From Dr. Elan Michael
Growing up with a grandfather who was not only a chiropractor, but also lived and breathed chiropractic, the idea of preventive medicine has always been a matter of course for me.
In America, we promote dental health and hygiene, blood tests and continuous testing, but the idea of preventive treatment for the spine eludes us. Chiropractors may refer to this as maintenance care, but spinal hygiene is important to ensure our back is functioning to its fullest.
Back pain usually recurs or is chronic, and most patients are symptom-oriented, which means they only seek treatment if they experience pain. But why do we have to wait until we experience debilitating lower back pain when studies show that regular care can keep us from experiencing these symptoms?
A 2018 study aimed to examine the benefits of maintenance therapy for low back pain versus symptom-based therapy, primarily looking at prevention and spinal hygiene. The conclusion found that maintenance therapy was more effective than symptomatic treatment in reducing the total number of days of bothersome non-specific low back pain over the course of a year. By taking care of our spine, as we do with so many aspects of our body, we can relieve pain.
Those who have had debilitating back pain know how important this is. In addition, patients who respond well to initial chiropractic treatment will respond even better to maintenance therapy.
We have heard the complaints from some – “if you go to the chiropractor, you have to go ahead” is one – but the same argument is not made through the dentist or optician or other specialist.
One of the biggest risk factors for low back pain is a history of back pain. When you consider that 90 percent of the population will have low back pain at some point, it puts the vast majority of us at a higher risk of having it again.
So what are our options when we experience back pain or pain for the first time? Some go to their GP or orthopedic surgeon who will prescribe muscle relaxants and pain relievers. This will subdue our pain until the body eventually heals and the pain finally subsides. Some are also given prescriptions for physical therapy to help the patient stabilize and strengthen the back for a few visits. The patient will feel better and feel cured and will return to their normal, day-to-day activities and usually stop doing the rehab exercises.
Since a history of low back pain is a leading indicator of future low back pain, most patients will have recurrent symptoms. The underlying problems of the spine have not been addressed and corrected, the stabilizing rehabilitation exercises have been discontinued, and it will only be a matter of time before the back pain returns.
Some patients go to the chiropractor when they experience low back pain for the first time. You will be treated and the spine will be treated, the pain will go away and you will be given stabilizing exercises for the lower back.
At this point, patients are faced with a fork in the road, either they no longer receive treatment because the symptoms have disappeared, or they take maintenance therapy and regularly make sure that the spine is functioning optimally. Research shows that the best way to reduce future low back pain would be to take the maintenance care approach, and since the risk profile of chiropractic treatment is so low, it seems like a no-brainer.
As a child, with the privilege of growing up with chiropractic care, and as an adult, having my brother as a chiropractor, I am living proof of the benefits of nursing. It has helped me avoid injuries, relieve pain and keep my performance at the highest level.
Chiropractic combined with stabilizing exercises can be life-changing for most people if we evade the idea of going to the doctor with only pain. That is the hurdle that lies ahead of us, and that is the hurdle that we will overcome together, because the latest research and knowledge propel us forward.
Dr. Elan Michael is a chiropractor with ProClinix Sports Physical Therapy & Chiropractic in Pleasantville and Ardsley. For more information on this article or ProClinix, Michael can be reached at 914-202-0700 or at [email protected] You can also visit www.ProClinix.com.