Frequently Asked Questions
Thankfully, most patients don’t get sore after their first adjustment (or any adjustment). Usually when this happens, it’s the muscles responding to the change in spinal position, or your condition was aggravated by having someone touch an area that’s inflamed.
While it’s definitely no fun to be sore, it is a normal response when inflammation and your muscles are involved. Make sure to apply ice (not heat) to any areas that are sore and discuss with your doctor on your next visit or you can call the office if you need a faster response.
Typically, most patients (like 60%) feel much better after their first adjustment, 30% feel no difference right away, and 10% feel sore like they just worked out. If you’re in the feel-great-right-away group, that’s terrific. If not, then you can expect to notice changes in 3 – 5 visits.
If your results are taking longer, or you’re just not sure if you’re doing better, please be sure to discuss your concerns with your doctor. Problems that have been there longer may take longer to feel differently, but there are other indicators that your condition is improving.
Your doctor should provide some initial recommendations for you if you’re in pain, usually icing instructions. Rest and drinking lots of water is also helpful at the beginning of your care plan when you’re in pain.
Once you’re feeling better, you’ll want to start doing the posture exercises, stretches, and any other home recommendations provided by your doctor (like the neck wedge or foam rolling). Just like with your treatment, consistency is key is seeing changes quickly.
As soon as you’re out of pain, you should be able to resume any activities that don’t cause sharp or burning pain. Don’t jump back in at the same pace you were at prior to getting hurt, start back slow and work yourself back up.
In addition, your doctor should be able to give you modifications or instructions on movements and exercises that won’t aggravate your problem or cause it to return. Make sure you ask before starting back.
As long as you’re not in pain, then yes. An adjustment won’t stop you from doing your regular exercise routine, but a bad misalignment or too much inflammation can make things worse. If you’re feeling good, then you shouldn’t have a problem.
If you’re feeling sharp or burning pain, or your condition starts to become worse, then you’ll need to stop doing specific exercises until the symptoms subside. Just talk with your doctor, before resuming activity.
Obviously avoid any activity that increase your pain levels, especially at the start of care. Once you’re feeling better, you can return to those activities at (hopefully) a lower intensity to test things out.
Be mindful of your posture during the day and any activity that you do frequently, repetitively, or for long duration. These are the activities most likely to cause your condition, and the ones that will need modifications to keep you feeling great.
Especially at the beginning of your treatment plan, missing appointments is critical to getting good results. Being inconsistent with care leads to inconsistent results and you can feel frustrated with how slowly things are going. You can make up appointments, but do your best to stick with your schedule.
Later on, when you’ve completed your treatment plan, you can miss a week and not notice much difference. Even if you’re getting adjusted just once per month, staying as consistent as possible will make a difference.
It’s certainly not ideal, but it happens often with our patients. Business trips, vacation plans during the summer, and unforeseen travel can wreak havoc on treatment plans. Recommendations will vary depending on your condition, how long you’ve been under care, and your results so far.
In many cases, your doctor will give you some recommendations during your travel and schedule some follow up visits upon your return. In cases where you’re in a lot of pain and you’ll be gone for awhile, we can help you locate and communicate with a chiropractor in your travel city.
If your doctor recommends three times per week, that is their best recommendation for you to get the best, fastest, and longest lasting results. Some patients can be in so much pain that we may even see them daily until their symptoms subside.
However, if you just can’t make the three times per week, please let your doctor know so that they can help make sure you’ve got some strategies to help you out between visits. They’ll also be able to give you a better idea of how this will affect your results.
Ice is almost always the right answer, particularly when you’re in pain, there’s inflammation, and you’re dealing with the spine. Even though every TV commercial you see says that heat is the answer, it can increase the swelling of discs and make everything worse. The tricky part is that heat will actually feel good when its applied, even though its making things worse.
Heat can be applied to areas that are not inflamed, and not on the spine. Icy Hot is not ice and should be avoided when your neck or back is in pain. Whenever a patient comes into our office in so much pain they can barely walk, they almost always have been applying heat over and over again for days. Don’t do it!
Sometimes called their “favorite part of coming in” and often saying “I need one of these at home,” the intersegmental traction table is very helpful in reducing stiffness and increase blood flow in the spine.
Some chiropractic offices use the traction table to “loosen you up” prior to your adjustment, but we perform our therapies post-adjustment. We feel it’s better to get you adjusted and then use the table to continue to relax the muscles.
Also, using the table pre-adjustment can be uncomfortable because it tends to find the “bad spots” and is less comfortable then when its performed after your adjustment.
Electrical stimulation has many uses, but we use it almost exclusively when our patients have inflammation or spasm. You’ll feel “tingling” like when your foot falls asleep, but it will be on your neck or back.
You may feel your muscles contract, and that’s okay. The doctor will ask you to tell them when to stop turning up the intensity, the goal being a “good, strong tingle” but not uncomfortable or painful.
There’s really only two ways people injure themselves, either by a trauma (car accident, fall, etc) or by the activities that they do repetitively or for extended periods (sitting a computer, running, etc)
Most patients think they “didn’t do anything” when their pain starts, but the reality is, it was everything you did. All of our activities continue to build up unless we are actively looking to reverse the effects through stretching, exercise, and adjustments.
If your problem is the result of a trauma, obviously avoiding car accidents and falls is ideal (isn’t it always?). However, this is no guarantee that you’ll never have pain ever again.
Whatever you do all day, your body will adapt. If you sit at a computer all day, you’ll have one set of issues. If you were to golf all day, it would just give you a different set of issues.
