Back pain is the most common injury that Chiropractors see and can be anything from crippling and hardly able to walk to a mild ache in the morning. The first episode of low back pain is often between the ages of 20-40 years old, around half of cases can be recurring. In many cases the pain is mild and resolves quickly with time but understanding why the back pain started and how to prevent it happened again is important for long term function.
23% of the adult population will have symptoms of back pain in any given month, and 80% will have symptoms within their lifetime. 20-25% of all GP appointments are due to back pain. (Would you go to your doctor with toothache or a dentist? Presenting to a practitioner who is experienced in back pain such as a chiropractor, osteopath or physiotherapist with back pain would not only speed up diagnosis and treatment but also free up GP surgeries for other medical problems!)
Describing it can be a challenge; sharp, dull, achey, stiff, burning, fragile, localised, diffuse, numb, tingling, pins and needles. It can be all of these, or none of these, sometimes all within the space of a day. A chiropractor will want to know where the pain is - to the side of the spine, on or 'in' the spine, over the buttock or the 'boney bits' on the pelvis. Does it refer to the leg or is it just in the back. If it does refer to the leg is it the front, side or back of the leg, above or below the knee, does it follow a specific pattern. With this information we can build up a good idea of what the likely causes are.
Then we need to know what affects it - is it worse with sitting, bending or lifting, walking or is it just the change from sitting down to standing up. Different causes effect different activities, so a diagnosis from a chiropractor can help you plan how to manage the symptoms - Do you rest it? Do you try to keep active?
The most important thing we need to find out about back pain is whether or not it is a mechanical cause, such as muscle strain, joint pain or discogenic pain (pain from the disc such as internal disruption or herniation). These pains are fairly easy to recreate, not always with high specificity but enough to help us rule out serious causes of back pain. Muscle spasm associated with these problems can lead to discomfort too and if the muscles don't properly relax and resume their proper function quickly they become weaker and deconditioned so it's possible that you are more likely to have recurring back pain afterwards.
Low back pain following significant trauma or pain that is unrelenting or keeps you awake at night that may be associated with night sweats, weight loss or fever should be investigated urgently and you will be referred to your GP or even A&E with a letter from your chiropractor explaining why.
Other causes of low back pain can be due to inflammatory conditions and are termed Spondyloarthropathies. 5% of back pain is due to a condition called Ankylosing Spondylitis. Inflammatory conditions often start between age 15 to 35, tend to be recurring, often include over an hours stiffness in the morning, improve with exercises, night pain may be present as can inflammation over the pelvic joints.
Whatever the cause of back pain, chiropractic can help identify the underlying issues and the appropriate pathway for care whether chiropractic care or referral to your GP or alternative treatment such as Acupuncture or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBP).
Book an appointment now with Duston Chiropractic Clinic to take control of your back pain, move better and feel better.
Nick has been treating patients for over 9 years. He currently works in clinics in Duston and Milton Keynes.