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May, 2015

The Pain of Change

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Today’s chiropractic can have some challenging starts depending on how much degeneration we are working to correct.

From the first 2 weeks to the first 2 months a new patient can struggle with pain.

In this blog I’m going to share the story of 2 people that I had to really encourage to stay the course because of the “pain of change”.

A positive but always a frustration.

It’s a simple enough concept. The same spinal area that is causing the problem, is the area we are targeting for correction.

The exact same nerves that are in trouble and causing pain are the same nerves we are stimulating and “waking up” with specific chiropractic adjustments.

And in that process, can cause discomfort.

Client #1, Stephanie, is a landscaper, in fact more than an landscaper, an Arborist.

She started care with a bang. Her first adjustment was a “miracle”. She was immediately out of pain after struggling with excruciating pain for 3 months.

We continued to move forward and adjust because we were correcting a structural problem.

We were going after changed x-ray’s, not just temporary pain relief.

But, two weeks later, she could hardly bend over.

She came in frustrated, scared and didn’t know what was going on. If I hadn’t seen it before, I likely would have panicked too.

What happened? She was doing terrific and then all of a sudden things were as bad as before she started care.

This is where we see the “pain of change” replacing the problem people came in with.

Same nerves, same pain receptors, and here we come, stirring the pot. We’re “going in” to the exact area that is injured in the first place.

Sometimes the body complains.

Not often but I’d say in about 20% of people I work with.

Fortunately, when we persevere we do get to the other side and the client experiences authentic healing.

In contrast, I’ve had people tell me of chiropractor’s that have “made them worse” and I wonder, was it because they didn’t understand the pain of change? Did the doctor not explain what was happening and did the client miss out on their recovery?

In Stephanie’s situation the pain signals were remarkably similar to her problem, and so it was difficult for her to differentiate her initial problem from the pain of change.

It can be confusing, especially without an x-ray.

But we had an x-ray, so it was still difficult, but she understood.

Our second client story is from the largest man I’ve ever adjusted. And I’ve adjusted some big guys!

Jeff is the kind of guy you want on your side in a bar fight. In fact, you have this man on your side, there is a good chance there won’t be a bar fight:)

He’s muscular, massive and one of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Jeff was improving nicely, until a month into care, and then he started getting sore.

The problem is he wasn’t sore when we started. Most people, at that point, would jump to the conclusion that chiropractic “made them worse”.

Thankfully, Jeff has spent a lot of time in the gym. He knows what it feels like to push his physical training to a point of pain. I don’t just mean, sore muscles after a work out. I mean, “I think I overdid it, I hurt myself” kind of workout.

Pain is different than discomfort. We talked it through and came up with a game plan.

We changed up some of his adjustments and his pain changed back to discomfort. BUT it still took about a month to get him through to the other side.

It was critical that I helped Jeff understand that he shouldn’t just push through AND that we still needed to keep working to fix his real problem.

We kept adjusting him three times each week with a different series of adjustments and kept working on correcting his postural and spinal problems.

His most recent postural assessment was very positive. And on the plus side, he’s not complaining of discomfort or pain. But he had to stick with it.

Both Stephanie and Jeff pushed through to get to a place where their nerves could be free to do their job. Heal their bodies.

But if they’d have been confused and “jumped ship” they would have never fixed their problem. And tey might have left frustrated and feeling “ripped off”.

That is the danger of using pain or discomfort as our only measurement. Sometimes the pain of change just needs to be worked through and sometimes pain is an indication that we’re in trouble.

How do we know the difference?

X-rays, posture and proper testing. . .  again and again. Your x-rays are the measurement of how your nerves are doing. When your x-rays are getting better, you are getting better. Even after you are feeling great.

Accurate postural measurements and x-ray are tools that really tell us how you are doing and yes, even when your discomfort is increasing your x-rays and posture may be getting better.

In fact, there have been several occasions where I scheduled an extra x-ray for someone when I needed to make sure they were going in the right direction.

Their discomfort was significant but their x-rays were changing for the better. That answered the question are “they getting worse” OR is it the “pain of change”?

It was the pain of change.

The challenge is to keep people in the boat when their body is complaining. Some people have the ability to endure, others don’t. We’ve been “programmed” in Canada to fear any discomfort at all.

My goal is certainly help people get out of pain, BUT sometimes getting out of pain means staying in pain for a season. This is not enduring for the sake of enduring. It has to be based on proper progress exams and specific testing that confirms that you are heading in the right direction.

I never guess.

X-rays and the proper testing are the only way we can tell if you’re body is complaining for the right reason.

The majority of my clients don’t struggle like Stephanie or Jeff thankfully, but if you’re feeling like your body is resisting it could be because great things are happening.

Make sure you talk to us if you’re concerned.

I would sooner go through your x-rays again, explain why things may be feeling the way they are, than see you frustrated.

Especially if it’s happening because you’re actually doing great.

And if you are seeing another chiropractor, make sure you talk to them about the “pain of change” if you are concerned.

Often your greatest breakthorugh is just on the other side of your most difficult season of change.

Persevere, BUT make sure you are persevering with proper evidence and understanding.

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