Take a look at your daily activities and then do stretches and exercises that will counteract those movements (or lack of movement). Your chiropractor will be happy to help guide to the best stretches and exercises so you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.
The first indication is that your symptoms (pain) will start to go away, but that’s not the only way we can tell. Each time we see you, we are checking your spine and feeling for areas of fixation (your spine not moving), inflammation, spasm, and swelling.
We also do re-examinations every ten visits, where we check range of motion, and re-test any positive orthopedic and neurological findings from your initial examination.
Not everyone needs another x-ray examination unless something changes. If you get into a car accident, have a fall or other trauma, then it’s definitely a good idea. You should also get re-x-rayed if your condition dramatically worsens, unless your doctor believes an MRI would be a better option for you.
Seeing visible changes on x-rays following chiropractic care does take time. In many cases, we will x-ray you at the end of your treatment plan to see what’s changed thus far. The changes may be dramatic, but more likely it will be a smaller change since most people don’t have dramatic changes to make.
Thankfully, we are able to help nearly all of the patients we accept for care. In the event that you don’t see steady improvement in the first few weeks, we will change what we’re doing, refer you to another type of doctor or therapy, or discontinue care. All options will be discussed with you and we will work with you to make the right decision.
Often, we will end up co-treating with another type of doctor. You may end up seeing an MD for pain management or anti-inflammatories, while still continuing your chiropractic care program to get after the cause of the problem.
Sometimes, surgery is the best option for a problem, but not usually. The patients we see that may end up with surgery are those that have let the problem go so long that there’s just no other choice.
We have seen patients that have already been told to get surgery, and they decide that chiropractic may be their last best chance to avoid it. Once the pain levels no longer let you find a comfortable position or the neurological complications like weakness in arms or legs has begun, it becomes increasingly more difficult to help someone avoid surgery.
If we have accepted you as a patient and we believe your problem could lead to surgery, that will be discussed with you at the beginning and throughout your care based on the results we see. Rest assured that only a small percentage of our patients end up at a surgeon’s office.
Think neutral angles, keep as much in front of you as you can. We see patients that have their monitor screen off to one side or they frequently have to look down at documents.
Make sure your monitors are up high enough. Ideally, the middle of the screen should be at eye-level, not just the top of the screen. This is the most important step in have a good workstation.
If you’re using multiple screens, try to change out which information is on each screen so you’re not looking at one side versus the other more frequently. Try to stay balanced.
There are three basic ways to sleep; on your stomach, on your side, or on your back. On your stomach is the worst, since it causes you to keep your head turned all night and can cause hyperextension of your lower back.
On your side would be the next best option, and the most likely you’ll be able to switch to if you’re a stomach sleeper. To have success with this position, find a comfortable pillow that will help fill the gap between your head and the bed while keeping your head at a neutral angle. Hugging a big pillow is also helpful, especially one that allows you to keep it between your knees.
On your back would be the ideal position, especially if you use a cervical pillow. A cervical pillow has a rounded side that fits comfortably under the curve your neck. Putting a pillow under your knees is also helpful in taking pressure off your lower back.
The first area of protect is your neck. During a long car trip, you’ll tend to move your head forward, closer to the windshield. Set up your headrest so that you can feel your head up against it. Use that as your cue as to whether or not you are keeping your head back.
For your lower back, sometimes even turning your lumbar support all the way up isn’t enough. Roll up a small hand towel and place it between your lower back and the seat. This will provide additional support for your spine during the long trip.
Last, when you do get a chance to take a break, stretch your hamstrings and your hip rotators to provide additional relief.
That’s really up to you! Most of our patients choose to do some sort of maintenance or wellness plan, where they continue to get adjusted periodically — usually once per month.
That adjustment frequency is for patients that already feel good. They’re just trying to undo the 200+ hours the typical person spends in front of a computer each month. They also understand that keeping your spine working at its best is good for optimal health.
Some patients do opt to “wait and see.” They are hoping that their pain won’t return, therefore they don’t need chiropractic any further. That’s certainly your choice, but not what we recommend.
Good health is doing as many of the good things you can for your body as often and as consistently as possible. Chiropractic is a part of keeping yourself healthy, along with exercise, getting enough sleep, and making good nutritional choices.
Yes, but the timing is important. We don’t recommend getting a massage when you’re in a lot of pain or when there’s a lot of inflammation. The massage may stir up more inflammation and make your feel worse (even though it’s technically helping).
Chiropractic and massage work very well together, and we’ll be happy to let you know when it’s a good idea to get one. Usually it’s not more than a few days, depending on your condition.
For most new patients, pain is the primary motivator to start chiropractic care. However, pain goes away rather quickly and that has little to do with continuing treatment.
You can get adjusted to maintain/improve range of motion, to keep your spine working and functioning to prevent spinal degeneration, and (most importantly) to keep pressure off your nerves to help your body work at its optimal levels.
Getting regular massages is like chiropractic care, it’s best when done consistently. You can’t get a massage or an adjustment that would mean you will never need to get one again. Your muscles are always responding to what you do, eat, or drink on a regular basis.
Some patients are so stiff and tense that they find getting a massage prior to an adjustment helps them to get a better adjustment. Others find that the adjustment relaxes the muscles and improves their massage.
There’s no perfect way for everyone, so try both ways and see which one works best for you.
Do your posture exercises! Most of our patients do very little exercise, yet it’s the muscles that will hold your adjustments in place. Being consistent with the specific exercises recommended to you will help you get faster results and hold your adjustments for longer periods of time.
However, most patients do not do their exercises! We strive to give you exercises that can be done in less than 15 minutes per day. Considering how long the typical person sits in front of the computer, 15 minutes to help your spine is very little to do.