Improvement is a basic concept that every patient is striving for. Improvement in range of motion, improvement in strength, improvement in nerve function and improvement in the pain levels. This is what most patients are looking for when they come in to see me, a change in how they they feel. Most all of my patient want to reduce their back pain naturally. Most patient want to reduce neck pain with out medications. It is normal to want to be as healthy as possible. From time to time some patients may wonder if the treatment is actually making them healthier.
Clinically, I will start every patient out with an initial examination to see what areas of the spine need improvement and obtain a diagnosis. For example, if the patients chief complaint is sciatic pain or lower back pain or neck pain, or even headaches we can help. I will examine the patient to identify the root cause of the condition if is in relation to a spinal nerve irritation. The patient will be put through range of motion testing, orthopedic testing and neurologic testing. This will give myself, the doctor a understanding of the severity of the condition and if it is related to a misalignment of the spine. If so I will then order an image of the area with a x-ray or MRI. Comparing the images to the exam findings puts all the peices together and the patient will have a perfect understanding what the diagnosis is and a recommended course of care or treatment plan.
The doctor now has two ways to measure improvement 1. Subjective and 2. Objective. As the patient reports he/she is feeling better, this is one way to measure improvement through pain levels decreasing. The other is through the re-examination and compare the results to the first exam. If the patient says they still feel pain the doctor can not jump to conclusions about improvement or not until the examination finding can reveal what is changing clinically. The doctor needs to perform an re-examination to determine what orthopedic tests are still positive and which ones have improved or are negative. This will ultimately tell the doctor if there is improvement with the patients course of care. From this point the doctor can amend the diagnosis or make changes to the treatment program as needed.
This is the same with any other profession caring for a patient. An oncologist will measure a tumor, treat the patient and measure the tumor again to see improvement. Another doctor will measure the patients bone density, give the patient medication and measure the density a second time then compare the two readings. Same for my patients you will have a through examination to start and again to measure improvement. Improvement is always a measurable neccessity to your care. If your doctor is not reevaluating you or not gathering data on your condition there is no way to tell if the patient is responding appropriately to care.