Natural Approaches to the Prevention & Treatment of Low Back Pain
Low back problems account for more than 12 million visits to doctors each year. Source: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, www.orthoinfo.aaos.org.
8 out of 10 people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Source: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, www.orthoinfo.aaos.org.
Besides the common cold, low back pain results in more lost work days than any other physical affliction in persons under the age of 45. Source: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, www.orthoinfo.aaos.org.
According to a recent study in the Scandinavian Journal of Rehabilitative Medicine , nearly 51% of school children suffered from low back pain. Significant risk factors included age, gender, amount of time spent in front of the TV, and involvement in competitive sports. Source: Kids Need Chiropractic Too, P. Fysh, D.C.; ChiroWeb.com, www.chiroweb.com.
In another study, published in the magazine SPINE , many children experience recurring low back pain. According to the study, the most common causes were thought to be: • Sedentariness • Very high levels of activity in competitive sports • Low school desks that force the low back into a forward leaning position Source: SPINE, Vol. 20, No. 19, 1995, pp. 32202-3108, Lippincott-Raven Publishers.
So what is low back pain? What causes it? And what can you do about it? To answer these questions, let’s start by looking at the types of pain that you may experience.
Pain is the body’s reaction to signals being sent from an area that has been injured in some way. A message originates from the location of the injury, travels through the nervous system and is received by the brain where it is interpreted as “PAIN.” Source: Back.com, www.back.com.
There are different types of pain. These differences are important to understand as they help determine the type of injury and the best treatment options. Source: Back.com, www.back.com.
Some pain may be felt as a “burning” or “stabbing” pain. This is usually caused by damage to nerve tissue. Source: Back.com, www.back.com.
Other pain may be felt as a dull ache or pressure. This is characteristic of an injury to the nerves, causing spasms in the muscles, that results in muscular aches and pains. Source: Back.com, www.back.com.
ACUTE PAIN Can be sharp and severe. It may go away on its own or with the application of ice or heat. If it fails to go away, it can develop into chronic pain. Source: Back.com, www.back.com.
CHRONIC PAIN Is pain of long duration. It may be on and off. Due to its long term nature, it usually indicates underlying damage to the structure of the back. This could be damage to the nerves, discs, or muscles. Source: Back.com, www.back.com .
Now that you know about the types of pain that may be felt with low back problems, let’s look at some of the more common causes of low back pain.
Strains and Sprains can be caused by injury to muscles and ligaments. The muscles in the lower back are the work-horses for the whole body and therefore more likely to be injured. Source: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, www.orthoinfo.aaos.org. They provide the strength for walking, standing and lifting.
Sprains can occur when a sudden, forceful movement injures ligaments that connect and help support the bones and joints in the lower back. Source: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, www.orthoinfo.aaos.org.
Strain occurs commonly as the result of poor conditioning or overwork of the muscles . When the body is out of shape, it doesn’t take much to overwork or even tear a muscle. Source: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, www.orthoinfoaaos.org ; Back.com, www.back.com.
But, other factors may contribute to injuring your muscles and ligaments: • Poor posture • Long periods of standing • Being overweight • Structural misalignment Source: Back.com, www.back.com.
HERNIATED DISC Source: Back.com, www.back.com. The result is typically a sharp, cutting pain, which may also extend into the leg. Also called a “slipped, ruptured, or torn disc”, this condition usually strikes a person in their 30’s to 40’s.
To help determine what may be causing your low back pain, and to help you decide on a possible natural solution that will best help you, please fill out the Low Back Pain & Stress Survey :
Before we get into the solutions to low back pain, let’s take a look at what we can do to prevent low back injury, or reduce aggravating it further.
<ul><li>There are three specific movements that are responsible for most low back injuries: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1. Bending </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2. Lifting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3. Twisting </li></ul></ul>
A person is usually safe when performing any one of these movements. The danger lies in performing any two or more of them simultaneously.
Some simple guidelines to follow are: Source: Lavender, Journal of Disability 3(1) . Bend at the knees, not at the waist.
When lifting objects, keep the object close to your body and keep the low back straight, not bent forward. Source: Lavender, Journal of Disability 3(1) .
