The Case for Chiropractic Maintenance Care

Most of our patients choose to continue their care beyond the point where they feel better. The reason for this is that by maintaining the function of your spine there is less risk of it breaking down again.

Common analogies to this include having your car serviced, or having your teeth checked and cleaned by the dentist or the dental hygienist. However, if they break beyond repair you can get a new car or have a new set of teeth. Getting a new spine is a little more difficult!!!

Even after successful initial chiropractic care restoring function, and reducing or eliminating your pain, over time you are likely to recreate some spine tension through permanent spine damage, wear and tear, poor seating, bad postural habits, stress, accidents, trips and falls – all of which are part of day to day life.

But do we know that chiropractic maintenance care is effective in decreasing the chances of your pain recurring? Are there any other benefits to regular care? What is the most cost effective frequency for these visits?


British Medical Journal published a study involving 700 back pain patients. Overall chiropractic patients did better than physiotherapy patients, but the clincher was that regular follow-up visits over three years made a significant difference in maintaining the improvement.

In another study 30 chronic back pain patients had one month of intensive chiropractic treatment. Afterwards half the group received no further care and the other half continued care with a treatment every three weeks. After nine months both groups felt better than they had at the outset but the patients who had continued care had maintained their initial improvement whereas the other had suffered some setback.

Other personal benefits are obvious. If you have less pain, you feel better, you are happier and it is easier to cope with the stress of everyday living. The overall benefit to society is also considerable. Over a seven year period chiropractic patients were compared with people who received ‘standard’ medical care only. The chiropractic patients were 60% less likely to go to hospital, or to have out-patient surgery. They also spent 85% less on drugs.

So what is the ideal chiropractic maintenance treatment frequency?

The patients who tend to do best are the people who complete their initial 4 to 8 weeks of chiropractic care aimed at getting them out of pain, fix the problems that can be fixed and re-balance the body through exercises and simple habit changes. Consequently most of them will quite happily go two to three months between visits. Some may need a bit more and others get away with a bit less.

In short it all depends on the individual patient but if you stop your treatment altogether and wait until your symptoms come back you may have to start all over again and the likelihood of a successful outcome may be smaller.

Some of the more common factors which often cause people to require more frequent maintenance care are:

  • Wear and tear (osteoarthritis and spondylosis) – through an accident, high or repetitive physical load, or age related.
  • Allowing the pain to become chronic (lasting 6 weeks or more) before starting appropriate treatment.
  • High demands put on your body; physically, mentally and chemically.
  • Excess postural stress issues often associated with prolonged sitting or standing without regular breaks.
  • Old injuries from sport, falls and accidents.
  • Birth defects and abnormalities.

So if you do decide that chiropractic is for you then you can do yourself a favour by completing the initial corrective treatment, and then continuing your care little and often rather than waiting for another full-blown crisis often requiring a lot of treatment over a short period of time.

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