When to See a Chiropractor

by Christina Lasich, MD Health Professional

When pain strikes, you may have a hard time deciding what type of health care professional to see. Everyone has an opinion. Grandma says one thing and mom says another. This conundrum is especially difficult when a close confidant swears by a certain chiropractor who fixed everything on the first visit. This type of anecdotal evidence may not be enough to persuade you to spend your precious dollars on some unproven claims. You need to know when the best time to see a chiropractor really is.

First, you need to know what a chiropractor can offer. Chiropractic care is a concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system and the effects of these disorders on the function of the nervous system and general health. With that definition in mind, you may be wondering why some chiropractors claim to be able to treat menstrual cramps, high blood pressure, asthma and stomach ulcers. Maybe the reason for this versatility lies in the fact that some chiropractors go beyond the manual treatments of spinal manipulations. Some actually combined treatment with physical therapy modalities, exercise programs, nutritional advice, lifestyle modification, and other patient education. No wonder why chiropractic care is utilized so frequently.

So, when is the best time to see a chiropractor? According to the scientific evidence, certain problems can improve with chiropractic care. Proving clinical claims in this area of healthcare is difficult. Many times the strength of the evidence is compromised by the inability to compare chiropractic care to a sham or placebo treatment. But, that should be no reason to discount spinal manipulation all together. There is reason to believe in the value of chiropractors. The question is when.

When it comes to spine pain, the sooner the better is the rule. Chiropractors have the best chance of success with acute spinal problems. In general, chiropractic care is not very effective for chronic low back pain. Even if the problem is addressed early, short term relief may be the only reward for seeing a chiropractor. That is why many people end up going back to a chiropractor frequently week after week. Although this is good for the chiropractic business, this program is not necessarily good for your banking account. Ultimately, you need long term relief.

The best way to get long term relief is if the chiropractic care is part of a combined modality program. Chiropractic care is really meant to complement other therapies like: physical therapy, exercise, nutrition, orthotics, life style modification, and education. Spinal manipulation works really well for acute spine especially when other complimentary treatments are also taking place.

Not only can a combined chiropractic program work for spine pain, this alternative therapy can also work for some of those with headaches. Sometimes migraine headaches will improve with chiropractic care. These successful cases may be due to the fact that some headaches actually originate in the upper cervical spine, called cervicogenic headaches. Finding a chiropractor who specializes in the upper cervical spine is best because spinal manipulation in this area is risky, but can be worth it. When it comes to headaches, a chiropractor might be good addition to your health care team.

No matter what anyone says, at certain times, a chiropractor is worth a try as an alternative to traditional medical practitioners, especially if you have acute spine pain or a headache. Just remember, chiropractic care is not meant to supplant other better validated therapies, just compliment them.

Christina Lasich, MD
Meet Our Writer
Christina Lasich, MD

Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.