We undergo an operation to get better. And while the operation is one thing, the healing process is an altogether different conversation that is just as necessary to have. In this episode, Dr. Jeffrey Scott joins Dr. Kevin Pecca to answer one of the common questions patients ask: how long does it take to get better under upper cervical care? Dr. Scott tells us what that looks like, what it entails, and what we are going to heal through. They also dive deep into the difference between feeling better and getting better. Often, these two get interchanged, leaving misconceptions that affect the healing process. Tune in to this conversation and discover your body's healing ability and why it's a process that's truly worth it.
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How Long Does It Take To Get Better Under Upper Cervical Care? With Dr. Jeffrey Scott
On this episode, we have Dr. Jeff Scott. Dr. Jeff Scott is a Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractor with me at Montclair Upper Cervical in West Orange. We are going to go over the healing process, how long it takes to get better under Upper Cervical care, what the first week of care looks like, what the first few months look like, and what to expect after your first adjustment. It’s one of the most popular questions we get. We like to give all our patients a timeframe on what to expect on how long it takes to get better under Upper Cervical care. Thank you, everybody, for tuning in. I hope you enjoy this episode.
We have Dr. Jeff Scott. We both work in Montclair Upper Cervical in West Orange. We are Blair Upper Cervical Chiropractors. We are going over one of my favorite topics. I know Jeff is passionate about it too. It's retracing and the healing process. We always have patients ask us, “How long does it take to get better under Upper Cervical care? What does that entail? What am I going to heal through?” I want to go over those questions. I want to also go over the difference between feeling better and getting better. It's been a while since we did a show. We are going to jump into it. Dr. Jeff, how are you?
I’m doing well. A beautiful fall morning, leaves are changing. What more can you ask for on my front?
We are going over retracing. Dr. Jeff, what is retracing? How does it relate to Upper Cervical chiropractic care?
Retracing is a concept that I didn't hear about until I started diving into the chiropractic world. I first heard about it somewhere along the line at school. I would describe it as this chiropractic-based concept, this holistic-based concept that your body has the ability to continuously go back and heal up past injuries, emotional stress, and damage from infection. It has the ability to continuously go through and heal things.
It's rooted in the idea that the nervous system remembers everything. It records, stores, and remembers everything that your body has gone through. They've even shown this with memories in terms of going back and stimulating different areas of the brain and recalling memories from childhood that people long have forgotten from their actual conscious mind. It's stored somewhere in your nervous system.
In terms of Upper Cervical care, what that entail is that as we go through and we identify where the interference is in the nervous system, we restore the joints to their proper articulation, we remove that interference, and now we've enabled the body to go through and heal. As the body's going to go through and start healing, every now and then, it's going to have these almost like cyclical periods where it's going to go through and do. I like to liken it to almost like a backup on a computer.
It's going to go through. It's going to try to clear out old files. It's going to try to clear out damaged tissue because most likely, what's happened is at some point in time, your body sustained some trauma, whether it was physical trauma, mental, emotional trauma, or chemical trauma, that the body tried to heal as best it possibly could. For some reason, whether it was other misalignments that were there or whether it didn't have the energy or the capacity to do it. It healed what it could. It stopped there, and then it got layered somewhere with other traumas that accumulated over time.
As your body's going through and it's going back through, it's going through and re-healing these injuries and traumas that it wasn't able to overcome or fully heal before. One time, I came to you and I was like, “You know what happened? I felt like my tongue swelled up.” I was sitting there watching TV. Out of nowhere, the back of my tongue swelled up. I was like, “What was that?” It went away the next morning. You're like, “I went through that,” probably in that sign of retracing, probably from I've had strep throat before. I've had a nasal drip. It could've been that area of the body going through and healing some of the stuff up. Your body's continuously working through this physiological process of trying to heal itself up.
One of the best analogies I've ever heard used was Dr. Forest out in California, when your body goes through a trauma and your body starts to heal, you can think about it like a clock. The body starts to heal around the clock and it gets to about ten and it stops. Your body never fully healed from that injury. We go through several of those traumas throughout our lifetime. When you get put back into alignment, Upper Cervically, rapid healing takes place.
