I see quite a few patients who have been in car accidents. One patient in particular came in with very significant pain after getting hit by a car while in a crosswalk. I remember she was barely able to turn her head in either direction and not been able to work since her injury. Fortunately, after a couple months of treatment she was remarkably better and I released her from care. I explained to her that one of the purposes of chiropractic treatment is to break up scar tissue within the joints after an injury. Unfortunately, stresses and gravity and the minor injuries of life do take their toll and can result in some reforming of that scar tissue with some return of symptoms. To put it simply, without care a patient might lose some ground. This is particularly true after a traumatic accident. For this purpose, I recommended that she come in every few weeks to keep proper alignment and mobility in her spine and joints. I did explain that this type of Maintenance or Wellness Care isn’t covered by insurance the way the initial care is so she would have to pay out-of-pocket. In her case, I didn’t see her after the regular treatment ended.
I was recently talking to her attorney for her auto accident case. I happened to mention the patient’s significant improvement. The attorney stated that, in fact, she was much better than before, but some of her pain had returned. When I explained to the attorney that the patient had had almost no pain when I released her from care, he was surprised because the patient was again mentioning her pain.
I’ve seen this happen often enough that I’m convinced that there is a neurological reason for all of us to forget both about how much pain we were once in and how much relief we have felt at any given time. We tend to only be aware of what we are feeling right now.
Many times I will see a patient who comes in with pain. After a few weeks of treatment, we will have a re-exam and sit down and discuss the results. The patient might say that they feel 30% better. When we get into the details of the pain, however, and compare their complaints at the beginning of care with their current complaints, a bigger difference often emerges. For example, when they first came in they could not sit in a chair for more than five minutes. Now they can sit as long as they want. Previously, the pain in the low back ran down the right leg. Now the pain is decreased and only in their low back. Many times after we get into the details the patient will brighten up and say that in actuality they feel 80% better. Seeing a patient realize how much better they are is always gratifying.
Less gratifying is when the reverse occurs as in the case of the auto accident patient mentioned above, wherein the pain gradually comes back and they forget how good they once felt. While she is now able to work and is doing much better than before, I am certain she would have continued to maintain the original benefits much better with occasional chiropractic care. Indeed, over the years I found that those patients who come in regularly for “tune-ups” age much better overall.