Indicators of Recovery: Frequency, Intensity, and Duration


Samuel Sarraf, D.C.

Recently, a patient presented at our office with a severe neck strain. He

could not turn his head at all and could barely stand for the area touched. Due

to his extreme pain level, the course of treatment would have to be conservative.

I established a cautious plan of gentle stretching, instrument adjusting, and

careful rehabilitative therapies. At the patient’s second office visit, I asked him what he believed his degree of improvement to be. He was certain he had made no improvement. But, in reality, I could see he was starting to see some relief. He was less sensitive to touch and was regaining some range of motion. A few visits later, the patient was able to tolerate manipulation, stretching, and more aggressive therapies. Our patient was on his way to full recovery and returning to his normal life.

The point of the story is this: When we are in pain or have suffered injury, we want to feel better immediately. Because we are anxious to get back to normal, we sometimes

don’t notice progress. We simply don’t recognize our own improvement until we have some specific way to measure healing. To help us determine if our treatment plan is moving the patient in a positive direction, I use three indicators: frequency, intensity, and duration.

FREQUENCY: Does the condition or the pain still occur? If yes, does it happen less frequently? The patient might indicate, “I still have the pain, but it doesn’t happen as often.” Recovery is rarely immediate. But if symptoms are occurring less frequently, this is an indicator of progress.

INTENSITY: Does the condition or the pain still occur? If yes, is the pain less severe or “intense” than it previously was? The patient may say “I still get the symptoms, but it doesn’t hurt as bad as it did before.” A decrease in intensity is an indicator of progress in recovery.

DURATION: Does the condition or the pain still occur? If yes, is there any change in the duration of symptoms? We look for the patient to say, “It still gives me trouble sometimes. But when that happens, it doesn’t last as long.” A reduction in the “duration” or length of time the patient suffers from symptoms is an indicator of progress.

Charting the occurrence of symptoms helps to recognize changes in frequency, intensity, and duration. The goal is to see a notable decrease in each of those indicators, reflecting

positive results from the treatments applied. Recovery and reduction of symptoms is not like turning off a switch. The body needs time to heal after injury or illness.

Chiropractic care expedites recovery by correcting spinal subluxation, improving alignment, freeing nerve interference, reducing inflammation, minimizing scar tissue development, eliminating muscle spasm, and allowing the body’s natural healing to occur. When the patient and the Chiropractic team work together diligently, progress can be recognized using the indicators of FREQUENCY, INTENSITY, and DURATION.

A return to good health will soon be the reward.


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