Many people seeking help from a chiropractor are suffering from back pain or discomfort; in essence, they’re looking for that much-needed pain relief from a medical professional. But what happens when your back pain is worse after a chiropractor visit? Does that mean that the treatment didn’t work? The short answer is no. In order to understand why this happens, we need to understand what the treatment consists of when you start chiropractic care.
It’s not uncommon for patients to leave a chiropractic visit feeling sore or sometimes may even feel worse than when they came in. If this has happened to you, don’t worry! This is one of the normal potential side effects of visiting the chiropractor when you first start treatment.
Why Does My Back Hurt Worse After My First Adjustment?
While an adjustment focuses on your spine, the corrections that are made to your alignment actually change which muscles are active at any given time. This means that muscles you don’t use often are used for the first time in a while. You can think of this like trying a new exercise- even if you do squats every day without feeling sore, lifting weights will make your upper body/arms hurt the first time! One of the ways that adjustments benefit the body is by stimulating inactive or inhibited muscle groups, allowing your body to balance the stress it carries and recalibrate or “reset” itself.
When you get an adjustment, your vertebrae are being moved slightly. Your muscles have to adapt to the movement of the bones, so they may end up lengthening or shortening slightly, which can lead to soreness. The soreness is related to the movement of the bones and not to the pressure utilized by the chiropractor. It can also be due to the release of the tension in your muscles, similar to when you work out and are sore as your muscles repair themselves. As your body gets used to being in proper alignment, the muscles will adjust accordingly and stop being sore.
The more frequently you get adjusted, the faster your body will get used to being adjusted and the longer it will “hold” the adjustment, which will reduce or completely eliminate the post-adjustment soreness. You can also apply an ice pack to help reduce the length and severity of the soreness.
In other words, lower back pain that’s worse after a chiropractic adjustment is nothing to worry about. Other than a sore back, you may also feel ill following a chiropractor visit – but this is, counterintuitively, a good thing!
Are You Feeling Ill After an Adjustment With a Chiropractor?
A proper adjustment will jumpstart your immune system. You can think of it as getting a flu shot: you may feel sick following the treatment, but that’s just your body improving its defenses for when it actually faces an illness. Your spine also affects your digestive system, so you may see a change in bowel movements in addition to a sore back after a chiropractic adjustment. This won’t last long and is usually nothing to worry about.
How Do You Know if You’re Experiencing Normal Back Pain After a Chiropractic Adjustment?
As mentioned above, some back pain after an adjustment is normal; that doesn’t mean that all pain is. If you’re experiencing severe pain, soreness, or other issues following your chiropractic adjustment, then you should consult with your chiropractor and primary care physician.
A good rule of thumb: if the pain is minor or on the lower end of moderate (i.e. doesn’t impair your ability to go about your day as normal and tapers off in a few hours to a day or so) then you’re in the clear. However if it persists longer than a few days or is very acute, you should consult a medical professional. As always do not hesitate to ask any questions before your adjustment here at Sheppard Chiropractic. Thanks for reading, Dr. Joe