Low back pain is a common health problem affecting at some time more than 80% of the population – making it second in prevalence only to the common cold. Although most of us are aware that the common cold is due to a viral infection, back pain is often a mystery to most of its sufferers.

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Anatomy

To understand back pain it is important to understand the anatomy of the spine. The spinal bones or vertebrae of the lower back consist of posterior joints called facets that link vertebrae to one another and serve to guide the motion of the spine. Theintervertebral discs connect the bodies of the vertebrae. They are composed of a form of tough cartilage that encases a soft material in the centre called the nucleus. The primary function of the disc is a shock absorber and a spacer between the vertebrae. Ligamentsand muscles also connect the vertebrae. The bottom wedge shaped bone at the bottom of the spine is the sacrum and is joined to the two pelvic bones at the sacroiliac joint. In a canal located between the body and the facets of the vertebrae is the spinal cord. Thespinal nerves exit the spine between the vertebrae.

 

Causes of Back Pain

The majority of back pain patients have not experienced any trauma, accidents or major injuries prior to the onset of their problem. The cause of most back pain is the cumulative affect of improper sitting posture, poor work habits, incorrect lifting, lack of proper exercise and other lifestyle-related factors. All of these factors cause stress and imbalances on the spine and eventually pain. This is why people often injure their back by just bending over to pick up a piece of paper. The spine was already compromised and just the simple act of bending was enough to set off the problem. When this occurs, the surrounding back muscles go into spasm to protect the stressed or injured tissues of the back.

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Disc Problems & Sciatica

Prolonged sitting especially in a slouched position causes increased pressure upon the intervertebral discs and imbalances in the muscles surrounding the spine. Eventually the lower spine loses its normal function and no longer can accommodate the normal day-to-day stresses in one’s life. Ultimately, the intervertebral disc develops small fissures or cracks allowing the soft nucleus to protrude the disc outward. If the disc pushes upon sensitive tissues one feels pain and this is often referred to as a slipped disc. If the disc presses on the spinal nerve a person can develop sciatica which is defined as pain, tingling, numbness and sometimes weakness in their lower extremities. Sometimes if the disc protrusion or herniation is large and the condition is not managed correctly, surgery is required to remove the herniated disc material. However, with the correct chiropractic adjustments and management, most of these cases can recover.

 

Spondylosis

Repetitive injury to the disc, the facet joints, and the surrounding ligaments may result in increased wear and tear and weight-bearing stress on the spine. This stress can negatively affect the cartilage around the joints and causes calcium to deposit in the tissues around the vertebrae, forming bone spurs. These spurs can compress adjacent nerves, blood vessels and soft tissue resulting in symptoms ranging from minor pain, numbness to gross sensory loss and muscular atrophy. This condition – known as Spondylosis – is a form of arthritis that affects everyone at some point in his or her life. It is also part of the normal ageing process of the spine. However, factors such as previous trauma, lifestyle, and repetitive stress injury influences the time of onset in life. Chiropractic adjustments and management is very effective in helping spondylosis sufferers manage their condition.

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Sacroiliac Problems

Another common area of dysfunction or injury in the low back are the sacroiliac joints. These weight-bearing joints link the upper part of the body to the lower pelvic portion and are normally very strong and stable. However with trauma such as falls, sports injuries and lifting heavy objects, the joints can become unstable and move to an abnormal position. This condition is called a sacroiliac subluxation. Women may get this condition during or after their pregnancy. Sacroiliac subluxation causes imbalances in the lower extremities giving a person a functional long and short leg. People with this condition will feel pain especially with prolonged standing, walking or during or after physical activity and often complain of lack of energy and feeling tired easily. Often this imbalance can affect structures further up the spine and people can develop neck and shoulder pain as well as headaches. Chiropractic adjustments and treatment are extremely affective in correcting this problem by establishing proper alignment of the joints.

Spinal Subluxation

A very common disorder of the lower back as well as the entire spine is subluxated or misaligned facet joints. Subluxations can exist on their own or in conjunction with disc problems and spondylosis. They can cause pain as well as compromise to the spinal nerves as they exit the foramen or spaces between the vertebrae. A symptom often associated with nerve compression is paresthesia which is an alteration of sensation described as a tingling, burning or funny feeling. Paresthesia in the upper extremities usually originates from nerve problems in the neck while paraesthesia in the lower extremities is most often associated with nerve problems in the lumbar region (lower back). Visceral problems such as asthma and gastric conditions can also be associated or complicated by spinal subluxations and nerve compression. Subluxations are best corrected with chiropractic adjustments.

Trauma such as a fall, a car accident or sports injury can also cause injury to the spine and lower back. Often these traumas cause over-stretching or tearing of any of the tissues of the spine. When this happens a person can feel considerable pain and immobility. Proper chiropractic management at the onset of symptoms is very important in order avoid long term disability and the development of any of the above conditions.

Chiropractic care provides state of the art diagnosis and treatment for problems associated with any of the above mentioned conditions of the back. Please see our treatment pages for a discussion on how we can help your problem.