After upper-respiratory infections, back pain is the second most common reason for visiting a doctor. It will affect 80% of us at some point in our lives, and half of all adults are estimated to suffer this every single year, with over 10% of people suffering ongoing bouts of low back pain.
The reason low-back injuries are so prevalent is that this is a highly unstable part of the spine, much like the neck. Whereas the thoracic spine is supported and stabilized by the rib cage, the upper and lower spinal areas are on their own, so to speak. It is to our benefit in one way because it allows us greater flexibility to carry out more tasks, but it also makes us vulnerable to injury.
Having said that, provided the low back is cared for, it is able to offer immense support and withstand great forces. If that were not so, power lifters would not be able to do what they do, hoisting hundreds of pounds of weights off the floor. On the other hand, if your low back is weak or misaligned, even the lightest of movements can create problems.
The old approach to low back pain and injury was to let it heal on its own, as it was assumed this happened naturally. Recent research shows that this is not the case; it may ease for a while but often returns. This points to the importance of promptly attending to any low back pain through chiropractic care to prevent a recurrence.
Low-back pain can result from many conditions, such as sprained ligaments, strained muscles, ruptured disks, myofascial pain (muscular trigger points), and inflamed joints. It can happen following an obviously traumatic incident such as during hard sport, or it can be triggered by something as simple as sneezing where a weakness existed previously. It may also be the result of conditions such as arthritis, bad posture, obesity, mental stress, kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots or bone loss.
This great variety of causes means it is very important not to assume the reason for any low back pain you may be experiencing. Professional help should be sought to identify the problem, or to at least rule out anything more serious. Doctors of chiropractic are specially trained in assessing low back pain, and offering appropriate treatment.
Common Causes of Low-Back Pain
- Subluxations – This refers to disruptions in the normal movement or position of the vertebrae, resulting in often debilitating pain and inflammation. In the lumbar spine, it is the point between the lower spine and the sacrum that is most usually subluxated. Thankfully, chiropractic treatment can effectively remedy subluxations, reducing pain and inflammation, and this improvement is often instantly felt following treatment.
- Herniated discs – It may surprise you that a herniated disc does not necessarily cause any discomfort in the low back. One study showed that half of those adults suffering from herniated or bulging discs did not even know it. However, a herniated disc can refer serious pain to other parts of the body, and they rarely recover to their previously perfect state. Chiropractic care is an effective way to retard this deterioration.
- Sprains, strains and spasms – Individuals who lead fairly sedentary lives during the week and then go a little crazy at the weekend are most prone to this kind of low back pain. Someone who perhaps has a game of soccer or a hard game of squash to blow out the cobwebs can end up overstressing themselves very quickly, suffering injuries that cause pain and inflammation.
- Stress – Mental stress causes your blood pressure and heart rate to rise, and stress hormones to flood your system. This leads to a tightening of the muscles, which are then more susceptible to injury. Ongoing muscular tension makes them weak, sore and full of trigger points, which are small concentrated knots that refer pain to other parts of the body, sometimes quite distant from the trigger point. Relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and physical exercise are all important in combating stress.
Chiropractic Treatment of Low Back Pain
Low-back pain is bread and butter to a doctor of chiropractic, and usually treated with comparative ease. Adjustments are made to the lower lumbar vertebrae and pelvis, thus returning normal functioning to your bones and joints. Numerous studies have shown that chiropractic is the most effective treatment for low back pain, being cheaper to administer and producing far better long-term improvements. This is because it is only chiropractic that seeks to realign the spine and re-establish normal vertebral motion. Conventional treatments such as muscle relaxants, pain killers and bed rest do no more than temporarily mask the symptoms, and do not attend to or correct the root cause of the problem.
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