Just how long should a chiropractic adjustment take…really? Sometimes a patient will come into our office for an exam and then have a visit with their regular doctor to see what they think of our recommendations. This is somewhat equivalent to a patient telling me their dentist is recommending a root canal and wanting to know if I agree!
One such patient visited his regular doctor, letting him know that an average office visit with us took about five minutes. He called us to cancel his visits to our office because his MD told him that we must not know what we are doing since “nothing good can happen in just five minutes.”
Aside from the obvious irony in this statement from a doctor who lives in a world of 5-minute office visits and who gives pills that take approximately 5 seconds to swallow and injections that take about 30 seconds to administer, I thought it might be worth addressing the perception that it should take a lot of time to adjust a spine properly.
When people ask me how long should a chiropractic adjustment take on average, I tell them that there are two very good answers to this question:
- a minute or two
- a lifetime
What Do Chiropractors Really Do?
Chiropractors are uniquely trained to find the root cause of nerve, joint, and muscle dysfunction in the body. We find functional disturbances known as subluxations that put damaging pressure on nerves and cause many of the named conditions people suffer from every day. The nerve system in your body controls everything else in your body, so proper function in this system is critical for good health.
In this office, we do a thorough history, exam, and report of findings with our patients and recommend a care plan focused on correcting spinal and nerve dysfunction so that our patients can achieve and maintain their best possible health. Once we agree on a plan of action, each individual visit can take as little as 5 minutes.
The reason some health care providers don’t understand a chiropractic visit is that they are trained that the doctor visit is an “event” – a one-time visit to address a symptom. Most of my colleagues in medicine, however, understand that their visit actually initiates a “process” – a series of short, sustained inputs aimed at achieving a goal over time.
As an example, let’s say you visit your medical doctor for a bacterial infection. They decide after examining you and doing some testing to put you on an antibiotic. You go to the pharmacy, fill your prescription, and then begin a process where you take one or more pills per day for a week or two. Each pill takes about 5 seconds to swallow, and you report back to your MD after you’re done to be re-assessed. If the infection is gone, you are done. If not, you are given another prescription and the process continues. There’s no need to be re-examined or have a long discussion about the sniffles that persist after the first couple of pills. You and your doctor know that it takes some time and repetition for the medicine to work.
Chiropractic care is the same in that respect. You visit our office generally to have us look at an issue that isn’t resolving on its own. We assess your spine and nervous system, looking for a root cause then embark on a process of small but important corrections over time.
It really does only take a minute or two to adjust a spine and nervous system. Once the interference to the normal function of the nerves is removed, your body is hard at work correcting issues at a level that is absolutely fascinating to even the most skeptical observer.
So, how long should a chiropractic adjustment take isn’t really the right question.
Why Do You Have to Keep Coming Back?
Since the body generally has taken some time to develop the spinal issues we find, it has a tendency to shift back into its old, dysfunctional pattern fairly quickly. This is why repetition and spinal exercises and stretches are so important to spinal correction.
So, much like the antibiotics, you have multiple visits to the office over a period of weeks until such time as we re-assess to determine your progress. Spinal correction isn’t as fast as killing bacteria. It is much more like braces. It can take many months to thoroughly correct spinal issues. And then, just like braces, you need to maintain proper alignment on an ongoing basis. Regular adjustments are very much like the retainer your orthodontist gives you after you are done with your braces.
So, as someone who has witnessed the benefits of chiropractic both as a patient and a doctor, I can tell you that some very powerful things can and do happen in five minutes of properly focused health care, as long as those five minute events are part of a measured, focused process aimed at restoring the health of your body’s most amazing system – the nervous system.