After chiropractic treatment pain is not uncommon.
The majority of patients coming for care have torn, inflamed, swollen or degenerative tissue that is at the heart of their condition. Stretching, massaging and adjusting of these structures inevitably causes a degree of discomfort.
It's no different for the physiotherapist, dentist, and surgeon; have you ever had your impacted wisdom teeth out or been to a PT given the task of mobilizing a knee or ankle post arthroscopy? Have you a friend who has had spinal plates and screws fitted? Some discomfort is the norm. But how much is acceptable?
This page was last updated by Dr Barrie Lewis on 9th May, 2021.
Here's some correspondence received.
I am 60 years old and I have been receiving regular chiropractic care for the past two years. I started needing help for sciatica which I had on only one occasion before starting treatment. I have since had a few more bouts of leg pain but have none for over a year now. What I do have is pain in my neck, shoulders and back for 24 to 48 hours after my adjustment.
Sometimes it is really unbearable but always subsides in a couple of days. I do not feel that this is a normal situation since I have never had this type of pain and achy feeling prior to care. My DC says it is not related to the treatment since it happens the day after my adjustment. Why do I have this pain and aching after chiropractic care?
Is this situation okay, and is it common?
My answer is an emphatic no, and personally I think this person's chiropractor is in denial. If you have unbearable pain regularly the day after your chiropractic treatment, then it is obviously related to the treatment.
But, and it's an important but, a certain degree of
discomfort, and occasionally pain for one or possibly two days after an
adjustment is not uncommon. And provided the overall benefit of the
treatment is clear to both parties, then it is usually acceptable.
The alternative is that the chiropractor must give an adjustment that is so meek and mild that probably little is achieved.
After chiropractic treatment pain but how severe and frequently is acceptable?
But "unbearable" pain?
How should your chiropractor react if you had this to say? How should I react?
Firstly, most importantly, s/he should take you seriously. To treat your complaints with disdain, to ignore them, to dismiss them, is unprofessional in my opinion. It's also stupid. She or he is going to lose a patient.
Reading between the lines, this patient consulted a
chiropractor for lower back pain and sciatica, but the post chiropractic
treatment pain seems to be mainly in the neck and midback. This raises an age-old question. Should every patient get a
full spine adjustment regardless of the initial complaint? My own
opinion is no, but there are many chiropractors who would disagree.
Here is an aside at after chiropractic treatment pain.
I had a new patient this week complaining of severe midback pain of several weeks' duration. She has previously consulted chiropractors for various complaints but, if her neck is ever adjusted, she gets severe headaches for a few months. She asked me not to touch her neck, where she had absolutely no complaints.
However, she was in a car accident some years ago and clearly has silent subluxations in her lower neck. The range of motion of her cervical spine was markedly reduced for a young woman. I told her that whilst I respected her request, once the midback has settled down, I was going to ask permission to adjust her lower neck. Otherwise she is certain to get premature hyaline cartilage aging, arthritis, in the neck as happens in fact all fixated joints.
Yes, it's possible that she may have significant and even unbearable headaches for a period after the treatment, though I think this unlikely. The headaches probably resulted from a ATLANTO AXIAL JOINT ANATOMY or other upper cervical adjustment which I would avoid. This person's fixations are in the lower neck. To ignore them means a great likelihood of ARM PAIN or other conditions like tingling in arms and hands, tennis elbow and rotator cuff syndrome.
But everything should be by discussion and with the patient's full consent. It
is after all your body and you have every right to state plainly to all
your doctors what they may, and what they may not do to you. We treat you with respect.
Your back is fragile for a period after chiropractic treatment.
Any after chiropractic treatment pain if you ignore this advice lies at your own door. Be sensible after your consultation. If your post chiropractic adjustment pain occurs regularly after your appointment, and you haven't been playing silly buggers, then it's most likely directly related to the care.
Like mature adults, let's discuss things.
In the above case, I feel a little sad. Said chiropractor has clearly helped the patient with the lower back pain and sciatica. Nevertheless he is going to lose his patient in all likelihood.
kind of after chiropractic treatment pain is clearly not acceptable.
Two adults ought to be able to speak plainly, and honestly, to
one another without offense or embarrassment. The days of I am the
doctor and you are the patient, and you will do what I tell you are
fortunately long gone.
Very, very occasionally a patient may have a stroke after upper cervical spine manipulation. Between one in every one to five million procedures, making chiropractic adjustments of the neck one of the safest procedures in medical science. Chiropractic iatrogenic illness ...
Is this "after chiropractic treatment pain" or....?
"I was just adjusted today for a pinched nerve on the left side of my
neck. My neck also has no curve and there is s curve in my lower spine. I
have felt fine all day until an hour or so ago and the things I'm
feeling are a little scary.
The numbness and tingling from my ear, down my neck, to my chest. My neck also feels very hot and my throat area feels tight. Is this normal?"
Chronic frequent headache is defined as at least 14 days per month, for the last 90 days. It is one of the most difficult conditions to manage as it invariably leads to overuse of medication and rebound headaches.
Rebound headaches are actually caused by the medication; and the only solution is cold turkey.
Once it is established that the underlying cause is a subluxation in the cervical spine or jaw joint then there are different management strategies.
In short, the management of chronic frequent headache has to be tailored to the patient. Most people fall into the first category, but there are certainly some for whom the maxim if it is not broken, do not try to fix it applies.
Chiropractors find the management of patients who are taking huge amounts of medication difficult; talk to any medical doctor and you will find they have the same difficulties.
Watching the kidney Olympics is a sobering affair; it starts with a nephrologist explaining that most of these athletes lost their organs through taking too many painkillers.
A few thoughts from me on the benefits of personal medical insurance and the no cover option make for interesting reading. It's worth a thought if you're totally committed to healthy
living. Then if you have serious after chiropractic treatment pain you won't be at sea; nor if your surgery goes awry. Most likely of all is that you have a severe drug reaction; it's the third most common cause of death after heart disease and cancer.
Een goede pak sla
I have just seen a 65 year old lady who has had acute lower back pain since an extended trip overseas. Alas, that is the lot of South Africans. Our talented children go looking for greener pastures. But back to Mrs D. After two gentle treatments that produced no results, I gave her a good hiding (een goeie pak sla). Going home was very sore, and she was miserable the next day, but today she is 95% better. After chiropractic treatment pain is not necessarily a good reason to stop with your adjustments. But sometimes it may be.
Do you have a question? Shoot! Please include important details such as when the problem started, what increases and relieves the pain, which movements cause dizziness, for example, whether the pain radiates to all the fingers or just the thumb and forefinger, or just certain parts of the leg.
A two line question will get an answer of zero value.
About Dr Barrie Lewis DC
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