A common misconception around seeing your chiropractor is that you should only book in for a visit after something has happened. Many people schedule a chiropractic visit when they are already in pain, have a headache, after an injury or accident. It is then assumed that after the initial acute phase of discomfort is over, treatment is no longer needed. However, maintenance care, routine spinal checks and regular adjustments can provide much more health benefits in the long term than just calling up your chiropractor when your body starts to complain.
You may have heard your chiropractor talk about ongoing maintenance care before and think “oh no! Am I permanently broken?” This is absolutely not the case. On the contrary, it means that you’re doing really well. When you graduate onto maintenance care, it usually means the initial issue has mostly resolved and the next step for your health is ongoing support delivered at regular intervals – it’s a preventative approach, aiming to prevent reoccurrence and maintain the improvements you’ve achieved. This is definitely something to be excited about as it means you’ve hit a big milestone in your healing journey.
There’s more to health than pain relief
Whilst pain and aches are the most common reason why someone would seek out treatment, it is important to remember what pain is at the end of the day- it is a distressing sensation created by our nervous system as feedback to a dangerous or intense stimulus. It is one of the last symptoms to appear and one of the first one to go away. We do not feel pain, we experience it. For example, when you lift a box that’s too heavy, your back feels the intensity of the load, your brain wants to tell you to not do that again therefore it generates pain as feedback so you know it wasn’t a good thing for your back to go through. That’s essentially what we’re dealing with during the initial acute stages of care – working with that feedback system. However when the pain dissipates, it doesn’t mean the problem is fixed! What if you lift something heavy again?
This is where maintenance care comes into play. By establishing better lifestyle habits and improving function, tolerance and strength through prescribed exercises and consistent assessment, treatment and check-ins, you’ll be able to learn how to lift heavy items without hurting yourself, you’ll be able to have better body awareness so that you’re less likely to push your body past what it can tolerate and into injury. “Healthy” is not pain free, it is when we start to achieve optimal function and use of our body. Maintenance care can help get you there.
Prevention, Prevention, Prevention
There has been a huge spotlight placed on prevention in the past few years but what does it mean and why is it important? Consider this – which one is easier and more cost effective? Servicing your car in a timely manner or replacing the engine when it fails. Similarly, which one makes more sense? Getting your body assessed and any minor concerns are addressed or waiting until an injury has occurred.
Prevention falls into 2 categories:
- Primary prevention which involves averting problems before they begin mainly through exercise, stress management and avoiding destructive lifestyle behaviours
- Secondary prevention which is detecting and treating problems in its earlier stages so it does not progress or actions designed to prevent reoccurrence
Both of these types of prevention are addressed with maintenance care. For example, low back pain is one of the most common conditions in western society. It’s often chronic and recurring. Research shows up to 80% of people who experience low back pain can get it again – which is not fun for anyone. There are well established factors for increasing the likelihood of back pain such as physical weakness, biochemical load (inflammation), high levels of stress, environmental factors, poor lifestyle habits (sitting all day) – however by scheduling regular check-ins to assess and manage these factors with your practitioner, the risk of low back pain is greatly decreased. The molehill is much easier to manage when it’s not a mountain!
Big Picture Focus: Your Next Step
As stated earlier, graduating onto maintenance care from acute care is really exciting and one of the reasons is that your can take your next step towards what you want to achieve. Now that you’re feeling great, is there anything that you’ve always wanted to do? Is there a lifting goal you want to achieve at the gym? Is there a marathon you’d like to run later on in the year? Would you like to be able to do the splits? Or just be able to keep up with your ever energetic toddler? Maintenance care can help you achieve your fitness and health ambitions no matter how simple or complex. A critical part of goal setting and achievements is checking in. This is an opportunity to serve as a reminder of what you want, refresh and revise them, assess your progress and identify what further actions may be needed and maintenance care does just that! It means having support both physically and mentally for you as you strive for what you want to achieve.
To be a bit cliché, think of our health and wellbeing journey as a race track, there will be moments where it’s a straight easy road and moments where there’s a sudden bend. Maintenance care will help you to manage those bends better, make it through the race in one piece and not get stuck doing donuts. Think of it as your pitstop in your F1 race to keep you on track!