Oil Checks VS Fixing the Engine
In our previous instalment regarding musculo-skeletal conditions, we had ended by stating that these conditions tend to recur and become chronic (ie: lasting longer than 3-6 months), and alluded to us dealing with those concepts in this current issue. In this instalment, we shall also discuss how frequently we should be managing chronic pain.
A quick review of the previous graph we used (in our last blog post) confirms that chronic pain does recur. In some patients this is approximately 1 to 3 times a week whilst in others 1 to 3 times a year. For the purposes of this discussion, we shall use something between both – once a month, and analyse this over a period of 1 year. From a previous blog, we shall also recall that the average number of treatments required per episode is approximately 3 (or 4) treatments.
We shall now consider two management options, based purely on how each patient decides to deal with their pain. Neither is a perfect model, but one is certainly more cost effective.
Let us imagine two patients who have both had pain for longer than 6 months, and both have their pain recur approximately once a month. Patient A decides to treat the pain only once it develops past the threshold of pain and becomes significant (point 5 above) – “fixing the engine” for each episode of pain. Patient B on the other hand decides (s)he will not wait for the pain to become significant, and presents to the Chiropractor for regular monthly check ups – “oil checks”.
As the car analogy suggests, it usually requires more work fixing the engine as opposed to checking it regularly. Therefore, patient A requires an average of 3 treatments per episode of significant pain once a month. Patient B merely requires 1 appointment. A quick calculation reveals that patient A requires approximately 36 treatments per year, whereas patient B requires 12 per annum. This benefit of “checking the oil” every month does not end there, because studies show that those patients who regularly maintain their back and neck pains and headaches, generally:
- Have less episodes of pain within a year.
- Respond much quicker to treatment when they do experience any pain.
- Are generally healthier, and feel their pains less.
Furthermore, when patients continue doing well when receiving regular checkups, one then begins to space their appointments even further apart, for example to once every 6 weeks or 2 months, sometimes to every 3rd month. This ultimately results in these patients requiring 3 to 4 appointments a year!, and generally being much better off, both physically and financially.
So the next time you decide to wait for that back or neck pain or headache to become significant before receiving treatment for it, think again, because you’re not really saving yourself any money. The adage penny-wise pound-foolish is worth remembering, even when dealing with your spinal health.