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In a recent study reported in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, after intensive care for one month, 30 chronic back pain patients were randomized to receive either no follow-up care, or maintenance chiropractic adjustments at 3-week intervals for a 9-month period. Both groups continued to have significant improvement in their pain scores throughout the follow-up period. However, while initially both groups had improvement in back disability scores, only the group receiving adjustments during the follow-up period maintained their improvement in disability 9 months later.
Ok, so what about the other stuff, can maintenance adjustments really help our overall health and well-being? Generally speaking, we need more research before we'll know for sure, but we do have some clues as to the answer of this question. For example, randomized short-term trials have compared chiropractic with massage or placebo for everything from menstrual cramps to muscle spasm, and from hypertension to headache, with positive and significant results for patients receiving adjustments. In case studies, patients report improvement in both mental and physical well being when they continue maintenance care. Also, other chiropractic services, such as advice regarding diet, exercise, posture, and stress management, might have a more meaningful impact on overall health and well-being when continued during follow-up visits.
Finally, do patients have to keep coming monthly for the rest of their lives to get best results? We really don't know for sure, but most chiropractic physicians look at their patients as individuals that respond differently to treatment approaches. Hence, there may be some especially older individuals with significant arthritis that get best results when receiving adjustments more often than monthly. On the other hand a younger individual that is fit and has no prior history of problems may be able to return every two or three months for a "tune-up" and still get great results. Still another individual may get great results for awhile then get under a lot of stress, quit their exercise, see their problems worsen, and have a need for increasing the frequency of their follow-up care. No two patients are exactly alike. However, for a lot of patients that have a prior history of significant spinal problems, monthly adjustments seem to provide sustained relief and help prevent recurrence.
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