Is Low Back Pain Making You Miserable?

You are not alone.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) estimates that the prevalence of low back pain among Canadian adults is as high as 84% and that within this population 34% – 59% experience acute (lasts a few days to a few weeks) or sub acute (lasts between 4 and 12 weeks) pain.

Chronic low back pain (lasting 12 weeks or longer) is estimated to affect 4%-25% of the general adult population, depending on the case definition, methodology and study sample.

So it’s not surprising that more than 25% of adults report having low back pain in the last three months. If you are one of them, what did you do to resolve the pain?

Your spine is your body’s scaffold.
The area where most of us experience back pain is in the lower lumbar region where five vertebrae (called the L1-L5) reside. These hardworking vertebrae support much of your upper body weight. Round rubber-like discs – intervertebral discs, lie between each vertebra and cushion the bones as your body moves. Ligaments hold the vertebrae in place, and muscles are attached to the spinal column with tendons.

The spinal cord is richly rooted with transmitters too – thirty-one pairs of nerves control body movements and transmit signals from the body to the brain.

So why does it hurt?
There are many “mechanical” reasons why we experience low back pain, some of them are more common than others and when understood, easier to treat, accommodate and even prevent.

  • Aging: Normal wear and tear on the rubber-like discs between the vertebrae as we age is the most common cause of low back pain in older adults.
  • Strain: Heavy lifting, sudden twists or turns, and even overzealous stretching can strain or tear ligaments, muscles, or tendons. This type of injury is a leading cause of acute pain and can also cause spasms.
  • Pregnancy: A healthy weight gain in pregnancy is thirty pounds, enough to stretch abdominal muscles and add strain to the lower back, legs, and joints.
  • Herniated disc: The intervertebral discs become compressed and bulge outward (herniation) or rupture, causing low back pain.
  • Sciatica: is caused by compression (often between a disc and adjacent bone) of the sciatic nerve, the large nerve that travels through the buttocks and extends down the back of the leg.
  • Trauma: Sports injuries, car accidents, and falls are some incidents that can cause shock to the spine resulting in compression, nerve damage, and or muscle, tendon and ligament injuries.
  • Scoliosis or other congenital anomalies: Spinal irregularities like these can begin to cause low back pain in adult middle age.

The preceding list is not exhaustive, but it will suffice to introduce you to the more familiar mechanical causes of low back pain. It is important to note that certain kinds of back pain can also directly result from diseases of the internal organs, such as kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots, or bone loss. Your chiropractor will determine, after a thorough examination and discussion, if further diagnostics are needed to assess the cause of your back pain.

Preventing low back pain

  • Correct your posture. Slouching and continually leaning over an electronic device is hard on your spinal column. Stand and sit up with a straight back.
  • Stay as active as possible at every age, but especially as you reach your 50s. Walk, stretch, and move around. Try water aerobics, Tai Chi, Yoga (chair yoga if your knee joints hurt), gardening, and stationary cycling. Your chiropractor will advise you about which activities will help you most.
  • Strengthen your core. Strong abdominal muscles support your spine with lifting objects, walking, getting out of a bed or chair, and carrying your body weight. Ask your doctor of chiropractic which exercises will help strengthen your core.
  • Keeping your body at a healthy weight, and eating nutritious foods will also help you stay pain-free.
  • If you smoke, stop. Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with low heels. Ask your chiropractor about custom orthotics to improve your gait and alignment.
  • Ensure you have a supportive mattress for sleeping.
  • Have your chiropractor recommend an ergonomically correct workstation for your computer area.
  • If you are pregnant, sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees and another beneath your abdomen to support the weight and keep your spine straight.

Relief for low back pain
The majority of low back pain cases are mechanical or organic and respond well to chiropractic treatment modalities. Also, many of us want to avoid the use of opioids and NSAIDs as much as possible.

The Canadian Chiropractic Association recommends the following treatments and strategies for treating and relieving low back pain. Your chiropractor may have additional suggestions.

  • See your doctor of chiropractic for an assessment of your pain.
  • Your chiropractor may recommend spinal manipulation to reduce the pain and increase function.
  • Acupuncture has been shown to be clinically useful in relieving back and shoulder pain. Many chiropractors incorporate acupuncture into their practice.
  • Your chiropractor may suggest exercises to help relax and strengthen muscles in the area of pain.
  • Applications of heat, ice, or both intermittently, may be beneficial
  • Therapeutic massage can relieve muscle tension, increase blood flow, and promote relaxation.
  • In pregnancy, back pain can be reduced by manual therapies. In a study of 170 Canadian women, those who received chiropractic care reported less pain both during pregnancy and during labour.

Maintenance Care for Overall Wellness
Some think that health is merely the absence of pain or symptoms. A wellness approach to health means implementing a variety of healthy habits for optimum function on all levels. Designed to maintain your improved health and spinal function, and prevent the return of the original condition once spinal correction has been attained. Regular visits catch small problems before they become serious. Prevention saves time and money by helping you stay well.

Dr. Judith Monk-Bidgood DC

“After 30+ years of Sciatica and back pain, I finally have relief.
Dr. Monk has been great. She uses the most up-to-date treatments
and has helped me so much in the short time I have been seeing her.
Thank you Dr. Judy!”

[i] Hoy D, Bain C, Williams G, et al. (2012) A systematic review of the global prevalence of low back pain. Arthritis Rheum 64:2028–37.