Whether you are at work or at home, whether you are lifting or carrying objects, making your bed, working around the house, changing a car tire, or playing with your kids, THINK BEFORE YOU ACT!
We are now going to conduct some tests to see if you have restricted motion, weak muscles, postural distortions, or problems with your nervous system. STOP immediately if any of these tests cause you pain or discomfort.
Stand up straight with your hands at your sides and your feet at shoulder width. Bend at the waist to one side by lowering one shoulder and running that hand down the outside of your thigh. Repeat on the other side. Restricted Lumbar Motion Test
Stand up straight with your hands at your sides and your feet at shoulder width. Slowly bend forward and try to touch your toes. Keep your knees straight, but not locked. Restricted Lumbar Spine Test
Using a chair for support, lift one leg up behind you and grab on to it with your hand. Gently pull your foot upwards towards your back. Repeat with the other leg. MUSCLE TIGHTNESS TEST
Close your eyes and march in place for a count of ten. Are you off balance? Do you have to re-center yourself? When you open your eyes and look down, are your feet spread unevenly apart? PELVIC DISTORTION/ POSTURE TEST
Stand on your right leg. Extend your arms. Lift your left leg. NEUROLOGICAL STRESS TEST Close your eyes and count to ten. Can you hold your balance? Now, change legs and try again.
Now that you know a little bit more about low back pain, the question is: “ What can you do about it?”
Many people try to treat their symptoms with medication such as aspirin or ibuprofen and bed rest; however these treatments do not address the physical source of their low back pain.
Fortunately, over 95% of people who experience low back pain do not have to resort to drugs or surgery to resolve it. There are several physical approaches to these problems which we will now cover.
One method to help relieve pain is a technique called “ Trigger Point Therapy.”
Trigger Points are areas of muscle spasm or tightness, caused by irritation of nearby nerves.
These are the Trigger Points for low back related problems.
To relieve these Trigger Points, you will need a partner to help you.
To find the Trigger Points, use your thumb, the palm of your hand or your elbow, to locate the exact area of tenderness. Now press and hold the Trigger Point until it becomes less painful, not until it’s gone. This should take 30 seconds or less.
Daily treatments to relieve Trigger Points can help reduce stress and pain in the body.
Another breakthrough technique in use by Chiropractors, Medical Doctors, Osteopaths, and Physical Therapists alike is traction, such as SPINA TRACK PIC the Spine-A-Trac Support 2000 Ambulatory Traction Device.
The Spine-A-Trac was developed for the prevention and treatment of low back conditions. This traction device uses weight bearing, extension traction technology to instantly relieve low back pain and muscle spasms, decompress lumbar discs, relieve pressure on irritated nerves, increase low back stability, increase circulation, and shorten recovery time.
The Spine-A-Trac has been tested and proven in many cases to be 90% effective in relieving low back pain. Listen to what one patient had to say about this new treatment: “ After seeing many doctors for my low back and leg pain, I was beginning to think I would have to live with it for the rest of my life. After just 10 treatments with the Spine-A-Trac, I felt tremendous relief. I can live a normal life again.” - J. Henderson
Also, regular exercise can help restore the strength of your back and gradually return you to your everyday activities.
Here are some basic exercises that you can do to strengthen your lower back. You should always consult with your health care provider before starting an exercise program. Once you are comfortable with these lower back strengthening exercises, your health care provider can give you more advanced exercises.
Posture Exercise Sit in an extreme slouched position. After a few seconds, slowly draw your back up straight and arch it. Then relax the arch in your back about 10% to find your correct posture. Work up to using this position as your normal seated posture. Source: The Physician and Sports Medicine, Vol. 25- No. 1- January 1997, Extend Yourself for Low Back Pain Relief, L. Kuritzky, M.D., J. White, www.physsportsmed.com.
Full Back Release Sit in a chair with your feet flat. Relax your shoulders and keep your head level. Relax your neck and curl your neck, upper back, and lower back slowly forward until your hands touch the floor. Hold for 10 seconds. Slowly straighten to your correct seated position. Source: The Physician and Sports Medicine, Vol. 25- No. 1- January 1997, Extend Yourself for Low Back Pain Relief, L. Kuritzky, M.D., J. White, www.physsportsmed.com.
