Unlike a lot of modern medical care, chiropractic treatment is designed around the goal of addressing and resolving the root cause of any symptoms you are experiencing. While this can lead to better and more long-lasting results, it also means you will likely need to commit to a treatment plan that is longer than a single appointment. The exact number of visits you will need changes based on your custom plan, but we’ve crafted some guidelines to help you understand what you might expect before you search “walk-in chiropractor near me.”
Factors in Determining a Treatment Plan
No two people will respond to chiropractic care in identical ways, and it can sometimes be difficult to predict exactly what will happen in early treatment. Your chiropractor will do their best to develop an accurate plan at your first appointment and may perform a physical exam and ask a series of questions to help determine this estimate. They will be looking for a few main pieces of information that can determine how extensive this plan may be.
Younger patients are generally quicker to respond to treatment than their older counterparts. This is in part because younger bodies tend to heal faster, but it can also be because they have been suffering from spinal issues for a longer period of time. It may take longer to reverse these issues than it would in a younger patient.
Someone who is more physically active will also respond to treatment in less time than someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle. Even mild to moderate activity, like going for a leisurely walk, daily can help the body to heal faster. Consistent movement also allows the joints to move more easily, which can make them return to functioning quicker.
Length of Symptoms
Seeking care as soon as possible after an injury or condition arises is always recommended, not only because it will bring you relief quicker than continuing to live with the pain. It is also easier to treat a recent issue, leading to a shorter treatment. When ailments and misalignments of the spine aren’t addressed early, they can compound and cause further problems, which will then take longer to undo.
If this persists for a long time, it can even begin to impact the curve of your spine, your body mechanics, and your range of motion.
Along with level of fitness, other choices in day-to-day life can have an impact on your recovery speed. One good example is that smoking can restrict oxygen flow in your body, which can deprive oxygens and other tissue of the oxygen needed to heal.
Keeping a generally healthy diet can also prevent toxins and weight gain that may hinder recovery.
Type of Injury or Condition
The biggest factor that affects your recovery time is what type of injury you have or the condition being treated. More severe problems may require longer courses of treatment, while more mild concerns can be treated with less time.
Common Guidelines for Treatment
No matter what your prognosis is, the goal of chiropractic care will be to treat and manage your condition in as short of a time as possible while having the greatest possible effect. The outcome should include an improvement in overall function and a decrease in levels of pain and any other negative symptoms. There is a persistent myth that chiropractors expect you to come in perpetuity, and while there is value to ongoing preventative treatment, this is not the case for acute problems.
At the onset of an issue, the guideline for early treatment is to go through 1 to 4 weeks of treatment with about 2 to 3 treatments each week. This should allow the chiropractor to better understand your condition and adjust treatment as needed based on your body’s response. Once improvements start to be seen, the frequency can slowly taper back.
Some very mild conditions may only require one to four visits overall before there is resolution, though they may choose to continue treatment to prevent future issues. In contrast, chronic conditions like degenerative disc disease and migraine could require ongoing treatment, as the goal is to manage symptoms and not to repair an underlying issue.
Each treatment plan is designed around the patient’s specific needs, but the main modality used will typically be spinal adjustments. During these, chiropractors use their hands and specialized tools to manually move the spine and remove any misalignments that may be causing issues. This is known as manipulative therapy and can reduce pain, restore motion, and prevent the recurrence of most issues.
Along with manual adjustments such as exercise training, soft tissue therapies, and physical therapy, other therapies can also be applied, such as electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and laser.
Once you feel better and your spine is properly aligned, you should be able to slowly taper treatment back and return to normal life. However, many issues can reoccur if you continue the same activities that caused the injury in the first place. Part of a chiropractor’s job is to provide advice on how to avoid these recurring issues and keep your spine in optimal health. Based on their knowledge of your situation, they may provide advice for lifestyle adjustments and exercise routines that can be used to maintain progress.
Addressing any detrimental positioning and posture can help you prevent spinal misalignments in the future. If you work at a desk and on a computer, a good place to start is to ensure your screen is at eye level and your spine can stay neutral when sitting. You can also use pillows, back supports, and belts to provide additional support to the spine in different scenarios. If you often bend, lift, push, or pull heavy objects, you can also work on ensuring you do so in the safest way possible.
A chiropractor may also analyze your gait and standing posture. Stretches, massages, and foam rollers can be used to help improve these motions at home.
Your chiropractor and a physical therapist may develop a personalized plan that includes exercises and stretches that you start early in your care, usually within your first 3 visits. This can be adjusted over time and given for use long after treatment has stopped. Exercises can be aimed at improving range of motion, reducing pain, returning to normal functionality, and preventing further degeneration or symptoms.
Specialized shoe insoles and/or heel lifts can help restore postural imbalances that contributed to your initial concern.
Diet and Lifestyle
Chiropractic care focuses not only on musculoskeletal issues, but also on overall health and wellness. Paying special attention to what you consume can help your body function well and maintain the progress you made through your treatment plan. A good diet can also help you avoid extra weight gain that can cause further pressure on the joints and spine.
You can also avoid things like smoking and drinking that worsen the risk of various health conditions.
Choosing the Right Chiropractor
When you are looking for an Atlanta chiropractor, you want to be sure you are choosing someone who can meet all your needs with care and expertise. Just like they will ask you questions about your health and history, you can ask questions to help understand their plan of care and what you can expect during that treatment.
Some questions to ask during your first visit may include:
- What is their typical practice treatment program?
- What services do they offer along with manual adjustments? Do they have other professionals like physical therapy on staff?
- If the treatment program isn’t successful, what do they recommend? Do they have other medical professionals they refer you to in this case?
- Under what circumstances do they refer to other healthcare professionals?
This can help you understand how they approach issues and the overall success of the practice. If they insist on treating all patients identically or treating parts of the body that do not have an issue, this may be a red flag. Additionally, if the chiropractor suggests that you always need to engage in a long-term problem that extends well past your issues resolving, this can also be a sign that they are not following proper guidelines of care.
At AICA Atlanta, our specialists approach each patient with the goal of helping you reach full recovery as quickly as possible. While we have many patients who visit us for ongoing preventative care, we always work towards a complete resolution of an issue. With physical therapists and other experts on staff, we are able to provide a comprehensive treatment plan that treats all parts of your body, including any more invasive methods like surgery that may become necessary. Contact AICA Atlanta today to schedule your first consultation with a chiropractor and understand what a plan of care may look like for you moving forward.