Retracing happens mostly in the Upper Cervical world because the adjustments hold in place. Regular chiropractic just wants to crack your neck every time you come in. I'm not bashing regular chiropractic. It's great. A lot of people heal from it. The goal of the Upper Cervical is for the adjustment to hold in place. When you hold it in place, you get complete flow up and down to the nervous system. It stays in place and your body continues to heal without any outside intervention. The healing process, the retracing, is continuous. There's no blockage of nerve flow, so it keeps on healing. All those old injuries you had that stopped around the clock at 10:00 start to heal up again. It goes from 10:00 to 12:00.
It could be something that happened in early childhood, adolescence, teen, all the way up to adulthood. We have had several traumas that the body works through. Dr. Jeff mentioned he got a lot of strep throats as a kid. I had chronic ear infections and strep throat. The same thing happened to me in my healing process. My tongue and tonsils would swell up. I wouldn't get sick. They would swell up for 1 day or 2 while I was getting under Upper Cervical care and then they would go away. I used to pull my hip flexors all the time in hockey. I remember 2 or 3 months into care, I woke up so sore in that area, it felt like I played an entire hockey game.
It was my body healing up my hip flexors that have never fully healed until I was under Upper Cervical care. Not only is it physical, but past emotional stress and traumas also come up, too. We've had several patients that unfortunately had a rough upbringing in childhood and were abused. Some heal through those emotional traumas. My dad passed away at 16. I remember when I was going under up for cervical care around 23, I cried for a straight month. It was me finishing grieving that process. It sounds farfetched to think about, but it happens to a lot of people going under Upper Cervical care, so much so that they have mapped it out.
We have a great poster in our office that for the first six weeks, rapid healing takes place. It's like the stock market. It goes up and down as the body heals. You might have a couple of days where you feel the best you’ve ever felt. You might wake up 1 day or 2 later and some of your old symptoms are back. It could get a little frustrating because you feel good, you think you're healed, but then the body starts healing and scanning itself for old memories, injuries, and past emotional stuff, and you start to heal through it. It could be a little bit of a bumpy roller coaster ride and uncomfortable process, but it's all for the better because you're finishing that healing process that your body desperately wanted to do but couldn't do because there were so many blockages of the nerve and blood flow.
The way to think of any trauma that your body's sustaining is if we can boil it down to almost biophysics levels and say all trauma is energy of some sort. The body has to deal with that energy and the fact that that energy has on your tissues of some kind. If it's physical, that's obviously probably the easiest to understand. If it's mental or emotional, it’s how your body is doing with that fight or flight response, and how your body's dealing with the strain that comes with being in that anxious, elevated state.
It's about how that impacts everything in your body from not just your muscles, your blood vessels, all the way down to the organs and everything like that, your hormone system. Chemical trauma is that energy, that interaction of free radicals of molecular compounds with your body. That's all forms of energy. To deal with that energy, that's what retracing is. It's allowing your body to go through and process this stuff that it couldn't process previously.
The chemical toxins, that's a full-blown detox, too. Your cells can start pulling that toxin out. You might get some flu-like symptoms, but you're not sick. It's just your body detoxing something that you went through a long time ago.
We've had some patients who have reported almost feeling sick in terms of like, “I'm feeling fatigued. I'm hot,” and stuff like that. It very well is probably a detox, even if it's from food sensitivities.
In the consultation, we explain what Upper Cervical care is and then the patient asks, “How long does it take to get better?” That's a loaded question. Every case is different. It depends on what your X-rays look like and what your trauma history looks like. Some cases are a lot more severe than others. Every case is unique. That's what I love about Upper Cervical because every adjustment is unique to that person. It's not a one-adjustment-fits-all. It is specific to that person's joint angles and anatomy.
That's why we get such good results, is because we're being so specific. Most people notice a good change 2 to 3 days in within the first week of care. A lot of people, especially if they have a lot going on neurologically, can see a lot of brain fog, headaches, dizziness, and vertigo. That can get better. Just because you feel better after the first adjustment does not mean you are healed. I probably had the best first adjustment you could ever have Upper Cervically. I was a mess for five years, brain fog, dizziness, vertigo, hand tremors, migraines, chronic fatigue, chronic anxiety, and depression.
I remember after my first adjustment, when I got up off the table, my anxiety and depression, it was the first time I felt at ease in my body for five years. My vision was clear after the adjustment. I had a boost of energy. I felt great. I thought I was healed. It was a great first adjustment, but 2 or 3 days later, the healing process started and it kicked my ass. The goal is not to get you to feel better, it's to get you better. You can do a lot of things to feel better. You can go to the liquor store down the street and drink a bottle of your choice. You could feel better for a little bit, but it's not getting you better.
