Chiropractic & Low Back Pain
Low back pain is probably the most common pain to afflict the human race. During the lifetime of anyone of us, this is likely to occur on certainly more than one occasion. The human frame consists of a skeletal framework that we call the spine, In turn the spine is made up of 24 individual bones or vertebrae and between each vertebra is a disc which acts as a shock absorber.
Without these discs the bones would quickly wear out and fracture from everyday forces such as jumping off the back of a truck. Between the discs are the spinal nerve roots which in sprout off from off the spinal cord. The spinal cord is a continuation of the brain and commences at the base of the skull and continues right down to the “tail bone”.
There are seven layers of muscles which support the spine and help keep us upright. Now that we have had this mini-lesson of anatomy, we can get some idea of just how complex the musculoskeletal system is. No wonder that low back pain occurs so frequently when we are so reliant on all of the above systems to keep us straight and active.
The spinal nerve roots are incredibly sensitive to changes of posture and position and register pain if they are in way squeezed or impinged. While we prefer not to actually call it a pinched nerve, the pain that occurs certainly feels as if the nerve is having just that done to it. In addition the vertebrae of the low back, which we call lumbar vertebrae, have small facet joints which also have nerve endings and are sensitive to pain.
When irritation occurs, either directly from spinal nerves being impinged or from facet joints being fixated (subluxated), pain occurs in the low back. The muscles of the spine which were referred to previously, receive their nerve supply from the same nerves that exit from the spinal cord, between the vertebrae.
These muscles contract and go into painful spasm when their nerve supply is compromised. They do this as a reflex action to protect the affected area and the result can be very painful. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve which is made up of five individual spinal nerves of the low back. The sciatic nerve passes through the buttock (gluteal) region and descends down both legs. There is a sciatic nerve on each side of the body.
The term “sciatica” refers to the very painful condition which occurs when one or more of the five nerve roots become impinged. Both pain and numbness or tingling of the nerves can take place from the gluteal region, right down to the legs, feet and toes. In addition, as I have already mentioned, the muscles receive their nerve innervation from those very same nerves
Those muscles can become weak and in some cases, atrophied. This means that a leg muscle will become thinner and weaker on one side when compared to the other leg muscle. Referred pain has now occurred with the initial point of nerve pressure at the lumbar spinal region now having a direct effect on a distant area, such as the toes and feet.
As a chiropractor of some twenty five years experience, I advise my patients who present with this problem to have x rays and possibly an MRI or CT scan. This will then form the basis of my orthopedic and neurological examination after which an accurate diagnosis can be made. If appropriate, chiropractic treatment can then be commenced and the patient started on the road to recovery.
In addition to the chiropractic treatment which might take place twice weekly over some weeks, the patient will be instructed how to perform exercises to strengthen both back muscles and the intrinsic core muscles of the body. This will ensure upright posture and spinal stability. There is absolutely no need for a person to put up with low back pain for the rest of their life when gentle and effective chiropractic care is readily available.