Lower back pain is one of the most frequent reasons people come to see us. The problem can be muscular low back pain or spinal low back pain in origin.
If you've had acute problems/spasms with your lower back you'll know just how much we take a normal back for granted.
When that spasm hits you, you start envying anyone who can move normally - you'd give your back teeth just to be able to move as normally as someone double your age!
At work, especially, you may even experience impatience from other people (managers in particular!), who have never had a sore lower back.
You can have a perfect back on x-ray and still experience severe lower back pain.
This is common. The reverse also applies - you can have x rays that show a lot of wear and tear, but which is not causing any pain.
So x rays are often of limited value in telling us why someone is in pain. Having lower back pain doesn't mean you've got severe damage even though it feels like it must be true.
Many cases of back pain happen because the spine has become progressively more restricted over time. The means that movement is not shared between all the spine, but focused too much on one particular section. This results in too much movement in that section & painful spasm, often with just a trivial movement (e.g. bending down to pick something small off the floor) .
The good news is that this is usually easy to treat, with significant relief of your low back pain and a quick return to normality soon after. Most low back pain resolves within 6 weeks.
In young adults, disc problems
are more common, often caused by bending and lifting. They cause 'pinched nerves', the best known of which is sciatica, a shooting pain down the back of the leg as far as the foot. Numbness or tingling in the legs may also be experienced.
Except for the more severe cases, disc injuries do get better, but will often take months to do so, partly because they are constantly under pressure from the weight of the rest of the body, and also because of the kind of tissue they are made of, which takes longer to mend. Milder injuries do occur and can resolve quite quickly.
In both cases, our treatments significantly improve comfort levels and may speed your recovery by making sure the rest of the spine and body are able to move as well as possible. This helps distribute stresses along the whole length of the spine & reducing it on the affected area.
You many wonder what we do for treatment for a disc injury.
Let's start by saying that we do NOT manipulate (i.e. try to 'click' or twist the spine) where the damaged disc is. Discs cannot be manipulated back in. There is a popular misconception of spinal manipulation that the discs can "be manipulated back". Manipulation in the area of the injured disc can make the problem a lot worse!
Our treatments focus on maximizing movement everywhere else so that the affected area isn't under unnecessary stress. Working on tender soft tissues also helps with the general sense of comfort.
Other causes of low back pain
- Fractures. These are more common in younger adults and may be due to a severe impact. In the elderly, one has to consider reduced bone density (as in osteoporosis) as a possible cause. The key to relief is often good management, which is something we can help with.
- Osteoarthritis (wear and tear) affects most people more as they age, though this process can start much earlier with heavy manual jobs or a history of injuries.
- Falls & slips. These often change the mechanics of the hop bones (the pelvis), resulting in the spine and body resting on an uneven foundation.
- Pregnancy back pain. Many pregnant women experience back pain and are commonly told that it is ‘normal’ and that there is no effective treatment. The results patients have say different!
Both the mechanical stresses and the hormonal changes in the body can lead to the onset of this pain. It can also present very early in the pregnancy, particularly if there has been previous back pain history or trauma.
Occasionally the baby can lie on the sciatic nerve in which case treatment may not help.
Osteopathic treatment is gentle and SAFE for both mother & baby and relief for the low back pain can often be within a short number of treatments .
During delivery the tissues in the pelvis are easily strained and may not return to their normal position when the delivery is over. Typically the woman should be pain free within two weeks of delivery although it can take longer to feel that her pelvis has returned to normal.
Again treatment at this stage can be useful to restore normal pelvic function.