Our goal is to stabilize the spine and get you better so these symptoms don't continuously keep on creeping back into your life. We want to get after the root cause of the problem and heal. A lot of people feel great after the first adjustment, but the reason why we're making this show is that it usually takes months to heal through serious neurological issues. We usually say in our office, the baseline is to give it 3 or 4 months. You can feel great in that time period, but as we were talking about before, the nervous system remembers everything.
At some point, you are going to start to heal through old traumas, injuries, and past emotional distress. This looks different for a lot of people. I do see some people where it's like a straight shot up. They do well. We explain retracing to everybody because does happen. We do have patients who are like, “I didn't feel sore, tired, or anything after my adjustment.” They feel good. You have patients like myself. It's a rough, rocky journey back to health.
It's important for us to distinguish between feeling better versus being better. Our society is focused on like, “If I feel better, I am better.” That's a lot of times when there is that quicker jump to surgery or something like that. You think about it because we're used to this concept of like, “If I go in and they fix this, that's going to get rid of the pain signal. I'm going to be better.” you can get rid of the pain signal, but you've also caused another trauma to your body.
I'm not saying that surgery is not warranted. There is a time and a place. Depending on what they need, it gives people their lives back. What we're talking about is an entirely different paradigm, where you're going in and you're saying, “What is blocking you from physically healing and expressing your full optimal wellness potential?” Dr. Ed Gigliotti said on that one show, “You're not expressing your full optimal wellness and vitality.” Upper Cervical care is going to go in and we're going to remove that interference that is preventing your nervous system and your body from going through a normal physiological process of healing itself, going in there, restoring it.
Your body has that opportunity. It's like you have a deck of cards. You have no idea what cards. They are all lying face down. Every time your body goes through this retracing cycle, it's removing this deck of cards which are representing the traumas and the things that need to be healed. Every time you're removing this and that, it might be different.
We have some patients that come in for vertigo. Vertigo might not move right away, but they're like, “I'm sleeping better. I don't have headaches. That neck tension is gone. My anxiety is better.” Your body has its own agenda. As much as we as doctors want to say, “This is going to get better right away,” as much as you're coming in with vertigo, tinnitus, maybe even lower back pain, neck pain, your body has its own agenda. You might have had an infection when you were young that caused some damage to the immune system.
Your body might go through and heal that first. That might be its priority because your nervous system has its own agenda. That's why it's giving time. The beauty of Upper Cervical care is this wonderful paradigm that your body has the capacity to heal itself if you give it time. In that same thing, it's about keeping things in place. It's not like traditional chiropractic or even physical therapy where it's like, “That time is going to look like maybe 6 to 8 months and you got to come in 2 to 3 times a week to do that.”
It’s getting the ball rolling, trust then that the body as long as we can keep things in alignment and the body will have that chance to do what it does best, which is heal itself up. That's where it's giving that time. You've been through that probably more. You've lived that more than most of our patients. Dr. Hall has been through it. Dr. Lee has been through it. Dr. Haber has been through it. Dr. Hubbard's been through it. That experience of you got to give the body time to do what it does. That's when the miracles happen, as the body heals.
One thing I want to jump into is how you know you're retracing and when you need an adjustment. Before we get into that, we had a patient. He has upwards of 5 or 6 serious neurological issues. He's been under care for probably about two weeks. He came in for vertigo, but under his vertigo, he gets migraines, neck pain, and nausea. He's got a list of things that go under that. Within the first couple of weeks, I asked him, “How's your vertigo?” He said, “Not too much change. I'm still dizzy.” We do our work up. He's holding. Right before he leaves, he says, “I used to get migraines six days out of the week. It's down to two right now. My vision is better.”
He's laser-focused on vertigo because it's his main complaint. It's debilitating. It's stayed the same in the first couple of weeks of care. As Dr. Jeff was saying, with that deck of cards, your body starts to heal through everything. It's got its own agenda. We don't know what it's going to start to heal first. His headaches are down to two times a week rather than six. It's only been a week or two under care. Sometimes it's tough for people to grasp that. That's amazing. You have 5 or 6 neurological things going on. Your main complaint is still the same, but your body is healing other things. There are other victories going on. It's going to keep getting better as the weeks and months go on, which brings us to our next point.
