At some point in our lives it’s expected that all of us will experience back pain. It’s almost accepted as a fact of life by many. Back pain is the leading cause of disability around the world, with 50% of American workers reported having experienced low back pain, as much as 80% the worlds population reporting the same.
Low back pain can present symptoms in so many different ways that it’s almost as unique as the individual. For the sake of simplicity we can categorize them as: muscle strain, facet irritation, SI joint sprain, disc herniation, and sciatica.
- Muscle Strain: Muscle strain is one of the more common injuries that can lead to back pain, and is not considered a serious condition (even though it may feel like one)! Commonly these occur during exercise or other physical activity and have a very good prognosis. At a chiropractors office muscle strains can be helped with the adjustment, stretching, soft tissue therapies, and ice packs. Other management would be prescription muscle relaxers and NSAID medications, like ibuprofen.
- Facet Joint Irritation: This is another very common and, thankfully, not serious condition. When you involve a joint in an injury it makes things more complicated. Picture your facet joints like two dinner plates stacked on top of each other that slide back and forth over each other. When the ligaments around that joint become irritated the brain reacts by tightening the muscles in your back to stop movement at that joint. However, that lack of movement designed to protect the joint also stops the joint from preforming the movement necessary to push out that inflammation. This is where the adjustment comes in, to get those joints moving again, speeding up the healing process and helping to reduce pain.
- Sacro-Iliac Joint Sprain: That joint is similar in kind to the facet joints because it’s also two essentially flat surfaces that glide against each other. It’s a very subtle movement, but it’s crucial to proper lower back and even hip movement. If that joint is locked up it can cause a lot of pain, which is why a chiropractic manipulation is so effective. Other treatments like NSAIDs and stretches can help temporarily, but until that joint is moving properly again those treatments tend to be just band aids.
- Disc Herniation: Before we get too deep, I’d like to dispel a common misunderstanding. There’s no such thing as a “slipped disc”, as if it slid out between your vertebral bones like a sports car on a wet road. The disc has two main parts, the nucleus (the ball deep in center of the disc) and the annulus (tough collagen surrounding the disc, providing shape and strong connection to the vertebral bones). A herniation can be as little as a bit of the annulus material pushing against (but not breaking through) the annulus ALL the way to the extreme of the annulus material being pushed out into the spine. Here’s the kicker: sometimes people have a bad herniation and don’t know it. Some people have a very tiny herniation that causes excruciating pain. It’s really all the luck (or un-luck) of if that annulus material hits surrounding nerves or not. When it does it can often resent as that pain that will go all the way down to your toes. This is actually handy because doctors can figure out not on where a disc is herniated but also in which direction it has herniated by which toes have pain/tingling/numbness. Here’s the good news, most disc herniations will resolve on their own over time. Chiropractors can help your bodies process of sucking those materials back in and patch up by facilitating proper movement through adjustments, exercises, and distraction techniques.
- Sciatica: Finally we have the King of nerve entrapments. Sciatica is often blamed for any kind of shooting or radiating pain down the leg, but from a clinical perspective for us doctors it is specifically pain going down the back of the leg, and even into the feet and toes. The piece of anatomy in question is the sciatic nerve which is actually a collection of nearly half a dozen nerves out of your spine that all bind together to travel as one big unit, which is why some disc herniations cause sciatica. This hulk of a nerve passes under the piriformis muscle, which when tight can compress that nerve. In some unlucky individuals the sciatic can actual pass THROUGH the different fibers of the piriformis. Chiropractic adjustments can help sciatica, especially if it comes from the low back. However, if it’s truly from the piriformis muscle your chiropractor will release that muscle and give you stretches to help.
Let our team of chiropractors at Chiropractic Partners help with your low back pain, sciatica, or disc problems today. We are here to restore your health and wellness!