Chiropractic care
Credit: Morguefile photo by LilJoel

The Back Specialists

Recently, someone I know went to see a chiropractor for back pain. The pain immediately subsided after the first treatment. Then, the next day it returned, worse than before.

However, even as the discomfort intensified, the patient felt better emotionally and slept through the night for the first time in weeks.

My first thought was that the practitioner made things worse. However, I quickly realized this flare up was what chiropractors call a "healing crisis." It will go away on its own, or with the help of cold applications. It also meant the session had probably worked, and that the patient was on the road to recovery.

When my children were little, they suffered from a variety of chronic conditions. Chiropractic care, along with homeopathy and a strict diet, restored them to health.

After each chiropractic treatment, they would seem a little sicker for a day or two. My son, in particular, would develop a pallor, and the dark circles under his eyes would become more visible. But this was always followed by better health.

Through the years, one thing I've learned about alternative medicine is that sometimes you need to go backward in order to leap forward. In fact, most chiropractors would say this short-term discomfort is a sign of "deep healing."

Oftentimes, a healing crisis is unavoidable. It's a sign your body is trying to balance itself. Any symptoms, such as muscle aches or a mild headache, are often due to toxins leaving your system. Eating well, drinking a lot of water and getting adequate rest can greatly aid this process.

First, Call Your Chiropractor

Ideally, you should choose a chiropractor who comes highly recommended. If you don't anyone who is currently undergoing chiropractic care, your local health food store can probably direct you to a good practitioner.

A positive sign is if he or she has a busy practice. Unless it's an emergency, and you're in severe distress, you may have to wait a week or more for an opening.

If you develop increased pain following a treatment, the first person to call is your chiropractor, who will likely reassure you that this is normal. (Very intense pain may be a sign that something else is amiss, and, occasionally, a healing crisis may be so severe that it borders on dangerous.) Communicating with your practitioner is a very good idea, because unnecessary anxiety is not conducive to regaining your health.

After ruling out a more serious problem, there are steps you can take to make the healing crisis more manageable.

Misalignment causes health problems
Credit: Morguefile photo by DuBoix

Why a Healing Crisis Happens

Increased discomfort following a chiropractic visit may arise from the body attempting to balance itself. Toxins may also be leaving the body, so you may notice these symptoms as various heavy metals make an exit.

It's believed that gently manipulating the spine, to correct for any misalignment, strengthens the nervous system, which sends signals to the various organs. A healthy nervous system will allow the entire body to function better.

This is why a seemingly simple adjustment may result in a positive systemic response. By the same token, living with a misaligned neck and back can take a toll on your health.

Some people visit chiropractors when they're not in pain, as preventive medicine. One benefit chiropractors offer over regular doctors is that they don't prescribe drugs, an attraction for people who want to avoid pharmaceuticals.

Negotiating a Healing Crisis

The prevailing belief is that the body is trying to detox during this time. So, anything you do to facilitate this may reduce the amount of time you experience any discomfort. Your chiropractor will probably advise you to:

  • Drink a lot of water. This is one of the best ways to help your body rid itself of toxins.
  • Get adequate rest. Nighttime, during a restful sleep, is when your body does much of its detoxification.
  • Take specific supplements during this time of healing. Or, you may be told to avoid certain preparations.
  • Eat enough fiber will also help move toxins out of your system.
  • If you have any doubts, don't hesitate to call for advice.


This article is intended for background and discussion only, and should not be read as medical advice. People with health concerns should consult a licensed professional. The author accepts no responsibility for treatment decisions or outcome.