Lower back pain from Arthritis is the leading cause of disability and time off of work in the United States. Statistically, 4 out of 5 Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their life. Those who experience low back pain, are more likely to have more episodes of low back pain in the future as well. Lastly, at any given time in America, 10% or 31 million Americans are experiencing low back pain. These numbers highlight the ever-growing epidemic our country faces which if diagnosed correctly, can be managed properly restoring function and reducing time off from work and disability claims. But what causes low back pain and how do we identify the correct cause for proper treatment?
To answer this, we must first have some understanding of the anatomy of the spine and it's vertebral segments. The picture above shows a single spinal segment which consists of two vertebrae, the intervertebral disc in between the vertebral bodies (front of the spine) which are filled with a jelly-like substance to help take the pressure off the spine, and the facet joints (back of the spine) which are surrounded by soft tissue cartilage called a synovial joint that has fluid which lubricates the joint. Lastly, if you notice the hole right in between the intervertebral disc and the facet joints, that is where our spinal nerves branch off of the spinal cord and innervate every cell in our body, in short, this is the highway connecting our brain to our body.
To understand how the spine signals pain to our brain we must understand the anatomy and how the joints support the spine. When a patient comes in with low back pain that is worst in the morning or at night as they lie down for bed, worse when sitting, and may even have radiating symptoms down one leg to the foot, these are signs of the intervertebral disc as the source of pain. Typically the discs dehydrate as we age which is a normal process, however, this causes the disc space between the vertebrae to narrow which causes the hole where the spinal nerve comes out to get smaller. This process can cause what people typically describe as a "pinched nerve" as the nerve gets compressed at its root causing radiating pain, numbness, or tingling. People typically respond well to chiropractic adjustments, spinal traction, and exercises to help relieve these symptoms and restore stability to the spine.
The other main cause that can create severe lower back pain is when the facet joint in the back of the spinal segment gets inflamed which can also cause nerve compression. Typically, this causes back pain that is worse when standing for prolonged periods of time, difficulty moving or transitioning from seated to standing, bending backward, and worsens as the day goes on because we are active. This pain usually feels better with rest, ice, and Chiropractic adjustments to help improve the motion of that segment. Exercises performed to enhance core stability over time can help reduce the reoccurrence of this pain, but overall, education on your condition and what things can help to relieve symptoms as they appear are your best tool for reducing future episodes of low back pain.
Other less common causes of low back pain need proper diagnosis by your Chiropractic or medical physician to treat a more serious issue. Both types of physicians are trained and educated on how to assess all of these conditions and refer when necessary for further work-up.
Your overall greatest tool for preventing future episodes of low back pain is education on your condition and things you can do on your own to manage them. When people search for the best chiropractor near me, I always suggest find a doctor who will teach you things to do on your own to help your condition and help educate you. At Empower Chiropractic, we treat each patient individually and understand there are many causes and factors that contribute to someone's symptoms. Thus we tailor our care to fit your specific needs, provide the education you need to manage your condition, and Empower you to higher health through focused Chiropractic adjustments.