What do you do when experiencing back pain, chronic neck pain, or any other recurrent and persistent pain in your body?
If you’re like many chiropractic patients, you probably go to the chiropractor for an adjustment, feel better after that, and continue your life as usual. But, sooner or later, the pain comes back and then you’re right back at the beginning of the cycle.
So, then the big question is, “What if you don’t stop going to your chiropractor after the initial improvement?”
Healthcare professionals have researched this type of ongoing program, which is called chiropractic maintenance care. The basic idea was to continue chiropractic treatment after the initial treatment plan to prevent reoccurring issues and improve overall health and well-being.
In this article, we’ll explore exactly what they discovered and help determine if ongoing maintenance care is an effective approach to staying healthy and out of pain.
What is Chiropractic Maintenance Care?
Maintenance care is a traditional chiropractic approach that suggests patients continue treatment even after reaching the optimum benefit. The idea of maintenance care is that regular chiropractic adjustments will help your spine and nervous system function at their optimal level, help you feel better, and prevent new episodes of pain from developing.
Studies from 1996 and 2008 didn’t find enough evidence behind this therapeutic strategy, but that didn’t stop researchers. In the Nordic countries, researchers continue looking to find the precise definitions, indications, and beliefs of maintenance care to make it possible to examine its clinical practicality and cost-effectiveness.
The Difference Between Sporadic Chiropractic Care and Maintenance Care
While chiropractic care is commonly associated with the chiropractic treatment of specific musculoskeletal conditions, like back pain or neck pain, maintenance care takes a preventive approach, aiming to prevent future problems and maintain optimal function.
Maintenance chiropractic care typically involves ongoing visits to the chiropractor, even after the initial symptoms or condition have improved. The frequency of these visits depends on various factors, including the patient’s overall health, healthy lifestyle habits, and any specific concerns. Some individuals may benefit from monthly visits, while others may require less frequent check-ups.
What Does a Maintenance Care Visit Look Like?
During maintenance care appointments, the chiropractor will evaluate the patient’s spine and other joints, looking for any signs of misalignment or dysfunction. They will then perform adjustments using manual therapy and specialized instruments to correct any detected subluxations. These chiropractic adjustments are typically safe and non-invasive, aiming to restore normal joint motion, reduce inflammation, and promote the body’s natural healing process.
Who Should Try Maintenance Care?
Chiropractic maintenance care is often recommended to individuals who have experienced previous pain episodes as well as those who want to optimize their overall health and well-being. By addressing minor misalignments before they develop into significant problems, maintenance care sessions aim to prevent serious pain, improve mobility, enhance nervous system function, and promote general wellness.
It’s important to note that chiropractic maintenance care should be personalized to each individual’s needs and preferences. A recommendation is to consult a qualified chiropractor to determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on your specific circumstances.
Does the Maintenance Method Really Work?
The effectiveness of chiropractic maintenance was a subject of debate within the medical and scientific communities. Some professionals reported positive outcomes and benefits from regular chiropractic visits, but others were quite skeptical about their long-term effectiveness.
Even though the debate isn’t finished yet, a lot has changed since the systematic research program in 2018.
Nordic Maintenance Care Program and Research
In a study from 2018, researchers from Sweden showed the benefits of maintenance care for a group of people with low back pain. In this study, the researchers followed 328 patients who suffered from low back pain and went to 40 different Swedish chiropractic clinics.
They began their research by checking if the patients responded well after the first adjustments. If they showed improvement, the researchers divided them into two groups—one that will receive chiropractic maintenance over the entire year and the other that will receive symptom-guided care. The rule was that maintenance care patients could only see chiropractors once every one to three months. And the intention was to check them before substantial pain returned.
On the other hand, the other group of patients was told to call only when the back pain came back. When these patients called, the chiropractors were adjusting them until they got better. And after that, they were once again told to call only if they experienced the same pain again.
The total number of days that each group experienced uncomfortable back pain during the one-year trial period piqued the researchers’ interest.
How did things turn out?
The results of this study showed that the maintenance care group experienced 13 fewer days of pain over the course of one year on average compared to the symptom-guided group. That led to the amazing conclusion that the maintenance group needed less than two extra visits to their chiropractor over the course of the year to have 13 fewer days of pain.
What Can We Learn from the Study?
This result suggested that patients who’ve had low back pain and respond well to chiropractic care should see their chiropractor regularly, regardless of whether the symptoms have returned or not.
After these results, around 30% of Scandinavian chiropractic patients tried maintenance care treatments and believed in their effectiveness.
Just like all studies, this one also has some limitations. One limitation was that the rule for maintenance care patients was not to see chiropractors more frequently than once a month.
If this were different and patients were allowed to visit more often, maybe some patients in this group would have benefited even more.
We don’t know for sure how the results would be if the chiropractors were able to schedule their visits more frequently if they thought that was a good idea.
Before researchers come up with new studies and results, we can say that maintenance care can be considered an evidence-based method to perform secondary or tertiary prevention in patients with previous issues with low back pain who reported good results from the initial treatments and experienced pain relief. Still, it’s important to note that these results should not be interpreted as a recommendation for maintenance care for all patients who receive chiropractic treatment.
What this study really shows is that it’s important to keep your spine working well, even if you don’t have pain or symptoms. If your goal is to function at your optimal potential, consider chiropractic maintenance care because the research suggests your spine will love you for it.
Contact us if you want to get rid of persistent or episodic pain and ensure a pain free life.
- The nordic maintenance care program: patient experience of maintenance care—a qualitative study: https://chiromt.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12998-021-00388-z
- Chiropractic maintenance care – what’s new? A systematic review of the literature: https://chiromt.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12998-019-0283-6
Hey, it’s Doctor Allin, D.C. here at Evolve Chiropractic here in Woodstock. I was going through an article today. This is back from 2020 but it was called the nordic maintenance care research article. Basically what they were looking at was does maintenance care help patients for low back pain.
So basically what maintenance care means is after you’re done with the treatment plan. Do you continue treatment even though the patient is asymptomatic? What this paper showed is that for a select group of patients. So these were patients with long term chronic low back patterns. So they would be flaring up multiple times throughout the year.
What they found was that after the initial stage of treatment, if the patients underwent a maintenance care program, basically, they were able to reduce the frequency of flare ups when flare ups did come on, they were much less intense and it affected much less days off of work. So a lot of the patients asked me like, do I need to keep coming?
Obviously? No, you don’t have to. But again, like maintenance care is specific to the individual. This was done specifically for chronic low back pain. I’ve personally seen patients with chronic headaches, migraines, different situations like that, that I have actually benefited from maintenance care. So more research is needed in this realm as to what maintenance care specifically helps.
But for chronic low back patients, definitely a good thing. If you have any questions or concerns, if you know somebody who has chronic low back pain or you yourself are dealing with chronic low back pain, you don’t have to suffer through these things. There’s helpful treatments that don’t reach for that pill bottle.
Give us a call here at the office. We’ll be glad to help you out. Be safe. Have fun. Get at it. I’ll see you soon.