Symptom relief vs functional improvement; what’s the difference and why do you need both?

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The greatest motivator for visiting our chiropractic office is the pain that did not go away.   Desperation drives phone calls, especially on Sunday in our Scotch Plains office during morning hours. Sometimes one treatment can offer tremendous relief while at other times, it can take a while to help someone feel better.  This is especially true when patients have long-standing problems that have not been properly diagnosed and treated. Prior to experiencing pain, it is quite common for a person to experience many different problems that appear to come and go.  Other times, stiffness is the precursor to the pain, and then, for some reason, an activity such as moving boxes, lifting children, or some other activity resulted in pain that wouldn't self resolve or worsened over time. In rare instances, pain may mean we have a serious illness, however, this is rare.

Poor function eventually causes pain, so why just visit for pain relief?

The initial visit with someone who is in pain is a tense affair, with the desperate patient needing a miracle to happen, hopefully during the first visit. It is not uncommon for this person to have had problems for days or weeks and now, a vacation or business trip may be in peril due to the pain. Sometimes we can help someone get out of pain fast and they don't feel the need to return. Sometimes, the patient will cancel or just not show up for the second visit as they feel good enough. They also may find out their problem requires more than just two or three visits and decide that they feel better so it's not important. Other times, the decision is financial as they have a high deductible or high copayment which makes compliance for appropriate care difficult.  Years later, they may regret their decision but when we are young and invincible, they seem to recover and that's that. The truth is, feeling better or being back to "normal" usually is not normal at all but merely a construct of what we believe to be true.

Defining normal.

What is normal?   For most people, normal is what we usually feel like.   Abnormal is a symptom or symptoms that don't go away on their own.   From a chiropractic physician's point of view, there is no normal, but patients have a normal for them that they are accustomed to.   Chiropractors evaluate the function and holistically evaluate and treat the mechanism behind your pain, rather than just doing something to the painful part. This is while many patients prefer drug-free chiropractic care to the medical approach of procedures, tests, and medication which was discouraged by the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2017 concerning lower back problems. Consumer Reports have also shown chiropractic has a high level of satisfaction from the general public for problems of the back and other musculoskeletal conditions. Simple tests allow the chiropractor and the patient to evaluate their level of function which often results in many back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, arm, and wrist pain, or foot pain issues.  If you are visiting too many specialists and taking too many medications for the resulting pain, it is time to experience what chiropractic can do to help. The specialist idea we know from allopathic medicine is a medical construct they developed. Unfortunately, you are not built that way and we are interconnected beings.   When a shoulder hurts, for instance, it's not very effective to diagnose an impingement and ignore the lower body components causing poor posture and ultimately your shoulder impingement.   Often these same traits such as flat feet cause lower back pain as well. A lower back problem can be asymptomatic but your neck can be killing you and you may even blame it on your job sitting at the computer. Some may call it their normal shoulder pain until it got worse over time and now it was killing them.

Understanding why treatment often lasts longer than the pain does in chiropractic offices.

Many patients find relief at their chiropractic office after just a few visits, yet it is not unusual for us to show them that they still cannot get out of a chair. Poor core function will cause tightness in the legs, shoulders, and neck as well as lower back pain and plantar fasciitis.  Different people are built differently and genetically different and will experience the result of poor mechanics differently. Some will have knee problems as a result. Chiropractic care often requires a number of visits to rehabilitate the body and help the person readapt to a better or more effective normal.   You may feel better mostly at 3-4 visits but functionally, you test poorly.   After 10 to 12 visits, those same mechanical tests now allow you to go back to the gym and lift weights using less energy and without the usual soreness you thought in the past was normal. While this is happening, you are likely to notice that you are getting stronger, and have more energy and while you are improving pain-wise a lot, the functional improvement takes time. In chiropractic terms, functional improvement is achieved with manipulation and soft tissue muscular and fascial techniques to improve the way you move.   We all adapt throughout our lives; have you adapted well?  Poor adaptation to falls, body mechanics, and such usually results in many of the painful conditions chiropractors commonly treat. Foot orthotics are often recommended to level the pelvis and quickly improve function.   The improved function helps you avoid pain while running, in the gym, while doing common tasks at home, or just sleeping. Symptom relief is a medical construct as is the overspecialization of doctors who look at us as if we are not the sum of our parts.  Functional improvement is how chiropractors help you avoid further problems and stay healthy. You can avoid the trap of symptoms by following your chiropractor's treatment plan.   Our office uses treat-test-treat protocols so you can not only feel but experience the difference during your visits. Tired of chasing symptoms while you feel worse over time? Think chiropractic first. Call us today to find out how we can help you.  Book online here.