Low Back Pain

When your lower back hurts

Low back problems are very common. Many people have more than one episode of low back pain that continues without relief. If you have low back problems, you are clearly not alone.

Standard medical management of back pain often involves medications such as painkillers and muscle relaxants. When the condition doesn’t improve or even worsens, surgery may be performed.

A 1994 report from the federal government’s Agency for Health Care Policy and Research concluded that chiropractic care is the safest, drug-free initial form of treatment for acute low back problems in adults. The study also recommended that for most patients, conservative treatment such as spinal manipulation should be pursued before surgical intervention is considered.

Evidence-and the experiences of millions of chiropractic patients-suggests that chiropractic is often the most effective approach to reducing pain and helping recovery, especially within the first month of symptoms.

What causes low back pain?

Falls, car accidents, sports strains and injuries, heavy lifting, or repetitive work may cause damage to the back. Often the vertebrae (spinal bones) are involved in this damage. Because the vertebrae protect the nerves that travel through the spinal column, even a small change in their position can profoundly affect delicate nerve tissue. Degenerative changes in the vertebrae also can irritate or inflame delicate nerves.

Another cause of low back pain can be problems with a disc (the fibrous cushion between each vertebra). A bulging or ruptured disc can irritate nerves that travel from the spinal cord. This may cause buttock or leg pain, numbness. tingling or weakness in the legs.

Finally, problems can occur due to wear and tear on the back as we age. Arthritic changes in the spinal bones such as spurs (abnormal bony growths), disc degeneration (breakdown of the discs), and muscle or ligament weakness may change the normal, healthy curve of the lumbar spine. This can lead to irritation of the nerves in the spine.

Low back problems are more common in people who are in poor physical condition and those with jobs that include heavy lifting, lots of bending, or long periods of sitting or standing. Emotional stress or long periods of inactivity may intensify symptoms or trigger the recurrence of a previous problem. But anyone can have a low back problem.

How chiropractic can help

The chiropractic approach to treating low back pain is to find the source of the problem and correct it, not just to treat the symptoms. By correcting the source of the problem, the body can heal naturally. Low back pain often responds dramatically to the restoration or normal position and motion of the vertebrae through chiropractic care.

The chiropractor’s primary tool in treating spinal malfunction is the use of adjustments (spinal manipulation). Applying precisely directed force to a spinal joint that is out of position or not moving properly helps gradually restore it to a more normal position and function. Depending on each individual condition, the doctor’s hands or a special instrument may be used to deliver quick, therapeutic thrust to the affected joint. Other adjustments require slow, constant pressure.

Your chiropractor may also recommend therapies to compliment your adjustments. These include exercises to strengthen and retrain back muscles, hot or cold compresses, or massage. Lifestyle changes such as eating a healthier diet and reducing stress may also be suggested.