Chiropractic for Back Pain
Eight out of 10 people in the United States will at one time in their lives suffer from back pain, with only the common cold affecting more people. Many times the pain is not temporary, leaving an estimated 5.4 million Americans disabled by lower back pain. An astonishing $90 billion in medical and other related costs are spent to address the ailment each year. The positive side of this news is that back pain can be prevented, or treated with effective methods of alternative medical treatment, especially chiropractic. Because 90 percent of all back pain is mechanical—less than 5 percent is caused by nerve root pain—chiropractic offers the most logical solution in treating this ailment. Even chronic pain—any that lasts continually for longer than three months—might not require surgery if treated properly. Avoiding surgery, and pain is always good news!
Whether the pain is caused by injury or disease, focusing on the exact location will affect treatment. Though the term back pain normally refers to low back pain, and is centered in the area known as the lumbar spine, pain can also affect the thoracic spine, with the pain focused in the middle back. Back pain can be also be categorized as sciatica—an indication that the pain is radiating into the legs possibly even below the knee. Sciatica is associated with a herniated disc than can result in severe leg pain due to the pinching of a nerve in the lower back.
As common as it is, lower back pain is not usually a sign of serious illness. At least half of the people who suffer form back pain at any given time in their lives find relief in less than two weeks, with others healed within eight weeks. Only about 10 percent of back pain cases are caused by a systemic illness.
Why use Chiropractic for Back Pain?
Research has indicated that spinal manipulation—the primary method used by chiropractic to treat back pain—provides mild to moderate relief, and is often more effective than traditional medical practices in treating the condition. The studies did show that spinal manipulative therapy used by chiropractors in more than 600 cases provided a relief from pain for up to 18 months.
Side effects from these treatments are minimal. Pain that might result from treatment most often disappears within a couple of days. In rare cases, a complication arises known as cauda equina syndrome—when the nerves in the lower part of the spinal cord become compressed. The condition can result in pain, weakness, and loss of sensation in one or both legs. Bowel and bladder control might also be affected. By the early twenty-first century, research is ongoing to develop other forms of spinal manipulation.
In addition to spinal manipulation, other treatments chiropractors might use would include vitamin therapy—to increase a balance of nutrients that can stimulate health and result in less pain; and, massage—that allows relief of the tension or knots in the lower back and eliminate pain and the stiffness that might precede it.
Chiropractic offers a viable alternative to invasive procedures such as surgery, and the use of medications that can produce harmful side effects.
How Can Chiropractic Help Back Pain?
Results have shown that chiropractic spinal manipulation will relieve the majority of low-back pain. Because spinal manipulation has proven to ease pain as significantly as conventional treatment, health care professionals now address it as a viable option to treat back pain.
Back pain is often a result of conditions, diseases, or even lifestyle that can be altered by chiropractic procedures and practices. In chiropractic, the person is treated in a holistic way that will address overall health. In addition to spinal manipulation that results in a more immediate pain relief with a spinal adjustment, or a series of adjustments, chiropractic addresses prevention. As an ongoing part of an active lifestyle, chiropractic will address health and diet issues that might cause or aggravate back pain, and encourage proper exercise that can aid body movement.
What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is a health care system based on the premise that the human body is self-regulating, and self-healing. It is focused on disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems—and chiropractic addresses these disorders as they affect a person’s health. A chiropractor commonly performs a manipulation, or spinal adjustment. The treatment is usually done by hand, but can be done with a device. Forceful pressure will be applied to a joint, which helps to increase the joint’s range of motion.
Daniel David Palmer founded the modern-day chiropractic profession 1895. He believed that this ancient form of healing was far more beneficial to the human body than modern medicine with its increasing dependence on medications that might relieve pain but did not address the real problem. His idea, and the idea underlying chiropractic, is that the key to health is the nervous system with the spine at its center. If it is adjusted properly, movement can continue properly, and a person will maintain better health.
Some holistic healthcare professionals make a distinction between the two schools of chiropractors—the straight practitioner, and the mixed. The straight chiropractors are those who follow Palmer’s doctrine and believe that subluxations—mechanical disturbances to the spinal bones causing movement and loss of the normal position, leading to nerve irritation—are the root cause of most physical disorders. An estimated 15 percent of all chiropractors are considered to be in this category. The members of the profession, who believe that while chiropractic manipulation is a crucial tool in treating disease other factors such as bacteria or viruses can also be a cause of disease, are the mixed chiropractors. But all chiropractors believe that the body’s health is affected by these subluxations—and that any deviation from the normal spinal position will lower a person’s resistance and provide the perfect environment for a breakdown of health.
The most common forms of chiropractic treatment in addition to spinal manipulation include:
- Electrical stimulation
- Massage therapy
- Heat and ice
- Rehabilitative exercise
- Diet, weight loss or other lifestyle consultation
- Dietary supplements
Back pain is one of the most common conditions for which chiropractic treatment is provided, and the primary reason for which people seek complementary or alternative medical treatments.
What Causes Back Pain?
The answer of what causes back pain is as surprisingly simple as its definition. The primary reason that people experience back pain is nothing other than years of bad posture, incorrect lifting, the lack of appropriate exercise, and other lifestyle factors—from sitting improperly to poor work habits.
Other factors that can cause back pain include:
Mechanical problems—resulting from:
- Disc breakdown, or ruptured discs
- Muscle spasms
- Herniated intervertebral disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis (DISH)
- Muscle strain due to physical activity, or bad posture
Diseases and conditions, such as:
- Kidney stones
Back pain can also result from traumatic injury, or tumors.
Back pain normally does not require extensive tests for diagnosis. A health care professional such as an orthopedic doctor, chiropractor, or physical therapist might take only a personal history and perform a medical examination.
Be on the alert if back pain includes numbness either in the back or in the legs, a tingling sensation, trouble urinating, weakness or fatigue, fever, or weight loss. Consulting a health care professional is essential because these could be indications that a more serious condition exists.
Acute pain that results from an injury such as a fall, a tackle in football, or lifting heavy objects will last less than six weeks. This type of back pain is likely to be treated with some mild pain reliever such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen. Chronic back pain is usually more difficult to treat—depending on the cause.
"An Introduction to Chiropractic." National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
"Spinal Manipulation for Low-Back Pain." National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.