How do you know if you're retracing or you're in pain and need an adjustment? For Upper Cervical, depending on what office you go to, we use a series of tests to see if you're holding the adjustment. If somebody comes in and says, “I'm a mess. I'm dizzy. My neck is stiff. I'm tired. I have a headache,” we necessarily might not need to give them an adjustment. That's where I feel like some other chiropractic techniques might get in trouble. You have to have objective measures to see if that is still holding the alignment. We do a thermographic neck scan, and we measure the inflammation coming out of the neck.
Most likely, with retracing, the scan will look good or look completely different when that person is out of alignment. They don't need a neck adjustment because they're not in a pattern. There's no neurological insult to their skin. We do the leg check and their legs are balanced. Their posture analysis looks good, but they're still having these neurological symptoms. What you see is they're holding their adjustment.
We do some support work 2 or 3 days later. All those things that that person was feeling and complaining about go away and it starts. It's that ebb and flow of the retracing. It's amazing what you do when you put something back in place and leave it alone and let the body heal. Just because you're not feeling great does not mean you need an adjustment. It could be your body healing through those old injuries.
Robb Wolf has a quote that says, “If you're going through hell, keep going.” As much as we don't want you to have to experience that, you have to walk through that experience. On the other side of it is something truly special. If we were to hash that out into even more of like an objective thing for patients, we usually wind up telling patients, “If you're experiencing an increase in symptoms and it's 1 day or 2, give it time. Usually, if it's lasting for five-plus days, that now starts to get on the idea of maybe there is another segmental level that has shifted out of place. We need to put that back into place.”
After I get adjusted, it usually takes my body about I would say 4 or 5 days for everything to settle. Once it settles, everything feels much better. That's where it's being patient. It takes a little bit of educating a different paradigm. Just because you're experiencing symptoms doesn't necessarily mean something's out. If it's continuing to last, okay. Most of our patients are good and almost happy even if they're experiencing symptoms and you're like, “You're holding.” It's almost like that hope of my body is doing what it's supposed to do. It's a different concept you're normally educated on medically or health-wise growing up.
I can't tell you how unbelievable it is to not have to get an adjustment every time you're in the office. For somebody that went to regular chiropractic care 3 or 4 times a week for years, Upper Cervical was the first thing that was able to put the healing back in my hands where I would get an adjustment and would hold for months. Even if I wasn't feeling great, I knew it wasn't going to last long. It was going to feel better in a couple of days because my alignment was good.
Going to a chiropractic office, getting cracked and twisted, you might feel good for 1 hour or 2, 1 day or 2, but usually, those things come back. It's almost like a natural painkiller. It makes you feel good for a little bit. Structurally, you want to put everything back in to fix the alignment so everything falls into place and your body can heal itself, especially even when you're going through those retracing periods.
One thing I'm going to add on top of that that I always find cool as we're going through and we're seeing you when you objectively see patients retracing when news segments are showing up. I know you went through this. I went through this. It's cool when you're going through it. You're checking someone and they have their normal pattern showing up. All of a sudden, they come in. Usually, they're feeling a little bit different. They’re like, “Something doesn't feel right.” There's a new level that has shown up neurologically in their body.
It's like you get that in place and it's this whole another level of ramp-up. I know you said that happened to you. You were feeling better and then your C3 segment showed up. You got that adjusted. That unlocked another level. I know we did C3 and C7 on me. I'm excited to see how that does for the body. That's where it's cool as doctors see that retracing happening objectively and neurologically.
I'm glad you brought that up, Jeff. For patients, this is why we also say to give it at least four months because your body heals in layers. We write down every single misalignment on your 3D X-rays, but they don't necessarily show up. They can show up months later. We adjust what your body tells us what it wants to adjust. For the first couple of months, it might be C1 or C1, C2. Your spine starts to heal from the top down. Once that area starts getting taken care of, you might see a C3 show up 3 or 4 months down the road, a C5, or C6.
Other segments do show up. You can't adjust it until the body is neurologically ready to accept it. If you just take somebody's X-rays, you match up their misalignments, and then you give them the adjustment of all their misalignments, they're not going to feel great because their body wasn't neurologically ready to accept it. Everything we do, we go off your body showing us what it wants to get adjusted.
You have to give it time to rebalance and heal. Sometimes down the road, one of your major adjustments doesn't show up until 3, 4, or 5 months into care. That's why one of the main reasons is we find it usually takes about four months to stabilize the spine. You have to give your Upper Cervical Doctor a chance to find these segments because sometimes your body's not ready to accept one of your major misalignments. Sometimes it shows up down the road.
