Lower Back Pain Treatment: A Westlake, Ohio Chiropractor’s Perspective
Introduction to Treating Back Pain
One of the biggest issues in today’s society is people suffering from lower back pain. The research shows that up to 80% of all people will suffer from low back pain at some point in their life. It is the number one cause of disability in the United States.
We have to ask the question, why is low back pain so common? The reason is because our low back is the body’s foundation and takes a ton of stress from our daily activities. Repetitive stress injuries from bending, twisting, and lifting, in addition to the excessive amounts of sitting we do each day, can really wear down our spine over time. This leads to a breakdown of how the low back functions and eventually leads to pain and dysfunction.
It’s so important to treat low back pain quickly because the longer lower back pain issues linger, the worse they get. We don’t always feel everything that’s going on inside of our body. You can have had a lower back problem for years and not even know it, because pain is usually the last thing to show up and the first thing to go away. With enough time your body begins to signal that “hey, something’s wrong,” you need to stop doing what you’re doing, or lessen the load you’re putting on your lumbar spine.
Sports injuries, falls, car accidents, maybe you lifted something too heavy, these are what we call acute injuries. They are newer onset and it’s important that we don’t just brush these off and cover up the pain with a pill or muscle rub. If we don’t correct the problem initially, it will turn into chronic lower back pain. A lot of people deal with chronic pain because they’ve never taken care of the problem in the first place. This can be debilitating pain that leads to other issues like degeneration in the spine, herniated discs, stenosis in the spine, or radicular shooting pain that travels down the legs. This is why it’s really important that we correct any lower back issues as quickly as possible.
When we talk about the lower back, just like any other part of the spine, we have to consider the muscles, ligaments, joints, and discs as a whole. All of these elements work together to allow us to have healthy function and movement throughout our day. Our muscles are the first line of defense allowing us to move our bodies in certain ways. They can get weak and fatigued from overuse or sitting too much and start to wear and tear on the ligaments and the joints eventually breaking down the disc. It’s really important that we don’t just focus on muscles, because most of the time when somebody has lower back pain it’s not a muscle problem, it’s a joint problem. We have to correct the movement of the spine by taking pressure off of the discs, allowing them to move and function properly.
How We Treat Lower Back Pain in Westlake, Ohio
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
First, you’ll have a consultation with a doctor who will find out the complete history of your issue – everything that’s going on with you, how long it’s been going on, how it’s affecting your daily life from your work, your hobbies, to the things you love to do.
Next, the doctor will take you into the exam room where we’ll do a specific analysis. Posture is the window into the spine. We’ll conduct a digital posture assessment to give us an idea of any structural or degenerative problems. If you have postural abnormalities, the imbalances in the spine will lead to spinal dysfunction.
After the posture exam, we’ll do a range of motion test to see how your body is moving, and then we’ll dive into a spinal exam looking for those areas of subluxation or restriction – where the spine is not moving or functioning how it should. Subluxations put pressure on your nerves and your nervous system which prevents your body from functioning at its full potential.
At this point, the doctor determines whether or not you need X-rays. Dr. Greg doesn’t like doing guesswork in the office, we do test work. We won’t make guesses with your health. To see is to know. We want to see exactly what the spine looks like in order to give you the best care possible. X-rays give us incredible insight into the intricacies of your spine, allowing us to get to the root cause of the problem.
Specific Chiropractic Care in Westlake, Ohio
At Paramount Family Chiropractic, our chiropractic care is focused on removing subluxations. You might be asking, “what’s a subluxation?” Subluxations are misalignments in your spine that cause restricted motion, pain, and dysfunction. When the bones of the spine don’t move properly they put pressure on your joints, discs, nerves, and nervous system. This blocks and distorts the communication pathway to wherever those nerves may be going. The nerves in the neck control the function of your sinuses, thyroid glands, shoulders, arms, and fingers. The nerves in the lower back control things like bowel and bladder control and the muscles down the legs and into your toes. If you have subluxation, it can be putting pressure on your nervous system and decreasing the function of your overall health.
Chiropractors are the only doctors specifically trained to detect and correct subluxations using the chiropractic adjustment. The adjustment technique is a specific thrust or movement we put into the spine to remove the subluxation. This improves motion and alignment as well as the neurological connection between the brain and the body. When this happens, the brain can “call off the dogs” and reduce the pain signals being sent. Pain is your brain telling you there’s a problem. It’s the alarm system of the body. By removing that subluxation those pain sensors will be decreased, allowing more function and more motion in your spine and body.
Custom Therapeutic Exercises
The exercises and stretches we specifically give for your condition can help to strengthen the muscles supporting your spine, allowing you to do the functions you need to do throughout the day. If you have a job where you’re sitting at a desk all day, your muscles de-condition and fatigue, failing to offer proper support to your spine causing a breakdown in your bones and joints. It’s super important that you have supportive tissue structure along the spine to create balance and strength.
