Lower Back Pain
Years of abusing your back (poor posture, improper lifting and the lack of body conditioning) make the back prone to injury. The lower back is particularly vulnerable and the dysfunction of its major joints can lead to painful results. Other pain-sensitive structures can be stretched, torn and distorted. Using spinal adjustments and other techniques, your chiropractor can treat many of the common low back problems described below.
Facet syndrome (back sprain) is most often brought on by a sudden movement or injury, often following years of back neglect, and results in pain and stiffness and difficulty moving. You may find yourself bent off to one side.
Sacroiliac syndrome occurs from a sudden injury or movement and is felt as a sudden pain in the hip area. You have difficulty changing positions and the pain can be excruciating. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate from a facet syndrome or disc herniation. This is the most commonly misdiagnosed back problem, usually called a muscle pull.
Herniated (slipped) discs are brought on by a sudden movement, often lifting, on top of general wear and tear and may cause severe pain in the back and legs. It takes quite a while to build up and may take quite a while to get better.
Muscle and ligament Strain is most often caused by poor posture or an old untreated back injury. Symptoms are chronic backaches with occasional spasms.
Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) is most common among teenage girls. It is important that it be screened for after the age of 10. Your chiropractor can show you how. While few symptoms may occur, the long term effects can be quite significant.
Is lower back pain really a serious problem?
First of all, if it makes life more difficult for you, that's serious in itself. Even if it goes away in a few days, you haven't really gotten rid of the problem. It will most likely return and, if left untreated, could be more debilitating the next time. Which is why we recommend seeing a chiropractor at the first sign of back pain.
Lower back pain can also be accompanied by a variety of symptoms, some of which indicate very serious problems. Do you currently have or have you ever had:
- Leg pain with numbness, tingling and/or weakness?
- Back or leg pain with coughing or sneezing?
- Difficulty standing up after sitting for any period of time?
- Morning stiffness?
- Pain after extended walking?
- Pain in the hip, buttock, thigh, knee or foot?
If you've answered "yes" to any of these symptoms, it's time you got help from a doctor. A doctor of chiropractic.
What are herniated discs?
The 24 vertebrae of your spine are separated from one another by pads of cartilage called discs. These discs have a fairly tough outer layer with a soft interior to cushion against the shocks and strains experienced as you move and put various stresses on your spine. The discs are subject to injury, disease, and degeneration with use over time. Certain activities and types of work increase the risk of discs being damaged or deteriorating. When the soft interior material of a disc pushes out through a tear or weakening in the outer covering, the disc is said to be herniated.
Herniated discs are also called protruding, bulging, ruptured, prolapsed, slipped, or degenerated discs. There are fine distinctions between these terms, but all really refer to a disc that is no longer in its normal condition and/or position. Herniated discs cause pain by impinging on (intruding upon, irritating, and pinching) and even injuring nerves in the spinal column.
What are some of the typical symptoms of herniated discs?
Most disc herniation takes place in the lower back (lumbar spine). The second most common site of herniation is the neck (cervical spine). A herniated lumbar disc may send pain shooting down through your buttock and thigh into the back of your leg (sciatica). Cervical disc herniation may cause pain in the shoulder, arm, and hand. Herniated discs can cause muscle weakness, make it hard to get up when you've been sitting or lying down, cause pain when you strain to do something, even when you cough or sneeze. They sometimes produce pain in the lower right side of the abdomen. Herniated discs may also affect nerves to the bladder and bowel, causing incontinence. This symptom signals the need for immediate, emergency attention.
What can chiropractic do?
There is broad acceptance among health care professionals and the public of the recommendation that the pain from herniated discs be initially treated conservatively. That is, as long as there are no signs (such as severe pain, numbness, or functional impairment from nerve involvement) of the need for more invasive treatment, two or three months of chiropractic care may be the best choice before considering to spinal surgery or shots of analgesics (painkillers) in your back. And only a minority of disc herniations turn out to require treatment as traumatic and costly as hospitalization and surgery or with as many side effects (especially for older people) as opioid analgesics and muscle relaxants.
The term Sciatica refers to pain, numbness and occasionally muscle weakness in the area supplied by the sciatic nerve, i.e. hip, buttock, posterior thigh, calf and foot. The patient may experience a crawling sensation over the affected area and an inability to walk on his toes or heels due to muscle weakness. There are many possible causes for sciatica, but the most frequent cause has been found to be faulty alignment and mechanics of the lower spine and pelvis. Such faulty alignment serves to compress or irritate the sciatic nerve with a resulting painful inflammation of the nerve. Faulty spinal-pelvic alignment may result from a single fall, accident or unusual exercise or such structural deficits may develop gradually as part of an over all posture distortion pattern.
The top three ways the sciatic nerve is injured:
- The nerve openings between adjacent vertebrae in the lower back may be partially occluded by a misaligned or subluxated vertebra. Nerves which make up the sciatic nerve are compressed and irritated as they pass through the partially occluded openings.
- A sacro-iliac subluxation or distortion may exert a direct pressure on the sciatic nerve.
- The deep muscles of the buttock may be placed under unusual stress by a faulty pelvic alignment. the stretched or even collapsed muscles may squeeze and irritate the sciatic nerve as it passes between them.