Standing Back Extension Stand with your hands on your waist, fingers pointed towards your spine. Bend backwards at the waist. Avoid excessive bending. Hold for 5 seconds. Rest for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times. Source: The Physician and Sports Medicine, Vol. 25- No. 1- January 1997, Extend Yourself for Low Back Pain Relief, L. Kuritzky, M.D., J. White, www.physsportsmed.com.
Side Bending Exercise Stand up straight with your hands at your sides and your feet at shoulder width. Bend at the waist to one side by lowering one shoulder and running that hand down the outside of your thigh. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat on other side. Repeat 3 times. Source: The Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, 1996-2002, www.nismat.org.
Rotational Exercise Standing straight with the feet apart at shoulder width, clasp your elbows in front of you. Rotate slowly and rhythmically from side to side, increasing the degree of rotation as your tolerance increases. Source: Low Back Syndrome, Edition 5, R. Cailliet, M.D.,1995.
Walking- The Best Exercise Walking is probably the best overall exercise for back and body health. Pay attention to your posture when you walk, and the proper swinging of the arms helps in improving proper back function. Source: Low Back Syndrome, Edition 5, R. Cailliet, M.D.,1995.
If you failed any of the earlier tests, or if you had difficulty with the exercises, it likely indicates that there is a physical problem. Have you ever had a pebble in your shoe?
Since low back pain is physical in nature, it responds best to a physical form of treatment. Chiropractic care, which includes correcting posture, relieving pressure on nerves and discs, and fixing injured muscles, has proven to be an effective method for handling low back pain.
In a survey conducted in 2002 by Media General Research, 42% of the participants had experienced back pain within the last 12 months. According to the survey, Chiropractic was rated the #1 natural health care choice. 91% who saw a chiropractor rated the effectiveness of Chiropractic as being satisfactory to excellent. And, according to the recently released U.S. guidelines (AHCPR) for patients with recent onset low back pain, Chiropractic treatment was rated the most effective. Source: Foundation of Chiropractic Progress, news release, February 21, 2002; www.chiroeco.news.com;World Chiropractic Alliance, HealthWatch Newsletter, www.wcanews.com, March 2002; Kids Need Chiropractic Too, P. Fysh, D.C.; ChiroWeb.com, www.chiroweb.com.
A study released by the Ontario Ministry of Health and published in USA Today cited, “The best clinical studies show that spinal adjustment is more effective, safer, and more cost effective than other conventional treatments for low back pain.” Source: USA Today, October 29,1993, Chiropractors Hope Back Study Will Bring Relief from Bias.
In a case study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics , a patient suffering low back pain from lifting heavy boxes experienced no relief from taking aspirin and ibuprofen for a period of three weeks. After one Chiropractic adjustment the pain was gone. Source: Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Vol. 22, No. 6, July/Aug, 1999, abstracts.
Chiropractic adjustments are effective in treating lower back pain. Source: Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Vol. 22, No. 6, July/Aug, 1999, abstracts. Chiropractic technique is not only effective, but it is considered a gentle, non-invasive procedure, comfortably tolerated by patients.
Many people are unaware that a Doctor of Chiropractic is required to complete an education very similar to that of a Medical Doctor. Chiropractors are trained in pre-med, then four-years of Chiropractic College and are licensed in all 50 states. Like the curriculum of medical schools, a chiropractor’s education is devoted to scientific subjects such as anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology, public health diagnosis, clinical disciplines, and health sciences. Source: Chiropractic: The Right Choice (video), Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research 1995.
Because chiropractors work with their hands and are trained to find and correct physical conditions through a form of physical treatment, they are used by some of the world’s greatest athletes and entertainers.
Famous people such as Tiger Woods, Paul McCartney, Clint Eastwood, Billy Jean King, the San Francisco 49ers football team, Bruce Willis, Madonna, Cher, Kirstie Alley, Mel Gibson, John Travolta, and the Minnesota Vikings, to name just a few, seek regular Chiropractic treatment to prevent injuries, and to stay in top physical shape.