Most uncomplicated neck and back problems resolve in a relatively short period of time. However, not every injury or spinal problem recovers quickly. This article addresses some common causes and reasons why some patients seem to respond slower than expected when recovering from neck and back injuries. In most of the cases where there is a slow response to treatment, multiple factors are contributing to the delayed recovery. There are contributing factors that can be controlled by the doctor and patient, other factors such as degenerative joint disease just managed.
Contributing Factors to Slow Recovery
Common factors that contribute to slower rate of recovery from a neck or back injury include:
- Repetitive Injuries – Several injuries to the same area or joint. Scar tissue develops and a reduction of ligament elasticity occurs. The joint mechanics may be altered and may be affected by less trauma or stress than a normal joint.
- Poor Posture – Poor posture sitting in school or at work can alter the muscle balance in the area of complaint. Computer work station design has been implicated in neck and upper back pain.
- Pre-existing Degenerative Disc and Joint Disease – Biomechanics of the spinal joints may be compromised by arthritis. The facet joints are disrupted and the gliding of the joint has been altered.
- Poor Muscle Tone – Lack of good muscle tone may contribute to altered biomechanics of the spinal joints.
- Diabetes – Contributes to slow healing because the high blood sugar has damaged the blood vessels and nerves. Controlled blood sugar minimizes any damage.
- Poor Sleep Habits – Not allowing the body to complete the cycle of sleep significantly delays the healing response. A minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep per night is recommended for adults, 10 hours for teens, 12 hours for children under 10 years of age.
- Delay in Receiving Treatment for Injury – It’s human nature to “wait-and-see” when pain and discomfort began. Unfortunately, this allows the process to develop and become more chronic. It is reasonable to wait 48-96 hours to see if the problem is a mild strain and will resolve on its own. If the pain is intensifying it’s recommended you see the doctor sooner rather than later.
- Cardiovascular Disease – Poor circulation decreases the transport of oxygen and other nutrients to the muscles and other tissues of the body.
- Smoking – Reduces oxygen to the muscles and research has shown smoking contributes to more rapid spinal disc degeneration and loss of bone density (osteoporosis).
- Weight – This contributes to diabetes, heart disease and sleep problems.
- Anxiety/Depression – This is a conglomeration of several outside stressors. Work, family or life style may contribute to or cause the disorder to continue. Poor sleep and diet can promulgate the disorder and affect the body’s healing power adversely.
- Failure to Follow Doctor’s Instructions – Not following through with recommendations for life style changes, work or ergonomic changes, or exercises prescriptions contribute to a delayed recovery. Failure to follow through with treatment recommendations for home and office care can also delay recovery.
- Treatment Change – There are conditions or problems presented to a doctor that do not respond to treatment. If there hasn’t been any improvement within 14 days from the onset of care, an alternate method of chiropractic treatment or a referral to another provider for further evaluation should be considered. If there is improvement, but not resolution, ongoing care is reasonable as long as the improvement continues. Discussion with your treating doctor about treatment expectations and goals should be held at the onset of your treatment regardless of the clinician.
There are many factors that can contribute to a delayed response to treatment. This not only includes spinal problems, but other health conditions. Your doctor can help you manage your neck and back condition so that there is a minimum of disruption in your life style. The most successful results occur when it’s a team effort in your health care. Communication with your doctor is essential in maximizing the treatment response and minimizing the delayed recovery of your spinal condition. Concern about your health care can increase stress levels, communication helps reduce the stress.The doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office understand the causes of delayed recovery and will work with you. It is the clinic’s treatment philosophy “to try and get you as well as we can as fast as we can”, but you have to help.