One of the most, if not THE most, common concerns I hear regarding chiropractic care is, “I’ve heard that once you start going, you have to go forever!” And from doing some of my own research and digging, I’ve learned it’s one of the main reasons people avoid seeking chiropractic care altogether.
So what’s that about? And is it true? Let’s chat.
First of all, let’s define what chiropractic care actually is and what its purpose is.
The purpose of a chiropractor is to identify and treat primary muscle, joint, and nerve pain through both passive and active modalities. This can include an array of techniques, but I want to specifically address the chiropractic adjustment, because that is what seems to hold people up the most.
The adjustment is an excellent tool used to restore normal motion to a joint either in the spine or extremity. Chiropractors are skilled at identifying which segments are not moving properly, then using an impulse, either by hand or instrument, to get it moving again. When your joints become restricted and lack normal movement, a number of symptoms can ensue, such as muscle tension, joint pain, headaches, and stiffness. So by restoring proper movement to the joint, we can often alleviate these symptoms and facilitate optimal function of your body.
Contrary to popular belief, the bones in your spine do NOT go “out of place”. Nothing is “slipping out” or becoming misaligned (at least usually not without a significant trauma). This is a large misconception, but trust me, your body is much stronger and more resilient than that. I often hear, “I get adjusted by my chiropractor but have to keep going back all the time because my neck keeps ‘going out’”. This is simply not true, and if you have been told this in the past, I hope this clears some things up for you. What a relief that you don’t have to worry about your bones just slipping and sliding around as you go about your normal day-to-day activities!
Why might some people think they have to keep going back forever?
So where does this idea come from that once you start seeing a chiropractor, you have to keep going back forever? Well, I believe there are a number of reasons.
First and foremost (and we just touched on this), it comes from people being misinformed about what’s actually going on with their bodies. If you are fearful that your joints keep “going out”, then it makes sense why you would think you have to keep going back to see your chiropractor time after time. But we already addressed that thankfully this is not true.
Secondly, we mentioned that the chiropractic adjustment is a tool for helping alleviate musculoskeletal aches and pains. But it is just that—a tool. It works best when used in conjunction with active care and lifestyle changes. If you are hoping to lay on a table, get adjusted, and be “fixed” without having to participate in your care or address other damaging or unhealthy behaviors or habits in your life, I can promise you your relief will only be temporary at best. That’s not always fun to hear, but it’s the truth. The purpose of the adjustment has never been to “fix” you, but to supplement other measures you are already taking in your life, and a good chiropractor should help educate you on this.
Which brings me to my third reason people feel this way: a lack of proper education from their chiropractor and the overselling of treatment plans. Ooof. I debated including this point because I NEVER want to throw anyone in my own profession under the bus. But for some reason, it is common in this industry for people to be persuaded to purchase huge, unnecessary treatment plans and be convinced that if they don’t, they will end up with something terribly wrong with them. Let me just say this—if your chiropractor (or ANY other professional, for that matter) is trying to motivate you from a place of fear, it is time to look for a new one.
So what should you actually expect from your chiropractor?
Rather than being scared into purchasing lengthy treatment plans, you should be thoroughly educated on what is actually going on with your body and what your options are. Your chiropractor should give you an excellent adjustment, of course, but they should also equip you with tools to prevent and manage pain largely on your own through exercises, lifestyle changes, or other resources.
My take on “maintenance care”
There are some people who do choose to “keep going back forever” to their chiropractor—myself included. But it’s not because I feel like I “have” to, but rather, it is a normal part of maintaining my body, just like exercising. I am very active and have a physical job, and getting adjusted every month or two helps me feel my best. I do this in addition to a regular workout routine, getting quality sleep each night, drinking plenty of water, eating my fruits and veggies, and doing my own rehab exercises when necessary.
Our bodies are dynamic—not static. I can’t think of many things in life I can do just once without having to maintain it. Workouts, haircuts, dental check-ups, facials, etc. are all things that require some degree of regularity. But I’ve never heard someone’s reason for not going to the dentist be, “I’ve heard that once you start going, you have to go forever!”
I think we should think of chiropractic care in this way too, and let me just apologize on behalf of the whole chiropractic profession for all the ways we have gotten this wrong.
If you are someone who has been skeptical or avoiding seeking chiropractic care for this exact reason, I hope this has cleared some things up for you and helped you see it in a new light. If you have had a bad chiropractic experience in the past, please don’t write it off completely without giving it another chance from a more informed perspective and/or finding a doc who is a better fit for you. I want to be a resource to anyone who is on the fence or has questions, so please feel free to reach out to me to chat more about this. My inbox is always open. 🙂