Lower Back Pain
Senior woman getting an adjustment from her chiropractor.
Low back pain is a common musculoskeletal disorder affecting 80% of people at some point in their lives. In the United States it is the most common cause of job-related disability, a leading contributor to missed work, and the second most common neurological ailment — only headache is more common. It can be either acute, subacute or chronic in duration. With conservative measures, the symptoms of low back pain typically show significant improvement within a few weeks from onset.
The majority of lower back pain stems from benign musculoskeletal problems, and are referred to as non specific low back pain; this type may be due to muscle or soft tissues sprain or strain, particularly in instances where pain arose suddenly during physical loading of the back, with the pain lateral to the spine. Over 99% of back pain instances fall within this category.
The lumbar region (or lower back region) is made up of five vertebrae (L1-L5). In between these vertebrae lie intervertebral discs, which act as cushions, preventing the vertebrae from rubbing together while at the same time protecting the spinal cord. Nerves stem from the spinal cord through foramina openings within the vertebrae, providing muscles with sensations and motor associated messages. Stability of the spine is provided through ligaments and muscles of the back, lower back and abdomen. Small joints which prevent, as well as direct, motion of the spine are called facet joints.
Back Pain Causes
Causes of lower back pain are varied. Most cases are believed to be due to a sprain or strain in the muscles and soft tissues of the back. Overactivity of the muscles of the back can lead to an injured or torn ligament in the back which in turn leads to pain. An injury can also occur to one of the intervertebral discs. Due to aging, discs begin to diminish and shrink in size, resulting in vertebrae and facet joints rubbing against one another. Pain is also generated through lumbar spinal stenosis, sciatica and scoliosis. At the lowest end of the spine, some patients may have tailbone pain. Others may have pain from their sacroiliac joint, where the spinal column attaches to the pelvis, called sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Physical causes may include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, degeneration of the discs between the vertebrae or a spinal disc herniation, a vertebral fracture (such as from osteoporosis), or rarely, an infection or tumor.
The core of chiropractic usually involves treatment of common lower back pain conditions through manual therapy:
- Spinal manipulation and manual adjustments