Let’s assume three patients all walk in with the same neck pain symptoms. “I’ve never had this before,” they let us know. None have been to chiropractors before. How long will it take to get symptom-free? Which one will feel better the fastest? How many adjustments will it take? That’s a really tough question because there are a lot of factors. We’re going to have to learn more about the patients and their problem before making that determination. They will all heal at different rates and experience different results based on just some of these factors:
How old are you?
Before we start blaming this all on old age, let’s define it. I have 25 year olds coming in and telling me, “I am getting older…” You’re not old at 25, I promise you. While age can be a factor, it’s really age of the problem not age of the person. Also, how has that person been taking care of his or herself? I have 60 year old patients that make 60 look like no big deal and I’ve got 60 year olds that are really struggling.
If the patient is a teenager, they will heal faster than a senior citizen. In nearly every case I can think of, that would be the case. The teenager is younger, sure. However, they’ve also not had the problem nearly as long as the older patient. Notice I am differentiating between the symptom and the problem. Problems start first, symptoms follow. Many patients have felt mild symptoms on and off for years, but not done anything differently or attempted to address their problem.
How active are you?
Active patients heal faster than non-active patients. Yes, your spine goes out of alignment but the muscles will either support your spine or keep it out of place. There’s a difference when I feel someone’s back muscles based on how strong they are, how well hydrated they are, how stressed they are, how well they’ve slept, and what they’ve been eating and drinking. Most patients are dealing with significant amounts of stress each day, but the less active patients are affected more.
Increasing your activity levels makes a huge difference in how your body handles stress and how your muscles are able to help you. Staying active is work, but it continues to reap benefits far beyond “staying in shape.” That’s something I wish I would have taken more seriously sooner, but it’s not too late. Start exercising not for how you look, but how you’ll heal and feel.
How’s your diet?
This factor really has nothing to do with weight, but rather what types of foods are you putting into your system? A patient recently said that they assume I have a super-healthy diet and would never put anything unhealthy into my body. Sigh. I wish that where true. I wish I was better than I am, but I continue to work on this all the time. I don’t eat fast food, I just don’t see a benefit. I gave up sodas at least a year ago, but those margaritas! (But I digress.)
Patients that eat a lot of sugar and products with flour always have more inflammation in their muscles than those that don’t. Again, this isn’t about weight. This is about inflammation. Cut out those two things and you will lose weight. Partially due to the calorie intake and partially due to your inflammation levels will no longer hinder your body’s ability to work.
How long did the you wait before taking action?
Seems obvious, but we can help the patient that woke up with neck pain for the first time this morning much faster than the patient that has had this on and off for years. We can also help the patient faster that comes in sooner rather than waiting weeks hoping the pain will go away. I understand the temptation to wait it out. There’s fear in trying out a new doctor or checking out chiropractic for the first time. My patients that wake up with neck pain will just drop by, get adjusted and they’re usually back to normal. (One of many benefits of having a regular chiropractor.)
If you do decide to wait before seeking care, how you’re taking care of yourself will make a big difference. Are you applying heat and using lotions and creams that heat up your muscles? Are you stretching your neck the wrong way or not resting? Have you considered using an ice pack?
How consistent are you with care?
In the past week, did you get 1 adjustment or 3? Did you follow your home care instructions? As good as we are, we can’t help you if you’re not in our office. We adjust your spine and then the muscles will start pulling it out of place again. That’s why the other factors I listed above about the muscles are such a big deal. If you wait a week before you come back for your follow up, chances are the bones are back where they started.
If you can be consistent for a couple of weeks, it will make all the difference in how you feel now and how you’ll feel moving forward. Trying to “see how it goes” won’t get you the result you’re going for after one visit. It’s impossible. Consistency is key with anything involving your health.
What do you do during the day and at night?
Your daily activities also play a big part in how you heal. If you’ve got a neck issue but spend all day looking down at a laptop, on your phone, and then sleep on your stomach every night… well, your neck is probably going to hurt for awhile. It really only makes sense, but most patients don’t consider these factors at all when it comes to their concerns about how quickly they are healing.
If I wash my car but then drive down a muddy street and my car gets dirty again, would that be a surprise? Not at all. Just observing patients when I walk in the treatment room or when they’re sitting out in the reception area, I know those phones are a big factor in our neck pain. (I do it too.) Since we’re not likely to give those up any time soon, keep in mind it’s not the only factor determining your success in how you’ll feel. Take a look at some of the other factors and control what you can.
These are just some of the factors that face our patients when they come in for care. Once we’ve done a consultation, and examination, and x-rays, we usually have a pretty good idea of how long it will take for you to see fast relief and then lasting changes. Your participation in your care will also go a long way in helping you see changes quickly. We only see you for a few minutes a couple of times per week. You’re spending way more time outside of our office, and what you do there makes all the difference.