Eighty percent of people suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections. In fact, it is estimated that low back pain affects more than half of the adult population each year and more than 10% of all people experience frequent bouts of low back pain.
The susceptibility of the low back to injury and pain is due to the fact that the low back, like the neck, is a very unstable part of the spine. Unlike the thoracic spine, which is supported and stabilized by the rib cage, this instability allows us to have a great deal of mobility to touch our toes, tie our shoes or pick something up from the ground, but at the cost of increased risk of injury.
As long as it is properly aligned and functioning correctly, the low back can withstand tremendous forces without injury. Professional power-lifters can pick up hundreds of pounds without injuring their low back. However, if the low back is out of alignment or has weakened supporting muscles, something as simple as taking a bag of groceries out of the trunk of their car, picking something up off the floor, or even simply bending down to pet the cat can cause a low back injury.
Until recently, researchers believed that back pain would heal on its own. We have learned, however, that this is not true. Recent studies showed that when back pain is not cared for properly, while it may go away temporarily, it will often return and become a chronic condition. It is important to take low back pain seriously and seek professional chiropractic care. This is especially true with pain that recurs over and over again.
The Causes of Low Back Pain
There are many different conditions that can result in low back pain, including: subluxations (misalignments), sprained ligaments, strained muscles, ruptured disks, trigger points and inflamed joints. While sports injuries or accidents can lead to injury and pain, sometimes even the simplest movements, like picking up a pencil from the floor, can have painful results. In addition, conditions such as arthritis, poor posture, obesity, psychological stress and even kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots, or bone loss can lead to pain.
There are many things that can cause low back pain, and some of those things can be quite serious if left untreated. It is important to seek professional help. Chiropractors are the experts at diagnosing the cause and determining the proper care for low back pain. Here are some of the most common causes of low back pain:
- Subluxations – Whenever there is a disruption in the normal movement or position of the vertebrae, the result is pain, inflammation, and nerve irritation. In the lumbar spine, these often occur at the transition between the lower spine and the sacrum. Subluxations can lead to debilitating low back pain. The nerves exiting the low back also supply the organs of reproduction and elimination, so it is common for people to have problems with constipation, diarrhea, menstrual problems, bladder problems and more. Fortunately, correcting subluxations with specific chiropractic adjustments restores alignment and motion to the spine. This allows not only restored mobility and proper function, but also ensures that each and every cell are receiving nerve flow from that spinal level.
- Disc Problems – The two main functions of the disc are to allow for motion of the spine and to separate the vertebrae to prevent pressure on the nerve roots exiting between each two vertebrae. There are two major problems that can occur with discs: they can degenerate or herniate.
- Degeneration – The proper motion of the spine helps the disc rehydrate after a day of wear and tear. If the vertebrae become subluxated and/or fixated, they do not move properly, so they do not rehydrate. They literally begin to dry out. This is called degenerative arthritis, degenerative joint disease, and also degenerative disc disease. These three terms are all synonymous and stem from one thing: subluxation of the spine. A healthy spine does not degenerate. This degenerative process is not the result of aging or genetics. It results from past trauma, injuries, or impacts which have not been properly cared for.
- Herniation or Bulges – The other disc problem also has to do with improper alignment and is called herniation. This occurs because of abnormal motion from long-term subluxation. There are varying degrees of herniation, from a mild bulging to full-blown large herniation of the disc. Herniated discs in the low back can be a source of intense and debilitating pain that frequently radiates down the legs. In years past, it was thought that surgery was the only solution for both of these problems. But that is not the case. See below for non-surgical solutions to heal disc problems.
- Sprains, Strains and Spasms – This is commonly the source of low back pain among the weekend warriors. You know, the type who has very little physical activity during the week, but once the weekend arrives, they push themselves way too much. By the end of the weekend, they are lying flat on their back counting down the hours before they can get in to see their chiropractor. Overworking the muscles or ligaments of the low back can lead to small tears in the tissues, which then become painful, swollen and tight. This kind of injury also tends to cause spinal subluxations due to the underlying poor tone of muscles.
- Stress – Whenever you become stressed, your body responds by increasing your blood pressure and heart rate, flooding your body with stress hormones and tightening up your muscles. When you are stressed all the time, the chronic tension causes your muscles to become tight, sore, weak and loaded with trigger points. If you are stressed out all of the time and you have low back pain, it is important to do some relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing, as well as get regular exercise. Regular adjustments play a huge role in helping the body adapt to the stresses of modern life.
The Solution to Low Back Pain – The Chiropractic Adjustment
Chiropractic care for low back pain is usually pretty straightforward. Most commonly, it’s simply a matter of adjusting the lower lumbar vertebrae and pelvis to re-establish normal motion and position of your bones and joints. And then the real miracle occurs. Your body knows how to heal itself. It does it all the time. Chiropractors simply restore alignment and nerve flow back to the cells, and you do the rest.
Chiropractic for the low back has been repeatedly shown to be the most effective care for low back pain. In fact, major studies have shown that chiropractic care is more effective, cheaper and has better long-term outcomes than any other treatment. This makes sense because chiropractic care is the only method of treatment that serves to re-establish normal vertebral motion and position in the spine. All other treatments, such as muscle relaxants, pain killers and bed rest, only serve to decrease symptoms temporarily and do not correct the underlying problem itself. In fact, research now finds that bed rest and pain killers are contraindicated for low back pain. Motion heals the joints of the spine, whereas bed rest further weakens the spine. Pain killers simply mask the pain and make you think you can do more than you should. Sadly, we are also now dealing with the “Opioid Epidemic” from the over prescribing of these drugs. Pain is not your enemy. It helps you know there is a problem and how you are really doing. The adjustment is the natural solution, treating cause, not effect.
Try chiropractic care, before surgery
From 2001 to 2011, the number of spinal fusion surgeries performed in U.S. hospitals increased 70%, making them more frequently performed than even hip replacements. This surgery is radical and should be reserved for extreme situations where all else has failed. In our office, well over 90% of the patients we accept for care resolve with conservative, safe chiropractic care, without drugs and surgery. We use a protocol which consists of Cox Flexion/Distraction Technique*, specific segmental adjustments, Cold Laser, lumbar belts, and specific anti-inflammatory supplements. The adjustments in the office are supported by specific stretches and exercises you do at home to accelerate healing. We will have a very honest conversation about the likelihood of you being helped by our care and to what degree. We pledge to always tell you if you could benefit from something in addition to or instead of care in our office.
*Note: the Cox Technique is quite different from “Spinal Decompression”. With “Spinal Decompression”, you must adapt to the forces used. In our office, the Cox Technique is performed only by the doctor. The movements are gentle, slow, and specific to the disc in trouble. The doctor’s hands are on you at all times, allow the doctor to feel exactly what is happening and adapt the pressure and force to your specific needs. The gentle movements of the table, along with the placement of the doctor’s hands, create a negative vacuum effect, which helps suck the protruding disc back into its proper place .
Click below to see exactly how the Cox Flexion/Distraction technique is performed.