We would say probably about a year and a half into care. That's the first time either of those segments showed up. It's that patience of your body that has the capacity to go through and do wonderful things. That's what the beauty of retracing is. Your body will continue to walk you back to as optimal of a level of health as it possibly can if you give it the chance.
Some people that went through the retracing period as I did, asked me like, “How long did it take for you to get better?” I was like, “Do you want the honest answer?” I'm always honest with my patients because Dr. Drew Hall was honest with me. I don't sugarcoat anything. I want to be as upfront as possible. I remember the first 3 or 4 months in the care for me were rocky, up and down. I would have had a couple of good days, but I had more bad days than good ones. Keep in mind that I had upwards of 50 neurological symptoms on a daily basis. Your body doesn't get rid of that. The first 3 or 4 months of care were rough.
It was a roller coaster. A couple of good days, a couple of days where I felt like shit and couldn't get out of bed. I remember around the four-month mark, I started having more good days than bad. I was still having some bad days, but the light at the end of the tunnel was getting bigger. I was having also good days. That was unlike me because I never had a good day in five years. I remember looking in the mirror around the eight-month mark. I remember saying, “I'm not getting those headaches anymore. My blurred vision is better. My hand tremors are gone.” It does take a long time. It took me about a year and a half to feel completely healed.
When I tell people this, people think, “I don't have a year and a half. I don't have that time.” That was the same exact response I gave Dr. Drew Hall. It's not like it's going to suck for a year and a half. You are going to feel marginally better, but you're still going to have those retracing bad days, ups and downs. It's going to ebb and flow, but the light at the end of the tunnel gets bigger and bigger after every month. You get more hope and you get closer to that finish line.
At first, I felt like my old self was back around eight months like, “I'm back.” A year and a half into it, I felt better than I ever did before the injury. Your body still does good healing. Three months in, six months in, nine months in, a year in, two years in, you still continue to get better. It doesn't level off. It keeps optimizing and getting better.
That's important for prospective patients to know. You give it time. That's not to say that for that whole time when you were under care with Dr. Drew that you were in there 3 or 4 times a week. That's not the goal of Upper Cervical care. The goal is to make sure it's in place and let it be. It's a testament to your body has that opportunity, that capacity, and the internal power to go through and heal. It's a different paradigm. It's a different way of thinking than our normal medical upbringing. It 100% can change lives. That's where our lives get changed.
A lot of people see our TikTok videos and our Instagram videos, and they see one adjustment. They think that's all it takes. While one adjustment can last and hold for months to years, the true healing takes place over time. Everybody knows Instagram and TikTok. It's not reality. I try to make it a point when I interview my patients that are feeling good, “How long have you been under care?” Some of them say 1 year, 1 and 1/2 years, or 6 months. We don't interview anybody that's been under care for one week.
We don't have any one-hit wonders.
We do, but it's the first week. Some people come back and they are like, “My life is changed. This is awesome.” We're like, “It's been one week. We are happy for you, but you still got a long way to go here.” We never ask people to give testimony 1 week into care or 2 weeks into care. We want them to stabilize and heal. We usually wait 4, 6, 8 months, or 1 year into care to give that testimony. You see a lot of big changes and permanent healing take place, not just covering things with Band-Aids.”
To the point that needs to be underlined, it’s permanent healing. We want symptoms to get better, but we know to keep symptoms better and to keep that present and the persistence of those symptoms from coming back, you need to give the body that. You need all those structures. We've talked about it. A structure can drive function.
We are not only optimizing the nervous system, but you’re also allowing the joints, the joint capsules, everything that holds those joints in together, the muscles, the tendons, the ligaments, the connective tissue, and the fascia. All these complex, interconnected systems are going to heal along the way as well as the nervous system gets optimized. As that coordination and function begin to get better, these things are going to heal. That's going to help, from a structural standpoint, keep everything in place as well. That's it. It's a feedback loop. It keeps building and building on top of itself.
We went over retracing back to health, what retracing is, and how it relates to Upper Cervical care. Dr. Jeff and I love doing these for you, guys. This was one topic that we've got several requests about. I'm happy we got it done. If you have any other topics that you want us to cover, we're going to try to do these as often as possible. Thank you so much, everybody, for reading, subscribing, looking at our videos, and supporting us. It means the world. We will hopefully see you next episode. Everybody, have a great week. Thanks for tuning in.
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