Some people use chiropractic therapy for an acute injury or pain recovery. Others utilize the treatment over the course of their lives as a method of preserving wellness or preventing issues. No matter who uses chiropractic care, or what type of chiropractor they are seeing, the 3 to 4 phases of the treatment remain generally the same.
Acute or Relief Phase
A patient will enter an office complaining of pain, stiffness, or general discomfort. During this phase, there will be physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and probably icing. This phase can last days or weeks, with multiple visits within the same week. A lot of factors come into play as to how long the treatment may take, including the patient’s age and weight, the length of time the condition has existed, whether or not the patient can avoid aggravating activities and follow the doctor’s advice, the patient’s pain tolerance, and other health issues.1 “Progress is usually rapid” in this phase.2 “Chiropractic care during this phase is started gently, with lighter force techniques.”3
When the patient feels they can manage normal activities due to pain reduction, pain can return if the patient overdoes it. Treatment is still required to stabilize the condition. Physical therapy can manage the spasms, and ice therapy may continue. Chiropractic adjustments are used to increase spinal mobility. There can still be multiple visits a week, or less, and this phase can take weeks to months.4 Nutrition, daily habits, and exercises are often introduced. It takes time to prevent a relapse.5
At this point, there is little to no pain, and rehabilitative exercises are used. The soft tissue needs to be strengthened. “Consistent function not only allows for pain reduction of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, but also allows for the proper function of the organs and tissues that the nerves of the area control.”6 Chiropractors seek to maintain the patient’s health.7
Maintenance or Supportive Care
When the pain is gone and the patient is strong, treatments may only be once a week to every other month. The purpose of this phase is to maintain what has been accomplished. Patients generally feel positive and have better work and exercise habits. Future injuries can often be managed in less time (just as athletes who are in great shape can recover more quickly).8 The goal in this phase is to make sure not to bring back the original injury, and to help prevent small problems from becoming large. Good nutrition and exercise can be introduced to the patient’s daily life. “With regular maintenance, the bones will not have a chance to get out of line.”9 “(Making better healthy lifestyle choices) will yield better results.”10
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