"Three Times Per Week For Many Years..."
Does this sound familiar?
We’ve all heard the rumour that once you see a chiropractor, you have to keep going back. That myth is so prevalent, even Homer Simpson ran into it…
Learn From Those Nordic People
So, I took a closer look at this because I’m a chiro and I haven’t been in the habit of telling people they need to keep coming back to see me forever. I do have a number of patients that find coming in for regular check-ups seems to keep them feeling good. Let’s take a look at what these researchers found…
The Research Project
Researchers from Sweden and Denmark tracked over 300 people who had recurrent or persistent low back pain for one year. They split them into two groups and compared them using a blinded, randomized clinical trial. Group one only went for chiropractic treatment when they had pain (Symptomatic care – Control Group). Group two had treatment when they were in pain (symptomatic care) but then went in periodically for a check up even though they may not have pain (Maintenance care, “MC”).
How Did They Do?
During the 12-month study period, the MC group (n=163 people with 3 dropouts) reported 12.8 fewer days in total with bothersome low back pain compared to the control group (n=158 people with 4 dropouts). The MC group received 1.7 more treatments over the course of the year and no serious adverse events were reported (no serious complications or negative consequences came from the treatment).
What Does It All Mean?
Basically, the group that saw the chiropractor for maintenance care had significantly less back pain in the year following their initial problem. Unlike Homer however, it wasn’t 3 times a week for several years. They only had to return on average a couple of times after their initial pain had settled. Doesn’t seem unreasonable does it?
These researches followed 300 people that experienced a flare-up of low back pain. Both groups went through an initial treatment plan with chiropractors that involved adjusting the joints (also called manual therapy and spinal manipulation) as well as prescribed some self-help strategies.
Once the pain had settled and those people had returned to their normal routines, they then had one group do an average of a couple of follow-up visits over the next year with their chiropractor (“Maintenance care”). The other group did not return for any subsequent follow-ups. The Maintenance care group received some additional treatment (adjustments, manual therapy) during those 1-2 follow-up visits).
The group that did not do any follow-up experienced significantly more back pain over the following year than the group that did follow up.
So, it is your call as to whether you build some maintenance care into your routine. Seems like a fairly small ask though. For most people, the additional cost of seeing a chiro a few times over a year is less than the cost of filling your gas tank these days. Not a bad investment if it means avoiding being sidelined by back pain.
If you want to read the article, it is open access so you can find it here: https://chiromt.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12998-020-00309-6