This is the MOST frequently asked question in our practice by patients and also by people considering a visit to the chiropractor for the first time. Unfortunately, this is the one question for which we do not have a single answer for everybody.
What Are People Made Of?
Unlike a car which can be fixed in a single visit to a mechanic, human beings are a complex organic structure. We are made of bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue, veins, arteries, lymphatics – just to name a few parts! On top of that, the part trying to make sense of it all is one of the most complex organs we have – the brain – which uses our nervous system to signal events, receive sensory and motor information from our body parts, and hopefully keep it all under control! Research studies also show that there is even a direct neural connection between the brain and the gut1, which makes the relationship between all your organ systems that much more complex.
What Could Could Go Wrong?
With this mind, you can imagine that with so many processes occurring simultaneously in the human body, the possibility that something is going to go wrong, is very high. Fortunately for us, we are not as fragile as you think! In most cases, our brain is able to compensate very well for things that go wrong. We don’t stop functioning just because we get an injury, nor do we stop functioning if we eat something that is not good for us.
Like putting on a bandaid, the brain continuously “rewires” our electrical signals and body-maps to help us to keep going, to eat, to breath and most importantly, to survive. It is very good at doing this. Unfortunately, while this band-aiding process helps us to survive, as you can imagine, piling bandaids one on top of another can rapidly obscure what the original problem was.
Compensation is unfortunately not a fix – eventually, you will find yourself receiving warning messages from the brain when it can no longer cope, just like the check engine light going on in your car. This could be in the form of experiencing pain, ongoing pain, behaviour changes, mood changes, or just little things just not functioning as they used to. What might have caused the first bandaid to be put on (such as an injury), and where you might currently feel your warning signals occurring, may be very different locations from the original issue! That is compensation at work.
Your chiropractor has gone to university for 5 years, and in many cases, undertaken further years of study, to get the training to understand how the complex chemical and physical processes interact in the body.
Solving the puzzle of “what went wrong?” is pretty tricky, as we already know, the brain compensates for every malfunction, including the brain and body compensations themselves. Eventually, your body will end up with an onion of ‘bandaids’ piled one on top of each other.
Treatment In Stages: Peeling back the onion layers
To seek the root cause of the “injury”, your chiropractor goes through a process of diagnosis and treatment which endeavours to peel back each layer of compensation. Each chiropractic treatment reveals the next underlying issue until we get to the root cause. This may take a few visits, or a lot, depending on how many bandaids you have accumulated!
Each treatment step will change the compensation steps that the brain has put in place. It is only when all the “layers” of compensation have been uncovered, that brain will report that there is no problem and that you are finally fixed!
This is why, some patients can be treated in one consultation, and others may require many months of rehabilitation.
The number of treatments therefore depends on the many factors including:
- the length of time you have lived with the injury
- the severity of the injury
- your lifestyle
- your age
- your general level of health
OK, So How Many Visits Will Fix Me?
Spinal problems, neglected since early childhood, may require ongoing supportive care for optimum spinal function. These long-standing problems are often associated with muscle weakness, soft tissue damage, and degenerative changes to the spine.
Most patients find that periodic chiropractic check-ups help keep them in tip-top shape. Those who are active, have stressful jobs, or want to be their very best, find that a schedule of preventative visits are helpful in the maintenance of good health.
Some patients seek chiropractic care only when their ache or pain becomes unbearable. While this style of “crisis management” is usually more costly and time-consuming, chiropractors stand ready to help all patients, regardless of their health goals. How long you decide to benefit from chiropractic care is always up to you.