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Experiencing Pain After a Chiropractic Visit
Here at Team Elite Chiropractic in La Jolla, our patients often ask us if it’s normal to feel pain after a treatment session. The simple answer is yes, initially. Some mild discomfort is normal and almost expected following the first few chiropractic treatments. However, it is important to understand when and what kind of pain is normal, and when it is abnormal and may indicate the need for a different approach to treatment.
Why Does It Hurt?
Our treatment approach involves a thorough functional assessment followed by targeted soft tissue therapy including IASTM, ART, and cupping, as well as appropriate chiropractic adjustments.
These soft tissue techniques utilize pressure, friction, or suction to manipulate muscles and fascia, which can cause some temporary soreness in the treatment area, similar to a deep tissue massage or a heavy exercise session.
Chiropractic adjustments are used to mobilize stiff joints and get things moving normally again following an injury. Mild soreness in and around the now freely moving joints may develop due to the body adjusting to this sudden change. Pain is not always a sign of damage or injury; sometimes, it is simply your body reacting to a shift in the way it moves and feels.
When Should It Hurt?
Some degree of pain can be expected during a treatment session with soft tissue therapy; however, this is carefully monitored and adjusted through clear communication between the patient and chiropractor. With chiropractic adjustments, no pain should be experienced during the treatment itself but may develop soon after treatment and for up to 24 hours following.
The soreness that can follow soft tissue treatments should behave similarly, developing and resolving within 24 hours, although, in some cases, soreness may last up to 48 hours. In all cases, this should only occur after the first one or two treatment sessions.
What About Bruising?
Sometimes soft tissue treatments can cause bruising of the skin, particularly when cupping is utilized. Cupping involves using suction to lift skin and fascia, allowing for increased blood flow and improved movement to the affected area. The suction can create rather dark but completely harmless circular patterns over the treated sections.
As our chiropractors like to put it, “It looks much worse than it is!” Mild bruising is normal after soft tissue massage techniques, and dark purple discoloration is perfectly normal and generally expected after cupping.
What Are Red Flags?
Although some pain during and after treatment can be expected, intense or lingering pain can be a sign that the current treatment approach is not appropriate and should be adjusted. During treatment, pain over 7/10 on a 0 to 10 scale becomes counterproductive and is not desirable.
This is avoided by clear communication during the treatment session and careful consideration of pain levels by the chiropractor. The type of pain is another important consideration. While mild soreness is entirely appropriate to feel after treatment, any kind of throbbing, deep aching, or sharp, intense pains are not a normal response to treatment and should be communicated to the practicing chiropractor as soon as possible.
Finally, the duration of pain is an important indicator of whether the current treatment regimen is appropriate. As previously stated, mild pain for up to 24 to 48 hours following the first couple of treatment sessions is normal. This becomes abnormal when it continues to occur after the third or fourth treatment or lasts more than 48 hours after treatment; both point toward the treatment plan needing an adjustment.
What Should I Do?
If you experience any of the red flags noted above, the first step is to communicate them to your chiropractor. At Team Elite, we are careful to monitor for these signs and will adjust accordingly.
Pain that is abnormal and unexpected means your treatment plan should and will be changed to suit your needs. If your practitioner is not changing the treatment approach despite these warning signs, it may be time to seek additional help.
Book an appointment today and let our team help!
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