It’s crucial that you are an active participant in your healthcare, it’s a 50/50 relationship. The doctor does his work in the office, but you have to do your part at home to get the best results possible. In addition to the exercises and stretches we’ll have you do in the office, we’ll provide you with a customized exercise plan to do at home.
Spinal Decompression and Traction in Westlake Ohio
The disc acts as a shock absorber for the spine by creating space between the vertebrae which allow us to take pressure off of the nerves. As the disc begins to break down it can start to squash that nerve, putting undue pressure and stress on your joints and nervous system. Some people will experience shooting pain in their buttock, down the leg, and into the foot. It may even cause numbness, tingling, or burning pain. It’s important that we address any disc issues we may find.
We have a specific decompression table in the office which can help to separate the joints, create more movement in the spine, and really take pressure off of the nerves in the lower back. This will hydrate the disc so that it can heal and function the way it’s supposed to. We do this in conjunction with the adjustments in the lumbar spine for the best results.
Wobble Disc Exercises
The wobble disc exercises are meant to restore proper movement. If you have a sitting job, the spine can get stuck causing the supportive tissue to become weak and rigid. We do the wobble exercises, to loosen up the pelvis and lower back getting you warmed up for the adjustment. It’s an important part of the daily treatment in the office. It really helps to improve the overall function of your lower back and your pelvis. It also gets the spine loose and ready for your specific chiropractic adjustment.
Common Causes of Lower Back Pain in Westlake, Ohio
Bulged or Herniated Disc
One of the biggest contributing factors to lower back pain issues is a bulging or herniated disk. There are two parts of a spinal disc. The first is the outer, cartilaginous, more rigid substance that holds the bones together, called the annulus. The inner part, called the nucleus, is a soft, squishy substance that creates the shock absorber of our spine. Over time, if subluxations are not corrected, the disc begins to wear down, it doesn’t move properly and becomes dehydrated.
It will initially start with a bulging effect, pushing into the spinal canal and even pushing onto the nerve itself. If it progresses, the nucleus can actually push through the outer fibrous annulus in what’s called a herniation. The inner gelatinous material hits nerve roots which sends shooting pain from the lumbar spine into the buttocks and even down the legs and into the feet.
A herniated disc can be a chronic issue and is the worst of the two injuries. While an acute injury may cause a herniation, most of the time we see that these issues have been going on for many years and were never properly treated or corrected.
In our office, we use spinal decompression and traction to help rehydrate the discs and take pressure off of the nervous system. Removing the pressure on the nerve reduces the pain that may be coming down the buttock and into the leg and will help the disc to heal properly. If we don’t catch the herniation soon enough it can progress into a situation requiring surgery, so we definitely want to catch these early, correcting subluxations before they progress into a disc issue.
Degenerative Disc Disease & Spinal Stenosis
Another common cause of lower back pain is degenerative disc disease, which can also lead to spinal stenosis. Degeneration is arthritis in the spine. In this unaddressed chronic condition, the wear and tear has broken down the spine so much that it leads to spinal stenosis. Stenosis is the closing or narrowing of the spaces in your spine, which puts pressure on the nerves traveling through the spine. These conditions take a lot longer to correct if we don’t catch them early on.
Degenerative disc disease can be caused by a subluxation, poor posture, repetitive or job related stress, smoking – which can dehydrate the disc and deteriorate the joint – as well as obesity which puts extra stress and strain on the tissues and lower back. If this problem leads to spinal stenosis, it can cause weakness, numbness, and shooting pain into the legs, the buttock, and down into the feet. If the problem is severe enough, it can lead to bowel and bladder dysfunction, which would require a surgical remedy.
Chiropractic care has seen great results with stopping degeneration, allowing proper function to return to the spine, preventing these problems from getting worse. We can’t reverse degeneration, but the process can be slowed or stopped through proper care with chiropractic adjustments, spinal rehab, strengthening the tissues around the spine, and proper lifestyle management. Improved ergonomics, sitting habits or lifting habits, are a big help in reducing stress on these joints and decreasing the progression of degenerative disc disease.
Muscle strains are usually an acute lower back issue, the result of some type of injury.. They are a dull, achy pain, usually localized in the lower back, that can intensify with movement or sudden activity. Strains are the result of a repetitive motion like bending or lifting too heavy as well as from poor posture or weak core muscles that have been strained from sitting too long.
While strains usually resolve themselves, we want to fix them early because, if not corrected, over time the joints can become dysfunctional leading to degenerative joint disease and disc herniations.
