Partnering with your chiropractor in the effort to get your pain under control and keeping the pain away is important in common sense pain management. The optimum approach to a problem is to find out what led to it and then, after successfully treating the pain, provide the advice and direction needed in order to help minimize the chances of suffering future flare-ups. If the patient owns that way of thinking and does their part, I find that I am not seeing them over and over for treatment of the same complaint.
We have all been told since childhood that it is important to brush our teeth twice a day and floss, in addition to seeing a dentist for checkups every six months. In spite of the fact that all dentists would testify that many, if not most, of their patients don’t follow that advice, I am certain that most people take care better of their teeth than they do their spines. Unless we are experiencing unrelenting pain, we usually don’t give our backs/necks much thought. Teeth are visible to all when one opens his or her mouth, so how they appear is of social importance to people, while that pesky backbone is hidden away. However, unlike our teeth, which can be replaced if necessary, we are all stuck with the spine God gave us, and continually ignoring its health and function can ultimately lead to some serious problems with long-lasting detrimental effects.
Chiropractors specialize in finding spinal misalignments and correcting them through manipulative therapy. Many people, usually those who have never received chiropractic care, think that once you go to one of us you will be going for the rest of your life, so the best thing is to never start. Well, I return to my reference to dentists and oral hygiene. Most people who want to properly take care of their teeth go to a dentist on a regular basis so the doctor can check for and treat developing conditions that their brushing and flossing are not adequately handling. Why, then, should seeing someone for periodic spinal care be considered such a far-fetched concept? It isn’t, especially when one realizes what an important role the spine plays in our being able to function properly. There is no cure for back or neck problems, no guarantee that misalignments and the complications that can ensue from them won’t return. So, in the effort to manage pain, spinal check-ups and treatments are invaluable.
Many patients feel that, once their pain is gone, so is the problem that caused it. They believe that their pain has been managed and, to a degree, for that particular episode anyway, it has been. But the pain that brought them to the doctor is not their real problem, but rather the result of a problem that needs to be addressed. It’s like a fire alarm going off when it detects smoke. The alarm is obviously not the problem. Pain is a great motivator, particularly when it is new, and once the pain is gone, or greatly diminished, the motivation to take care of the neck/back is usually gone as well. Unfortunately, this way of thinking is what sets someone up for another bout of the same problem down the road.
So often when a patient comes in with a neck or back complaint, they state that they can’t recall anything happening that caused the problem. That’s because they are thinking that nothing happened recently– car accident, fall off a ladder, etc. What tends to be the case in the majority of patients is that they are hurting because of the cumulative effects of daily life stresses (physical and mental), chronic poor posture, and lack of exercise. So, an important part of the treatment is identifying what needs to change in their daily life as we look to partner in the care of their spine.
Steven Vollmer, DC, DAAPM, a native Memphian, has been in practice since 1987. He is a doctor of chiropractic and Diplomate of the American Academy of Pain Management. He has post-graduate training in neurology and sports injuries and has a special interest in pain management. Dr.Vollmer can be reached at Cole Pain Therapy Group in Bartlett at 901-377-2340.