, we can reduce pain.
Those who have had debilitating low back pain can appreciate how important that is. Furthermore, patients who respond well to the initial course of chiropractic treatment will respond even better to maintenance care.
We have heard the complaints made by some – “once you go to a chiropractor you have to keep going” is one – yet the same argument isn’t made about the dentist or optometrist or other specialists.
One of the biggest risk factors of having low back pain is a history of back pain. Considering that 90 percent of the population will at one point experience low back pain, this leaves the overwhelming majority of us at higher risk of experiencing it again.
So what are our options when we first experience back pain or any pain? Some will head to their primary care physician or orthopedic who will prescribe muscle relaxers and pain medication. This will dull our pain until the body eventually heals and the pain ultimately subsides. Some will get prescriptions for physical therapy as well, which will help the patient stabilize and strengthen the back for a number of visits. The patient will feel better and think they are cured and return to their regular day-to-day activities, usually no longer continuing the rehab exercises.
Since a history of low back pain is a leading indicator of future low back pain, most patients will have recurring discomfort. The underlying issues of the spine have not been addressed and corrected, the stabilizing rehabilitative exercises have stopped and it will be only a matter of time before the back pain returns.
Some patients will go to the chiropractor when they initially feel low back pain for the first time. They will be treated and the spine will be addressed, pain will disappear and they will be given stabilizing exercises for the low back.
At this point patients face a fork in the road, either they no longer receive treatment because the symptoms are gone or they participate in maintenance care and periodically make sure the spine is functioning at its highest capacity. Research shows the best way to reduce the amount of future low back pain would be to take the approach of maintenance care, and with the risk profile of chiropractic treatment being so low it seems like a no-brainer.
As a child, having the privilege of growing up with chiropractic care and, as an adult, having my brother as my chiropractor, I am living proof of the benefits of maintenance care. It has helped me to prevent injury, reduce pain and keep me functioning at the highest level.
Chiropractic care combined with stabilizing exercises can be a life-changer for most of the population once we escape the idea of only going to the doctor when in pain. That is the hurdle ahead of us, and that is the hurdle that we will jump over together, as the most recent research and evidence propels us.
Dr. Elan Michael is a chiropractor at ProClinix Sports Physical Therapy & Chiropractic in its Pleasantville and Ardsley locations. For more information about this article or about ProClinix, Michael can be reached at 914-202-0700 or at email@example.com. You may also visit www.ProClinix.com.