Lower Back Pain--Common, but not Normal
By Dr. Leah Hahn, D.C.
Whether chronic , irritating pain or acute, life-altering pain, low back problems can have a profound impact on your life. If you have or are currently experiencing low back pain, you are not alone. It is estimated that over 80% of Americans will have lower back pain at some point within their lives. Because you may hear about so many of your acquaintances dealing with low back pain, it may seem like it is a "normal" condition to live with--but realize that while it may be common, it isn't normal. Even more importantly, it may be truly interfering with your life. Some people experience lower back pain so consistently, they may not be able to truly engage in life activities they care about, i.e. exercise or sleep. This truly affects your overall health! One study indicated that 40% of Americans reported that low back pain interfered with their ability to perform activities of daily living. Even more concerning, the magnitude of the burden created by lower back pain is increasing. A 1990 study looking at the "most burdensome conditions in the U.S. in terms of mortality or poor health caused by disease" ranked low back pain in sixth place, but by 2010, it had jumped to 3rd place. In that study, only heart disease and obstructive pulmonary disease ranked higher.
Don't Settle for Low Back Pain--It can be More Serious that You Think
Low back pain is now the number one cause of disability world-wide as well as one of the second leading causes of missed days at work (second to colds). It is also a major cause of decreased productivity at work. Most people cannot afford to have lower back pain inhibit their ability to earn an income or cannot afford prolonged decreased productivity at work. When we combine this information with the fact that annually Americans spend $50 billion dollars on low back pain treatment we achieve a larger perspective on the scope of the problem. Even more alarming, it is estimated that Americans spend $100 billion on indirect costs including higher insurance premiums, lost wages, lost productivity, legal costs, as well as huge impacts on the sufferers' family. The loss of income combined with loss of quality of life is a complex problem. There are long-term complications as well. A 2004 study from Neuroscience used MRI scans to study the brains of those with chronic back pain. Findings demonstrated that chronic pain can age the brain 10-20 years. This disturbing fact makes us that much more eager to find solutions.
Low Back Pain--Causes
When we take a closer look at the cause of lower back pain combined with the fact that it is becoming more serious and more common in today's culture, the pieces of the low back pain puzzle start to make sense. The majority of lower back pain issues are mechanical in nature, meaning they are caused by the complex structure of bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles of the lower back. Throughout the spine there are thirty-one pairs of nerves rooted to the spinal cord that transmit signals from the body to the brain. This means that common situations are misalignment of the lower back vertebra (bones), pressure on the nerves exiting between the lower back vertebra, issues with the core musculature, or a problem with the movement patterns of the lower back vertebra. Each of these problems can involve a disc (the shock absorbing structure in between the bones of the spine). The lumbar spine is unique in that it supports most of the weight of the upper spine and head. Given the importance of the stability of the lower back, it is subject to sprained ligaments, strained muscles, ruptured discs, irritated joints, and impinged nerves, all of which can lead to low back pain. Because the nerve roots in the lower back form the sciatic nerve, people with low back issues may also experience pain traveling into their gluts, hips, or down their leg.
Many Americans work at a desk or sit in long commutes on a daily basis. Other common situations involve those that may have little activity during the week but go "all out" with yard work, heavy lifting projects, or sports activities on the weekends. Arthritis, obesity, poor posture, poor nutrition, pregnancy, and psychological stress can cause or complicate back pain as well. These issues are likely combined with weak core muscles. Even some of the best athletes are missing the level of core mobility and strength they need to prevent injury. For the athlete, the weekend warrior, or the individual just wishing to enjoy the little things in life more, there are solutions that we can help with.
Low Back Pain--Solutions
At Body In Balance, we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to function at their optimal potential. This means that if you are looking at healing back pain, improving the health of the spine, or looking at how you can prevent suffering from low back pain, there are steps to take that can make a huge difference in your ability to have the best quality of life. We look at pain as a signal to pay attention to--and then work to determine the root cause of the problem. Our goal is to help you heal, feel your best, and then address the problem at a deeper level than just a short-term fix. Our goal is that as you heal your physiology, you can prevent this issue in the long term as well. Why would you go back to the physiology that caused the low back pain when we can heal the root issue and move forward with health and wellbeing? For many patients with low back pain, gentle, effective, non-force Network Spinal Analysis (NSA) Chiropractic care is the place to start, but because we believe in a whole-body approach, we provide many other services to help address factors that may be contributing to low back pain.
NSA Chiropractic: NSA is a gentle, non-force chiropractic technique that uses an in-depth analysis system to determine the patterning and cause of dis-ease and dysfunction within the spine. Our chiropractors uses several tools to analyze the condition of the spine and then determine a plan to improve the function of the spine. NSA helps decrease the stress on the spinal cord, nerves, disc, ligaments and tendons of the spine. With less tension and pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, information signaling from the brain to the rest of the body is optimized, along with healing. Adjustments are gentle and relaxing, as well as incredibly effective at improving the health of the spine.
Nutrition: Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is not conducive to lowering pain levels. Reports have stated that the SAD is a common factor for increasing inflammation--a major player in pain. Eating a healthier diet can help decrease belly fat (a stressor for the core as well as a factor for negatively influencing the alignment of the lower back). The team at Body In Balance can provide plans for decreasing inflammation (thereby decreasing pain signaling), weight loss, as well as order blood panels that help patients determine foods that are specifically creating inflammation in their bodies.
Functional Rehab and Fitness: Having poor core strength or movement patterns is a common issue for many with lower back pain. Others have a strong core, but their core has been supporting the incorrect structural alignment for years. Sitting throughout the workday is a common factor for more than half of Americans with lower back pain--as well as other factors such as poor posture, slouching and being overweight. At Body In Balance, as the spine starts to heal and move into proper alignment patterns, we want to build core strength to support the new, proper positioning of the spine. Body In Balance chiropractors work with a team of personal trainers to provide our patients with customized programs for building proper core strength and mobility.
Massage: We all know that massage can be incredibly relaxing, but at Body In Balance, our team of massage therapists work with our chiropractors to provide therapeutic massage. They are able to target specific muscles and tendons for release of tension that can help support the patient's individual healing process. While providing amazing stress relief, massage can also provide an incredibly important component to the healing process.
Our mission is to empower our community to create healthy lifestyle habits --to create health by choice, not by chance. Whether you are looking for decreasing lower back pain, or want to work on your overall health, Body In Balance is a starting point to create a plan for enhancing your health and wellbeing. Call to make an appointment. Our team of professionals will provide guidance as they determine what is needed to actually fix the problem, versus putting a band-aid over the issue. Please share this article with someone you know and love that may need our help.