Why a Chiropractor or PT Should Be Your First Stop for Muscle, Joint, and Nerve-Related Pain & Injuries
I recently had a patient of mine, let’s call her Susan, come in to get her regular treatment for her neck. I see Susan on a pretty regular basis, and we’ve established a great relationship. This particular day, Susan hobbled into my office on crutches. Confused, I asked her what she had done. She rolled her eyes as she told me she fell down some steps and badly sprained her ankle. “Looks like it’s going to be an ankle treatment day today instead of neck?” I asked. Susan looked at me funny and told me she didn’t know chiropractors could treat ankle sprains. I explained that, as a chiropractor, I’m able to treat not only neck and back pain, but extremity complaints as well. This includes shoulders, elbows, wrists, jaws, hips, knees, and, of course, ankles.
Susan had initially gone to urgent care after her fall and had gotten X-rays to make sure her ankle wasn’t broken. When there was no sign of fracture, the doctor had given her crutches, an ankle brace, and prescribed ice and ibuprofen. Many people are familiar with the acronym “PRICE” (pressure, rest, ice, compression, elevation) that is often prescribed for acute injuries. However, the research has recently debunked this protocol, and we now know this is not the best practice for acute injuries (or any injuries, really!). Research points toward more of an “active care” approach, meaning specific exercises and manual therapies are more effective for tissue healing, rather than ice and rest.
Treatment on Susan’s ankle that day in my office included dry needling, Graston, pin and stretch release, a gentle adjustment, edema taping, and LOTS of range of motion exercises. She reported feeling an immediate difference in pain after the treatment and improvement in her range of motion. I’ve continued to treat Susan’s ankle through its healing process, and she is now walking without crutches, noticing significant improvements in swelling, and getting a lot of her range of motion and balance back.
The biggest problem I’ve seen lately with musculoskeletal-related pain and injuries is that people just simply don’t know where to go or where to start. A lot of people find themselves in their medical doctor’s office to be evaluated for back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, the list goes on. This often leads to imaging (X-rays, MRIs, CT scans), medications, and/or a referral to an orthopedic surgeon for further evaluation. This is what I like to call “medical purgatory”. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming, and outcomes are often mediocre, which leads to a repeat in the cycle. I have a good friend who is an ER physician, and we swap a lot of stories about practice. He has no problem admitting that, as a medical doctor, he is not an expert in muscle and joint issues, but he can dress a bullet wound or perform an endotracheal intubation with the best of ‘em.
That’s where chiropractors come in. Chiropractors are direct access providers, meaning no script or referral is necessary to see one. Chiropractors, rather than medical doctors, are the musculoskeletal experts and treat anything from neck pain to ankle pain to shoulder pain using non-invasive techniques. This kind of treatment has been shown to be cost-effective and yield excellent outcomes—meaning people tend to get better faster. This is NOT throwing medical doctors under the bus—we need them for so many things, and I refer to them often! Many are good friends of mine. But just like you wouldn’t go to an eye doctor for a GI issue, so you shouldn’t always go to a medical doctor for a musculoskeletal issue.
Being evaluated by a chiropractor involves a full orthopedic and neurological assessment of the injured area, and the great part is that chiropractors can refer out if the injury is serious and warrants another provider’s involvement. But starting with a chiropractor and trying a round of conservative/non-invasive treatment first helps to avoid a lot of unnecessary and expensive imaging, medications, and surgeries.
My goal is to change the way people perceive and consume healthcare, specifically chiropractic. I dream of a world where people know to go to their chiropractor for more than just neck and back pain and pricing is always transparent. Where imaging, medications, and surgeries are minimized and conservative, non-operative care is the first choice. Where healthcare providers work together to put the patient back at the center of care. People should be informed about their bodies and the options/choices they have and should select healthcare providers who take time to educate them every step of the way.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, or if you’ve found yourself in “medical purgatory”, I would love to help. I offer free phone consultations for any questions you may have about a specific injury or if you just want to know more about the services offered at The Body Lab and how they may benefit you. My phone number and email can be found under the contact tab—let’s chat.