People go to see a chiropractor for many different reasons. Some go because they want help with back pain or neck pain or headaches. Some go because they want to perform better on sporting fields or athletic tracks. Some want to sleep better or be better able to deal with stress, but you might be surprised to know that almost 50% of chiropractic patients go to see their chiropractor because they simply want to maintain their health and well-being. This is what chiropractors call maintenance care.
The idea with maintenance care is that regular adjustments will help maintain your spine and nervous system function at its optimal level and help you to be your best and to prevent new episodes of pain developing, so what does the research tell us about maintenance care? It tells us that maintenance care makes perfect sense if you want to function at your best.
We know that if your brain doesn’t send appropriate protective messages to your core trunk muscles, you will have a higher risk of developing low back injuries. This makes sense because a lack of core stability means you’re basically creating a mini whiplash injury to your spine each time you move around or lift your arm and leg, so, if you end up in pain after bending over to tie your shoelaces, your pain hasn’t really just come out of the blue. It’s usually been developing for some time without you knowing about it.
It’s often the 1,000th straw that breaks the camel’s back. All of life’s stressor can build up and impact the way your brain communicates with your trunk muscles, and then all that is needed is one last minor thing to go wrong, and you end up with pain or other symptoms. The goal of maintenance care is to help take the straws off the camel’s back before their core symptoms will have a big impact on your life.
A study published by researchers from Sweden in 2018 showed the benefits of maintenance care in a group of people who suffered from low back pain. In this study, the researchers followed 328 patients with low back pain who went to 40 different Swedish chiropractic clinics. If the patients responded well when they were first adjusted, they’d join the study and either received chiropractic maintenance care over the next year or symptom-guided care. The maintenance care patients were seen every one to three months with the intention being that they were checked before substantial pain reoccurred. Patients in the control group, they were told to call in if the pain reoccurred. They were then adjusted until they got better and then were told to call again if the pain reoccurred.
What the researchers were most interested in was the number of total days of bothersome back pain suffered by each group throughout the one-year trial period. What they found was that the maintenance care group experienced 13 fewer days of pain over the course of the study on average compared to the symptom-guided group. The amazing thing from this study was that the maintenance care group needed less than two extra visits to their chiropractor over the course of the year to have 13 fewer days of pain. This suggested that the patients who’ve had low back pain who respond well to chiropractic care should see their chiropractor regularly irrespective of whether the symptoms have returned or not.
This study did have some limitations, of course, just like all studies do. One limitation was that the chiropractors were told not to schedule their maintenance care patients more frequently than once a month, so some patients in this group may have benefited even more if the chiropractors had been able to schedule their visits more frequently if they thought that was a good idea. This study shows that it’s really important to keep your spine working well even if you don’t have pain or symptoms. If you want to function at your optimal potential, consider chiropractic maintenance care because the research suggests your spine will love you for it.