Muscle strains can be an underlying symptom of something else going on in the body. A lot of times we’ll see muscles actually spasm, not because the tissue is injured but because the brain is telling the muscles to guard and protect against a deeper issue. This is the brain’s attempt to prevent the issue from getting worse.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I be worried about lower back pain?
We get this question a lot. I like to say if you’re having lower back pain, you should be worried about it. Any pain in your body is your brain telling you that there’s a problem. We can take a pill, rub some ointment on it, even get a massage which can sometimes help to minimize the pain and make us feel a little better short term, but most of the time there’s an underlying issue that’s not being corrected. We don’t just want to shut off the alarm and keep doing what we’re doing. We want to get to the root cause of the problem and correct it.
If you are having lower back pain, it’s really important that you get that evaluated immediately, because it could be happening for many different reasons. One being subluxation, a misalignment or dysfunction in the spine, or degenerative disc disease, or a disc injury that’s putting pressure on your nerve provoking muscle spasms in an attempt to protect itself. So it’s really important to get any type of lower back pain evaluated as soon as possible. The longer it goes on, the worse the problem can get.
What can I do to try to relieve lower back pain in Westlake, Ohio?
The best thing you can do is to have your lower back pain properly evaluated by a chiropractor who is checking for spinal subluxation which could be causing dysfunction in your spine and causing pain.
Massage and soft tissue work is a great adjunct to chiropractic care. These therapies take tension off of the tissues, giving some flexibility back to your spine, providing for better motion and decreasing some of the pain sensors that are being displayed.
Core exercises are something you can do at home. Strengthening the core is crucial to supporting your spine, especially your lumbar spine and your pelvis. Our core is where all of our power comes from and is weakened when we sit too much. Some simple core exercises you can do would be a front bridge, side bridge, and the bird dog. You can look these up on YouTube, they’re really easy to do. Strengthening your core is a really important part of helping alleviate lower back pain.
Another avenue to relieving your lower back pain is developing a consistent stretching routine. Whether that’s in the morning or evening, stretch your hamstrings, glutes, and the muscles along your spine. Yoga can also be very helpful by creating balance, coordination, and control of those muscles in the pelvis and along the lower back. Making sure the spine is mobile to do all the daily functions of a vital, healthy life.
How should I sleep with lower back pain?
I get this question a lot in our office and there’s a few ways that we should be sleeping. Especially if you have lower back pain, you do not want to be sleeping on your stomach. Sleeping on your stomach does not provide any support for the lower back, instead it causes your spine to sink down through your stomach. If you’re on your side or your back, it can keep your spine in a better neutral alignment.
We recommend you sleep on your side with the pillow, keeping your nose in line with your sternum and even putting a pillow between your legs. This way your spine is in a neutral alignment taking stress off of the joints.
If you’re a back sleeper, you want your ears to be in line with your shoulders. You don’t want too many pillows, because that will put your head into a flexed posture that puts pressure on your spine and can pull into your lower back. You can also put a pillow under your knees. By propping your knees up it will relieve some of the pressure that could be due to a strain in the lower back.
Just as if we were standing upright, we want to keep our spine in as neutral a posture as possible. We don’t want to be turned in different directions with an arm above or a leg tucked underneath. This can put more stress and strain on the joints in our spine, especially the lower back.
What does a slip disc feel like?
We hear the problem of a “slipped disc” a lot. A slipped disc is actually a disc bulge or a disc herniation. This might feel like aching, dull pressure along the entire lower back. If it gets bad enough, a slipped disc may feel like a shooting pain or a pain traveling into the buttock or down the legs into the feet. You may even experience numbness, burning, or tingling.
This can be a very debilitating condition because your body will spasm to guard and protect those areas. If the slipped disc isn’t corrected properly, or dealt with in a reasonable amount of time, these issues can get worse causing other dysfunction and taking longer to heal.
What is better for lower back pain, seeing a chiropractor or getting a massage?
Both can be beneficial for lower back pain. Massage can provide soft tissue release, relieving tension. The only problem with massage is that it doesn’t get deep enough to correct the root cause of the problem, which is joint dysfunction. If the joint is not moving properly, and it’s not in its proper alignment, massage can only do so much. You may get temporary relief, but if we don’t get to the root cause and correct the spinal dysfunction or subluxation, that pain, stiffness, and dysfunction will keep coming back.
That’s where the chiropractor comes in to restore spinal mobility, alignment, and take pressure off of the joints and discs, ultimately off of your nervous system, which allows your brain to communicate properly with all those cells, tissues, and organs. And, obviously, relieving your lower back pain!
So while they are both good, massage is a good adjunct to chiropractic care which is the most crucial aspect of relieving lower back pain because it gets to the root cause of the problem.