Low Back Pain 101

30 Apr Low Back Pain 101

Low Back Pain is Common

Each year over 5 million people develop chronic pain with more people experiencing regular back or neck pain now than were 5 years ago. The total cost of absenteeism to employers in the UK as reported by The Chartered Institute of Personal Development is £609 per employee per year with back pain responsible for about half of this amount. Back pain is also in the top 5 causes of long term sick leave. In short back pain is a big problem for not just the individual but also the economy.

Chiropractic is recognised as a cost effective and evidence based approach to acute and chronic low back pain. Chiropractic also serves to assess and educate younger populations in management and prevention of postural, ergonomic and sporting injuries to help reduce the occurrence of back pain. In this article we give some simple, general information on low back pain, if you would like any further information please email us on: info@ml-chiropractic.com

The Problem is Commonly Long Term

Lower back pain is a huge problem in today’s society with the majority of complaints being cause by lack of sufficient muscle control and lack of movement at joints that occurs over many years rather than acute injury or trauma.

This is why many people experience severe symptoms after apparently simple tasks such as stretching, picking up a pen or sneezing. The reason for this is that over many years, incorrect use of the spine leads to changes in the movement of joints and flexibility of ligaments. The subsequent change in mechanics that occurs effects the nerve control of the muscles in the area meaning that eventually they are not able to adapt to normal forces that occur in the spine and injury ensues.

The changes that occur in your spine can exist for a long time without you even being aware of it, just like having a high cholesterol level…you do not know until your doctor picks it up in a routine test or in the worst case heart and circulatory problems occur.

Chiropractic specialises in the identification of spinal areas of dysfunction (even before any symptoms are felt) and by treating them helps the spine and is supporting muscles return to normal function.

Immobility is a Major Issue

One important thing to understand with regards to back pain is that unlike the organs and muscles of the body, the joint and discs in the spine have a relatively low blood supply, this means that they don’t get much ‘nutrient supply’ from the normal pumping action of the heart, they require movement to ensure circulation of the fluids around the joints and supply of these vital nutrients.

In essence movement of the body acts like a pump for the discs and joints keeping nutrient supply high and maintaining the flexibility and integrity of the structures of the joints and discs.  If we stop moving, this process does not occur and the structures begin to deteriorate and wear out…….immobility, such as sitting too much, is therefore one of the most common causes of wear and tear within the spine otherwise know as osteoarthritis.

Symptoms Can Vary

Despite the majority of pain within the lower back being caused by injury and inflammation to the joints and discs in the lower back, symptoms between individually can vary widely some symptoms commonly experienced with low back pain are described below.

Generalised ache:

Dull aching in the lower back is often due to a gradual loss of the motion in the joints of the lower back and subsequent tightening of the muscles in the lower back. This is normally a sign that there is an underlying problem in the back. If assessment and treatment is received at this stage future severe injury can normally be avoided. Many people put up with these symptoms only later they experience much more severe pain.

Sharp/stabbing pain:

A sharp stabbing pain in the back normally indicates injury and swelling to the joints or discs in the lower back. At this stage significant injury has often already occurred and assessment and treatment will initially be focused on reducing your symptoms before concentrating on returning the spine to normal function and dealing with prevention of future injury.

Pain on one side or in the buttocks:

This is normally due to involvement of the sacroiliac joints/large joints either side of the base of the spine. It can also be caused by severe spasm of the gluteal/buttock musculature. The muscle often spasm when there is injury in the low back. This is because they offer a huge amount of support to the low back and pelvis.

Pain in the leg:

Contrary to popular thought not all leg pain is due to ‘sciatic’ irritation, in many cases leg pain is due to referred pain from the joints in the low back or even actual tightening of the leg muscles which are closely related to the flexibility of the lower back. Occasionally however, inflammation in the joints or discs (and rarely severe muscle spasm) can be sufficient to irritate the nerves in your low back which may result in leg pain.

Pins and needles in the legs/feet:

This set of symptoms normally means that there is significant irritation or injury to the nerves in you low back. This can occur for many reasons, commonly it is due to injury to the discs and joints of the lower back. It is important that if you are experiencing these symptoms you get you problem assessed as soon as possible.

Management of Lower Back Pain

The good news is that the vast majority of lower back pain is caused by something that is uncomplicated, not dangerous and can be helped through physical therapy such as chiropractic and guided exercise. The first stage of managing your pain however is getting clear diagnosis and treatment plan. Our chiropractors are highly trained in the diagnosis of lower back pain conditions and will take you through a thorough medical history, physical and neurological examination and an explanation of the results and findings. If you are suffering from a condition that we can help with we will tell you in detail what it is, what type of treatment may be needed and how long we expect it to take for you to get better. If we diagnose or suspect a condition that cannot be helped through chiropractic care we will make the appropriate onward referral to make sure you receive the right care.