Find Relief Through Conservative Chiropractic Care
October is National Chiropractic Health Month, promoting public awareness and education of the benefits of chiropractic services.
The theme of this year’s NCHM is “Conservative Care First!” Conservative care is an approach to pain management and healthcare that is non-invasive. Oftentimes patients make the mistake of trying more complex, risky treatments as soon as they experience pain. Medical research supports the opposite idea. Exhausting conservative approaches before attempting other riskier options is shown to be more beneficial to patients. Chiropractic care is conservative in that your chiropractor will try every non-invasive method he or she can before resorting to more drastic measures.
The seven small vertebrae at the back of the neck between the top of the spine and base of the skull are what enable us to move our head in any direction. The angles and speed of these movements, however, can sometimes be the cause of neck pain. Athletes can suffer from neck pain after straining or spraining muscles. Wear and tear from daily life, working in an office environment, aging, and accidents can also contribute. Specific causes of neck pain include:
- Poor posture
- Weak abdominal muscles
- Improper pillow support while sleeping
- Degenerative disorders (result of aging)
It used to be commonly thought that most pain back would resolve on its own without any medical interference. Though that is the case with many minor back injuries, recurring pain can be a problem many patients face. More than one third of people who experience back pain find it lasts longer than one month. If the pain is lingering, it is most likely due to a mechanical problem. Chiropractic doctors are trained in techniques that can improve pain levels shortly after implementation. If it is not caused by strain, the pain might be a byproduct of arthritis or other diseases. These include:
- Kidney stones
- Blood clots
- Bone loss
- Kidney infections
- Psychological stress
Using conservative approaches to care has many benefits to patients physically. By taking as little medication as possible as well as avoiding surgery, you decrease your chances of experiencing the negative side effects associated with both. Opioid painkiller drugs (prescribed by medical doctors) are considered conservative in that they are non-invasive, but they are not free from problems. This particular type of painkiller is associated with a higher risk for overdosing and addiction. According to the CDC, these painkillers account for three out of four drug overdoses. These medications also serve to mask the pain as opposed to treating it. Patients can make the mistake of thinking their symptoms have improved, because they are masked, and risk overexerting themselves, making the condition worse. Surgical procedures also present a risk for patients experiencing neck or back pain. It is crucial to attempt all conservative procedures your chiropractor recommends before attempting surgery. Surgery should always be a last resort. A review of 125,000 spinal fusion surgeries by the Washington Post in Florida showed that surgeons are more commonly using surgery as a solution for common problems that are better addressed with conservative means. These conditions include spinal stenosis, herniated discs, and disk degeneration. All of these conditions were found to be to be better addressed with safer, non-invasive treatments. In general, patients who visit a chiropractor first are less likely to have surgery than other patients who visit a medical doctor first, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
Another reason for seeking conservative approaches to treatment instead of surgical or medical ones is because of their cost-effectiveness. Though prospective patients might worry about the cost of consistently seeing a chiropractor, studies have shown that conservative care is ultimately cheaper than seeing a medical doctor. A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that low back pain care initiated by a chiropractor was twenty percent cheaper than care initiated by a medical doctor. The same study found that if all patients involved had visited a chiropractor first, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee would have saved $2.3 million a year. The reason that chiropractic costs are kept down is the avoidance of expensive invasive procedures. Surgical procedures and the therapy that is required after to rehabilitate the neck or spine are expensive. Spinal manipulation, also known as adjustment, was shown to be just as effective as medical therapies in a 2005 study in the same journal. If chiropractic methods are similarly effective, less expensive, and less risky, conservative care seems like the obvious first choice for anyone experiencing neck or back pain.
Conservative care encourages you to take your health into your own hands. Chiropractors can show you certain exercises that can strengthen your neck and back muscles. There are also lifestyle changes including eating a healthier diet, quitting smoking, or increasing the amount of physical activity you do each day that can lower your risk of developing these problems. If you are empowered to work towards making these changes and improving your pain with the help of a chiropractor, you can prevent dealing with risky and expensive treatments. Conservative approaches do not help everyone, but it has been shown that it is worth trying them before resulting to more invasive methods. Learning the most about your condition through research and an open dialogue with your chiropractor or doctor will enable you to make the most informed decisions about your healthcare. If your doctor has recommended surgery, you are encouraged to get a second opinion or ask him or her if there are any other options.