Almost without exception, there will be a moment where you think:
“I actually feel really good. Maybe I don’t need to go in for my appointment.”
Spoiler alert! It is very likely that you should keep your appointment.
If you’ve read our blog on how pain works, then you know that the absence of pain does not mean there is an absence of dysfunction. Pain is a symptom. The receptors that gather data on harmful stimuli have a certain threshold amount of data that must be met before they send that data to the brain. The brain in turn issues a pain signal. So if the level of dysfunction drops just below the threshold, the brain does not receive the signal about the dysfunction, and never issues the pain signal. The dysfunction is still there, but there is no pain felt.
This scenario is obviously better than feeling pain, but it is still not ideal for the body since it will only take a little more stress, or a small fall, or one night of sleeping “wrong” to throw the dysfunction level well over that threshold. There’s no buffer! If you’re thinking of a time when a pain or injury seemed disproportionately large compared to the inciting event and wondering if maybe there had been underlying dysfunction without pain, you’re probably right!
A great example of underlying dysfunction is when someone comes in saying they slept “wrong” and are thrown into immense pain, they can barely move their head, and it takes multiple massage and adjustment appointments to correct it. A crick in the neck from one night of sleeping in a poor position typically takes about 20min to resolve with massage. That’s it. BUT ONLY IF the neck was healthy prior to the incident. If there was underlying dysfunction, just below the threshold needed to send the dysfunction data to the brain, then we’re not just solving a crick in the neck from sleeping. Now, we’re also needing to solve the dysfunction that has been there for who knows how long.
On the journey to maintenance, we’re resolving dysfunction. At some point, that dysfunction starts to be less than the threshold needed to trigger a pain symptom. I think we can all agree it is a positive sign of progress when we’re no longer experiencing pain symptoms. But in most cases, there will still be a good bit of dysfunction to address for at least a few sessions following a decrease in pain. And the more dysfunction we resolve, the larger the buffer your body has to deal with life’s mishaps as they happen.
When we’re nearing or in maintenance, there is often also an experience of feeling less change from an individual session. This experience is typically the most dramatic in adjustment appointments.
Early in treatment, we’re typically creating more change in a single session, which can create a feeling of disorientation, euphoria, or lightness. We find that as you progress through care, the more balanced and stable your body is, so the change experienced feels less dramatic. We see this as a good thing.
While in treatment care, appointments are scheduled closer together in order to build upon progress made in the previous session. As we resolve dysfunction, our goal is to get on top of and eventually get ahead of the pain issue. This process helps make the greatest progress and helps create that buffer we talked about before.
When you reach maintenance, the timing between appointments increases. We aim for that sweet spot where enough time has passed that the body has started to accumulate some dysfunction patterns, but addressing them before they cause interference in your life (pain, compensatory patterns, range of motion issues, etc).
At LMMT, you can trust that our staff will continue to evaluate the amount of time needed in between sessions to maintain progress and wellness. If sessions are too close together and not maximally beneficial, we’ll extend the time in between sessions.
Ultimately, as we transition to a place of maintenance, there is a shift in mindset. We are no longer reacting to a pain issue or injury, but instead working to prevent pain & injury, and preserve wellness. You can read more about this concept in our blog, Preventative vs. Reactive Care.