How quickly is the relief after a chiropractic adjustment?
How long will this pain last?
Patients want to know what to expect for their treatment time. Since every condition and every patient is unique, I cannot give a definitive answer. However, I can give estimates based on sound clinical experience. I have been a practicing chiropractor since 1995. That’s a long, long time, and a lot of clinical experience. As a general rule of thumb, most chiropractic conditions will respond in 5-8 treatments. This does not mean that a person is pain-free after 5-8 sessions. It means their condition is responding; either getting better or worse.
How often do I need to come in?
A standard therapeutic treatment trial for an acute pain or exacerbation of a chronic condition should include 5-8 treatments over a two week period of time. Commonly, the patient will be seen every other day for a couple of weeks. Occasionally, the patient is seen daily for several days, then there is a reduction in the frequency of care.
My pain is unchanged after 2 weeks of treatment.
If a patient has been received expert chiropractic care for their acute pain (which includes 5-8 treatments over a two week time period) and the patient reports that their pain is unchanged, that is a concern for me. This tells me that continued chiropractic care is unlikely to create a meaningful change in their pain. So either the chiropractor missed something, or he is using the wrong approach, or the condition is not appropriate for chiropractic management.
I know some other chiropractors will read that last sentence and freak out. But it is a fact that not all ailments can be ameliorated with chiropractic care. For example, look at gall bladder pain due to gall-stone obstruction of the bile duct. You can have your chiropractor adjust the spine all day long, and it will not have an effect on the gall-stone. There is no scientific evidence to show that a spinal adjustment will dissolve a gall-stone which is lodged in the bile-duct.
If your chiropractor is trying to sell the religion of chiropractic instead of the science, then there are other problems which are beyond the scope of this article.
Now when it comes to chronic pain, sometimes it takes a bit longer than two weeks to have an impact, but in my many years of practice, that is a rare thing. Even chronic pain will respond within two weeks.
I’m felling better, but I still have pain.
That is just fine. We are on the road to recovery. That road is not a straight one. I tell my patients that they can expect a reduction in their pain in three dimensions:
- Reduced frequency. I want to have the patient say “I used to have the pain every morning. Now it only hurts about 3 times a week.” This is a reduction in frequency. If the pain had been daily, and its now every-other day, that is an improvement in frequency.
- Reduced duration. If the pain typically lasts for 2-3 hours and now it will last about 1 hour, that is a reduction in duration. It shows improvement in the health of the injured tissues.
- Reduced intensity. Doctors often measure pain using a 10-point scale. We ask our patients to rate their pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the most extreme pain. If you follow the comedian Brian Regan, he will coach you to tell the doctors that your pain is an 8. When my patients report a reduction in intensity, then we are on the road to recovery.
During the therapeutic treatment trial, I am looking for that 3-dimensional reduction in pain. I am expecting the patient to say their pain is not as often, not as strong, and not as long. The patient might still be in pain. But they are moving in the right direction.
How long until I am totally pain free?
This question, I cannot answer. There are simply too many variables to have any degree of certainty. Try calculating the exact stock market closing numbers on a date 6 months in the future. It’s impossible.
When a patient does ask, I can support them with research and clinical judgement. At least, I can provide a range based on solid data. I also point out that patients heal faster when they are active participants in their own health care.
Doing your daily exercises, stretches, and proper nutrition are critical components to one’s long term health and recovery.