The Autonomic Nervous System has two major components, the Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic. As the name implies, these systems work without thought. The Parasympathetic Nervous System controls digestion, reproduction, waste elimination, and rest. The Sympathetic Nervous System controls activity, stress, and adrenaline. The quick way to remember is that the Parasympathetic is rest and digest and the Sympathetic is fight or flight.
The two components work opposite of each other. When one is running the other defers. I like to compare it to kids on a see-saw. When one is up the other is down. When you have two relatively equal sized kids, the see-saw works well, same as a good balance in the Autonomic Nervous System. Problems arise with imbalance.
When a person has dysfunction in the spine it tends to increase Sympathetic flow. All of a sudden, we have a big kid vs. a small kid on the see-saw. With increased Sympathetic flow, the body stays in a state of agitation at the detriment to rest and digestion. This can lead to a multitude of conditions and symptoms.
Chiropractic adjustments help to restore function which helps to balance the Autonomic Nervous System. In this way, Chiropractic can help with conditions that are not musculoskeletal in nature. Chiropractors often get a bad rap for claiming to work on things like heartburn, indigestion, sleep, constipation, heart palpitations, vision issues, and the list goes on. The truth is that many of these conditions arise because of an imbalance to the Autonomic Nervous System. So, when your chiropractor asks, tell him about all of your symptoms and conditions.
Not everyone will fall into one of the categories specifically but, in general, there are three types of chiropractic care. The key is deciding what results you want from chiropractic care. From there, we can determine the frequency and mode of treatment.
The first type of care focuses on symptoms. A chiropractor will see you as many times as needed to reduce your symptoms to a level you can manage. This is usually short term care. Some people will stop here, deal with the manageable symptoms, and then come back when they flare up again. Pain, by the way, is the most common symptom but there are many others, as well, including, but not limited to, numbness and tingling, weakness, blurry eyes, tinnitus, heartburn, etc.
The second type of care takes into account the larger picture and seeks to restore function. I call this rehab or functional restoration care. The plan is generally the same for most people because restoring function is more predictable than reducing symptoms. While we restore function, symptoms will reduce naturally but we continue care to reinforce proper function and actual healing. Most people will need about three months of care. The frequency tends to be three times a week for about a month tapering down to twice a week for a month then once a week. By the end of three months, most people have healed enough to the point of feeling better and functioning as best as can be expected. There is variability in this care and some conditions take a lot longer.
The third type of care is maintenance. Once you have put so much effort and commitment into being your best, I feel it is best to maintain through consistent chiropractic care. Once a week is needed for some and some lucky patients can get away with once a month. Less than that and most patients are coming back with symptoms which begs the question if they are actually maintaining or just chasing their tale? We make maintenance a high priority in our office and make sure it extremely affordable.
Your results will depend on what type of care you engage and how consistently you are engaged in that care. You cannot get rehab results from a few visits of symptom care. Likewise, you cannot maintain something you have attained. Sometimes, patients want to negotiate to get rehab results by coming in once a week. I would love to be able to do that but that’s just not how the body works. For me, the ideal way to treat a patient who is injured or has chronic dysfunction is to complete a course of rehab care and follow it up with continuing maintenance care around once a week.
Often times, low back pain is exacerbated by a tight hip flexor, also known as the psoas. Getting adjusted can help reduce the stress on the psoas but sometimes you need a little more work in the form of a stretch. This video demonstrates how to stretch the difficult area. If the problem persists, we can do some myofascial work to break up adhesions. Look for a video of that in the not too distant future.