Most chiropractors begin the treatment during the patient's first visit, although some may wait until the next appointment at the chiropractic clinic. Here is an overview of the typical goals of chiropractic care, available treatment options, and average length of treatment.

Goals of Chiropractic Care

The chiropractor will establish specific goals for a patient's individual treatment plan:

  • Short-term goals typically include reducing pain and restoring normal joint function and muscle balance.
  • Long-term goals include restoring functional independence and tolerance to normal activities of daily living.

To reach these goals, a specific number of chiropractic visits will be recommended, depending on the patient’s diagnosed condition and treatment plan.

See How To Select The Best Chiropractor

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Length of Chiropractic Treatment Plan

For most types of lower back pain, a treatment recommendation of 1 to 3 chiropractic visits per week for 2 to 4 weeks will be prescribed, followed by a re-examination by the chiropractor. While not all studies agree, some research suggests that having a few chiropractic treatments per week for a few weeks may be beneficial for reducing back pain:

  • One study found that having 3 to 4 chiropractic treatments per week for 4 weeks provided substantial back pain relief.1
  • Another study looked at people who visited a chiropractor over a period of 6 weeks, getting anywhere from 0, 6, 12, or 18 sessions with hands-on adjustments. While all groups with chiropractic treatment saw benefits, the group who had gotten 12 treatments over 6 weeks (2 per week) had slightly better results.3

Depending on the condition, sometimes a chiropractor may recommend a maintenance program that involves continuing with exercises and occasional spinal manipulations. While some people report benefits of maintenance chiropractic care, this method is not validated by clinical studies and more research is needed to establish its efficacy.3,4

Chiropractic Treatment Options

A chiropractor has numerous treatment methods and recommendations, which may include some or all of the following:

Other treatments used by a chiropractor could include massage, ultrasound, nutrition guidance, heat therapy, and/or cold therapy.

See Questions to Ask About Chiropractic Techniques

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Chiropractic Evaluation of the Treatment

At the re-evaluation, the chiropractic doctor will measure the response to treatment and determine whether to:

  • Continue chiropractic treatment, if appropriate.
  • Release the patient from chiropractic care, if treatment goals have been met.
  • Refer the patient to another health care specialist if treatment goals have not been fulfilled.

See Did Chiropractic Work? Re-evaluating Your Treatment Plan

Because this profession has a large variety of practice philosophies and chiropractic techniques, individuals should feel comfortable asking questions to understand their chiropractic treatment program. If the chiropractic treatment does not help in relieving pain and the associated symptoms or if the pain worsens, a second opinion is advised.

References

  • 1.Haas M, Groupp E, Kraemer DF. Does-response for chiropractic care of chronic low back pain. Spine J. 2004; 4(5):574-83.
  • 2.Haas M, Vavrek D, Peterson D, Polissar N, Neradilek MB. Does-response and efficacy of spinal manipulation for care of chronic low back pain: a randomized controlled trial. Spine J. 14(7):1106-1116. doi:10.1016/J.SPINEE.2013.07.468
  • 3.Iben A, Lise H, Charlotte LY. Chiropractic maintenance care – what’s new? A systematic review of the literature. Chiropr Man Therap. 2019 Nov 21;27:63. doi: 10.1186/s12998-019-0283-6
  • 4.Charlotte LY, Hestbaek L. Maintenance care in chiropractic – what do we know? Chiropr Osteopat. 2008; 16:3. doi: 10.1186/1746-1340-16-3
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