Low-Back Pain and Spinal Manipulation

Low-back pain is a unique issue in that it can vary in its level of debilitating pain, as well as its duration. Some professionals suggest icing, heating, and resting as the most effective method for recovery, while others may go as far as surgery. The truth is, there really is no foolproof method for treating back pain, however, there are methods that are more effective than others in relieving pain, in addition to being safer, more natural, and less invasive to the human body. 

Back pain is a familiar issue for everyone around the world. In fact, 8 out of 10 people suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, and the most common area affected is the lower portion, known as the lumbar. It can last just a couple days, but can also stick around for years. For those affected, it is recommended you get plenty of rest while also doing some easy, lightweight exercises to allow the damaged muscles or nerves to repair. However, if this does not work, there are other natural, non-invasive measures that can be taken to relieve pain. These measures include massages, heat exposure, exercise, a firm mattress, physical therapy, and spinal manipulation.[1]

“Spinal Manipulation” is a pain relief method practiced most commonly by chiropractors who typically apply force by hand to a joint or the spine. After 26 different clinical trials were compared, spinal manipulation is found to be just as effective as other pain reduction methods. Spinal manipulation dates back to the ancient Egyptians, and has not made drastic changes to its motives or techniques since then. It is a purely natural practice that can only be performed by a knowledgeable professional. By reducing inflammation, pain can be alleviated . To do so, the out-of-place vertebrae must be moved to allow the muscles and ligaments to fall back into their neutral position. Keep in mind that what the chiropractor is trying to do with the adjustment is not necessarily realign your spine or joint, like a dislocated finger or shoulder, but rather influence the function of an improperly moving joint and its adverse effect on overall body function and wellness.

If you have ever received this treatment or witnessed it, you have likely heard the “pop” that follows the doctors forceful pushes. These sounds do not necessarily suggest something is being clicked back into place. Surrounding the joints in the spine are ligament capsules that contain nitrogen gas. The popping noise is nothing more than nitrogen gas being displaced from one side of the capsule to the other. What the chiropractor is trying to do with the adjustment is improve any associated physiologic or biomechanical malfunctions.[2]

The reason being, shifts in spinal vertebrae have a number of negative implications. In addition to impeding nerve outflow, they also lead to disease in organs. Recent theories suggest that chiropractic manipulation may relieve pain by “loosening” vertebrae that have become immobile, rather than by changing their position entirely. These movements done through manipulation may alter the response pattern of nerves in the central nervous system travelling through the spine and to the brain, leading to pain relief.

Back pain can strike in one of two forms: acute or chronic. Acute, or short-term low back pain, can generally last a few days or maybe even a few weeks. Most acute back pain is the result of trauma to the lower back or an unavoidable disorder such as arthritis. Pain from trauma may be caused by a sports injury or simply by work around the house. Essentially, any sudden jolt, such as a car accident, or any other stress on spinal bones and tissues could result in acute back pain. Symptoms may range from slight muscle aches all the way to shooting pain that often leads to limited flexibility and/or range of motion, or an inability to stand straight. If left untreated, these actute symptoms may become part of a bigger problem. Chronic back pain is measured by duration — pain that persists for more than 3 months is considered chronic. It is often progressive and the cause can be difficult to determine.[3]

Of course, back pain can always be monitored or avoided by keeping this list of quick tips in the back of your conscience at all times.

  • Always stretch before exercise or other strenuous physical activity.
  • Don’t slouch when standing or sitting. When standing, keep your weight balanced on your feet. Your back supports weight most easily when curvature is reduced.
  • At home or work, make sure your work surface is at a comfortable height for you.
  • Sit in a chair with good lumbar support and proper position and height for the task. Keep your shoulders back. Switch sitting positions often and periodically walk around the office or gently stretch muscles to relieve tension. A pillow or rolled-up towel placed behind the small of your back can provide some lumbar support. If you must sit for a long period of time, rest your feet on a low stool or a stack of books.
  • Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
  • Sleep on your side to reduce any curve in your spine. Always sleep on a firm surface.
  • Ask for help when transferring an ill or injured family member from a reclining to a sitting position or when moving the patient from a chair to a bed.
  • Don’t try to lift objects too heavy for you. Lift with your knees, pull in your stomach muscles, and keep your head down and in line with your straight back. Keep the object close to your body. Do not twist when lifting.
  • Maintain proper nutrition and diet to reduce and prevent excessive weight, especially weight around the waistline that taxes lower back muscles. A diet with sufficient daily intake of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D helps to promote new bone growth.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine and causes the spinal discs to degenerate.[4]

Spinal manipulation allows the nervous system to travel a less restricted path in order to properly do its job and keep your body healthy. For those who are experiencing debilitating back pain that does not show any signs of improvement, it is always smart to seek medical help, because treatment such as spinal manipulation has proven to alleviate symptoms and get patients back on their feet. Spine and Sports Health Center will always be here to help.

[1] http://nccam.nih.gov/health/pain/spinemanipulation.htm
[2] http://spineanddandy.com/services/chiropractic-adjustments/what-is-spinal-manipulation/
[3] http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/backpain/detail_backpain.htm


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