Back pain can bring you to your knees… literally.
Your back controls all your body movements. As part of your core, every muscle in your body connects to it in some way. That means that even minor back pain can have you sitting out on life.
Fixing back pain isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers. Most doctors can only prescribe pain medication and physical therapy for back pain. Back surgery is an extreme last resort.
Treating pain and inflammation is important to rid yourself of back problems. But what about spinal manipulation? Can a chiropractor help?
Read on to learn the basics of chiropractic care and how it can help you overcome back pain.
The Anatomy of Back Pain
Your spine is a vital part of support in your body. With all the weight it supports, it’s no wonder that it gets injured from time to time.
It’s made up of 24 bones that curve down your back in an “S” shape. Inside the bones (vertebrae) is your spinal cord. It’s a bundle of nerves that controls every part of your body.
Between the vertebrae are little sacs called discs. Discs are full of liquid and support and cushion the bones.
Surrounding the outside of the bones are tendons, muscles, and ligaments that add extra support. Back pain happens when any one of these elements gets out of whack.
Some of the most common causes of back pain include:
- Lifting or straining with too much weight
- Poor posture
- Overuse, as in exercise
- Herniated or flattened discs
- Injury from an accident
Women often have back pain during pregnancy because of the increased weight and pressure on the back. And certain diseases, like arthritis, can cause back pain too.
The discs are where the nerve bundles branch out from the spinal cord. When the disc compresses, the nerves become compressed, leading to pain.
Can a Chiropractor Help with Back Pain?
The question of whether to see a chiropractor has made the rounds in medical communities over the years. But studies show that yes, a chiropractor can help.
The problem with back pain is that it’s hard for traditional medical doctors to heal. If you see a doctor for back pain, they prescribe medicine to help with inflammation and pain, or they send you to physical therapy.
In extreme cases, your doctor may refer you to a spinal surgeon. For the most part, however, these therapies don’t deal with the underlying problem of why your back hurts.
That’s where a chiropractor can help. With the opioid epidemic in full swing, people are turning away from medication to manage pain, making the chiropractor a great option.
A chiropractor manipulates the spine. This allows the bones to lay in alignment, which takes pressure off the nerves. It also relieves tension in the discs and helps release the muscles around the spine too.
Chiropractors can also help you determine the cause of the pain and educate you on how to prevent pain in the future.
What to Expect with a Chiropractic Exam
A chiropractor, like any doctor, always starts by going over your medical history with you.
This is the time to tell your chiropractor about your prior issues with back and joint pain. Don’t leave anything out. You want the doctor to have as much information as possible so he can rule out more serious diseases.
Make sure he’s aware of your family’s history of diseases as well. A family history of arthritis or multiple sclerosis can affect how he treats your back pain.
After reviewing your medical history, the doctor takes measurements and x-rays. He measures the length of each leg and arm to see if you’re asymmetrical.
He tests to see how far out of line your neck is. Using a cell phone is more damaging to your neck and upper back than you might think.
Your head is a heavy object. Measuring how far forward your head sits lets the doctor know if this is a factor in your back pain.
He’ll measure the curve of both your lower and upper spine. He’ll also feel around for any deformities in the bones.
The chiropractor might ask you to perform certain movements. Bending over, touching your toes, and bending backwards help him see how your spine moves. To rule out shoulder problems, they’ll ask you to raise your hands over your head and check for range of motion.
A good provider also listens to your body. The cracking and snapping of bones as you move is a common sign that something is out of alignment. Then he’ll listen to your breathing and check your heart rate and blood pressure.
Review your daily activities with the doctor. Do you sit at a desk or work on your feet? How often do you exercise?
What do your eating habits look like? Do you have any issues with substance abuse?
These might not seem like important questions for back problems, but they are. Like your regular doctor, your chiropractor needs to know about your habits and activities.
This information helps the chiropractor determine how you hurt your back and how to prevent future problems. Once he or she makes a diagnosis, your doctor lays out the treatment plan that he’ll go over with you.
A spinal adjustment is when the doctor uses his hands or an instrument to move the joints of the spine. There are many ways to manipulate the spine, and each doctor prefers their own technique.
When deciding on a chiropractor, take into consideration the techniques they use. A doctor that only does one spinal adjustment technique might not be the right doctor for you, as opposed to one who tries many techniques.
Spinal adjustment aligns the bones, relieves pressure on the discs, decreases inflammation, and improves circulation.
