Oh, My Aching Back! – Lately, more and more of my patients are coming in to see me complaining of back pain. Some attribute their pain to the sudden change in South Florida’s temps, some identify the cause as a fall, a wrenching movement, a too strenuous gym workout while others describe chronic pain that has just gotten worse. While the phrase, “Oh, my aching back!” seems to be on everyone’s lips these days, as a chiropractor, I see each individuals’ aches and pains differently – and as such – the cause and treatment of their pain is uniquely theirs. It’s important that you understand that your back pain can come from a variety of sources – and because of this – again – chiropractic treatment varies from individual to individual.
I believe that patient education is vital – so it is important for you to know that when you say “back pain”, it can be any number of things. Back pain is the leading cause of disability in people younger than 45 and many things can contribute to it. It’s also important for you to know that chiropractic can work to reverse your pain.
Let’s begin with what I refer to as “Back Pain 101”:
Back pain is often related to problems with your spine. If something is “off” in your spinal joints, muscles, discs and or nerves around the spine, you can have pain. Your medical doctor may have told you have a “herniated or slipped disc”. This is when the soft tissue within your discs is worn out by wear and tear. Because a herniated disc presses on nerves, the pain caused can be in your lower back as well as in your hip area. Some people have what we call “bulging discs”, which protrude out the back. These are usually not painful – unless they are pressing on a nerve. As people get older, they may experience back pain from a simple degeneration of the disc, known as “degenerative disc disease.” Simply put, as we age, our discs, which act as shock absorbers between our spine’s vertebrae, shrink and tear, causing the bones to rub together.
There is a place where your spine and pelvis meet; this is known as the sacroiliac joint. This is an important joint to know about; while it doesn’t move much, it is still responsible for coordinating movement between your upper and lower body. This joint is protected, but swelling and repeated wear and tear on the cartilage can happen after an injury, from arthritis, various types of infections and in many women, sometimes from pregnancy.
One also has to consider the trauma our backs take in various accidents and injuries that all of us may experience at some time. Whether it is a pinched nerve, a sprained muscle, or even a fracture caused by a fall or a car accident, back pain is a reality of modern life. In addition, there are numerous lifestyle triggers that cause back pain as well, including, but not limited to, slouching at one’s desk, lifting heavy objects, carrying excess weight and not getting adequate exercise. We sit bent over our laptops, our tablets and our phones. And ladies, those stiletto high heels you adore? Trust me, they may look terrific, but you back does not approve!
Another point that is often overlooked is the part one’s mental health plays in the health of their back. Stress can lead to muscle tension in the neck, shoulders and back. Depression and anxiety may make the pain worse.
It has been estimated that by the end of 2018, almost 18 million adults and some 3 million children and adolescents will have received chiropractic care for back issues. Studies in pain management have shown the success of chiropractic – both in managing and eliminating back pain. More and more people are giving surgery and prescriptive drugs a pass, seeking instead a more natural, conservative approach to back pain.
I know that many people view chiropractors primarily as pain specialists, but it is also important for you to know that the world of chiropractic is diverse and growing as our knowledge of preventative health practices grow. Progressive chiropractic include innovative approaches to treat back pain. The field now includes functional (or chiropractic) neurology and there is more of an emphasis on collaborative treatments, including acupuncture, physical therapy and massage.
In the October, 2018 edition of “Natural Awakenings”, in an article entitled, ‘Changes in Chiropractic – Adapting Integrative Modalities’, the authors write…
“While the common focus is better health through spinal manipulation, the origins of chiropractic are manifold. Typical approaches for structural issues and injuries include spinal adjustments, therapeutic ultra sound and heat therapy as well as nutritional counseling. Massage modalities, combined with chiropractic, are widely recognized to significantly increase circulation and improve range of motion. Acupuncture and massage, when used in conjunction with chiropractic treatment, enhances muscle relaxation and fosters easier adjustments.”
Regular chiropractic treatments focus on spinal manipulation and alignment to aid both the body’s self-healing properties and aid in pain management. Most manipulations are done by hand. It involves moving a joint in your spine to the end of its range, followed by a slight thrust. This is often called an “adjustment” as it realigns the bones in your spine and helps to make them straighter, thereby reducing pressure on the central nervous system.
See a full list of Conditions Treated with Chiropractic Care
I work closely with my patients, and if they wish, with their medical doctors as well. Individual treatment plans may include one or more manual adjustments, as well as demonstrating some exercises for the patient to do at home. I use both heat and ice as needed and as preferred by the patient. Because I believe in an holistic approach to health care – as well as preventative health care – I may make some dietary suggestions, as well as to suggest other modalities, such as acupuncture or massage. I am fortunate to be at a facility where empathetic and licensed acupuncturists and massage therapists work in tandem with myself and the other doctors.
Why is such collaboration a benefit for you as the patient?
Chiropractor Kody. B Johnson, of the Johnson Chiropractic and Holistic Health Center in In Columbia, Missouri is also a board certified acupuncturist and specializes in functional medicine. He writes that, “Chiropractic treatment addresses results of physical stress. Functional medicine looks at emotional and biochemical stress. The chiropractic paradigm is based on the premise that the body has an inborn ability to heal itself. If the only method a provider has to offer is chiropractic adjustments, then they will have cases where the patient’s condition doesn’t fully improve because there may be other factors at play, including nutritional deficiencies, toxicities and emotional stress. When we address other relevant issues, we find that patients ‘hold’ their adjustments longer.”
Let me tell you that I do not think anyone should walk around in pain – just because they are “used to it”. I’ve had patients tell me their arthritic pain is hereditary and there is nothing they can do. New and emerging treatments happen almost daily.
Come see me for a free consultation – I would love to make you pain-free!
Yours in Health!
- Lemmon R, Roseen EJ. Chronic low back pain. In: Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 67.
- Perlman A. Complementary and alternative medicine. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 39.
- Puentedrua E. Spinal manipulation. In: Giangarra CE, Manske RC, eds. Clinical Orthopaedic Rehabilitation: A Team Approach. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier;2018:chap 78.
- Rubinstein SM, van Middelkoop M, Assendelft WJ, de Boer MR, van Tulder MW. Spinal manipulative therapy for chronic low-back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(2):CD008112. PMID: 21328304 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21328304.
- Walker BF, French SD, Grant W, Green S. Combined chiropractic interventions for low-back pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(4):CD005427. PMID: 20393942 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20393942.
- Donato, Marlaina. Multifaceted Chiropractic. Natural Awakenings, October,2018