Chiropractors use their hands to push and move the bones of the spine and neck. When the bones move, you’ll hear a popping sound. That sound is normal. It is the release of gases that build up inside the joint. When the gas releases, it makes a popping noise, like when you crack your knuckles. Usually, your joint feels better with the pressure release.
Another technique for adjusting the spine is twisting. This is also done with the hands. The doctor twists your spine from side to side to loosen up the joints.
An activator is a common chiropractic device. The activator uses a forceful motion to move a specific vertebra, allowing the doctor to make more precise adjustments.
The activator is great for getting at bones that aren’t as easy to reach, like the neck and bones in the hip area.
Your doctor might use heat or ice to help control inflammation and tenderness. Newer technology uses an ultrasound to send heat and energy into the deeper tissues of the back.
Another option that a chiropractor might use is stretching or traction machines. These machines pull your body, creating space between your vertebrae. This space helps lengthen the spine and relieve pressure between the bones.
After the adjustment, you’ll likely feel sore, but this passes in a few hours. You should have improved mobility and less pain within a day. Your doctor might recommend further treatments to keep the issue from coming back.
It’s always a good idea to have an “at home” plan once you’ve seen the chiropractor. Your doctor will give you stretches and exercises. He’ll also advise you on how you got the injury and how to prevent it in the future.
Other Chiropractic Services
Going to the chiropractor means you’ll get a holistic approach to back pain treatment. Spinal manipulation isn’t the only service you can get at your chiropractor.
Massage therapists are common in chiropractic offices. The combination of massage therapy and spinal adjustment is great for pain relief.
You may get a massage before your spinal adjustment too. If the muscles and tissues around the bones are tight, you won’t get as much relief from the adjustment.
That’s why many chiropractors have an assistant to help you get ready for the adjustment. This includes massage, light stretching, and even lifting and pulling exercises.
Another treatment option is hydrotherapy. The use of saunas, whirlpools, ice baths, and wraps can help relieve pain as well.
Your doctor may prescribe some light water exercise, especially if your pain is too intense to exercise outside of water.
In recent years, the rise of laser therapy has changed the medical world. Many people think of laser therapy as something done for cosmetic reasons, but lasers have a lot of functions outside the cosmetic field.
Chiropractors use lasers to target heat or cold light into the deep muscle and bone tissue in the back. Lasers can help correct problems with ligaments and tendons in the back as well.
Electrical stimulation is another type of pain management therapy. With this therapy, an assistant places electrodes on the skin. Then electrical waves run through the muscles to relax them and reduce inflammation.
Weight Management and Exercise
We all know the benefits of exercise, but if you’ve got back pain, exercise might be the key to a pain-free life. The chiropractor can help you get there.
Many chiropractors take part in weight management programs for their patients. Why? Because extra weight is one of the single biggest causes of back pain.
When you put on extra weight, your back does the brunt of the extra lifting. Getting your weight under control is something your chiropractor can help with.
Many providers offer supplements and weight loss tools to assist in weight management. Getting weekly checkups can help keep your weight loss on track.
Part of your weight management plan will be a regular exercise regime. Your doctor will tailor the exercise program to strengthen your back and core and get your heart pumping.
The more aerobic exercise you do, the more blood flows through your muscles, helping to flush out inflammation, which leads to less pain and better joint health.
Strength exercises target your arms, back, shoulders, and abdominal muscles. The stronger your core muscles are, the less likely you are to pull the muscles in your back.
Another great way to keep your back muscles strong is to stretch your legs every day. Stretching your calves and hamstrings leads to greater mobility in your lower body.
You can also work on opening the hips with butterfly stretches. If your hips are more flexible, it helps keep lower back pain at bay. Chiropractors often prescribe stretching to patients with low back pain for this reason.
Not only will your doctor show you which exercises are the most helpful, but he’ll also show you what to avoid too. Certain movements, like sit-ups and leg lifts, can aggravate the back muscles. Replace these with more back-friendly exercises like crunches and squats.
The combination of chiropractic care, weight management, and a solid exercise routine means no more back pain.
Do You Have Back Pain? Call A Chiropractor Today
So can a chiropractor help with back pain? Absolutely! And research proves it.
Chiropractic care is more likely to reduce back pain than traditional medical care because the chiropractor specializes in keeping your back healthy and strong.
With techniques like spinal manipulation, stretching, and exercise, you’ll be able to kiss back pain goodbye.
If you’ve got back pain, call us today to learn more about how we can help you live pain-free. Don’t forget to check out our blog for more information on why chiropractic care is right for you.