Beating Lower Back Pain Once and For All
If you’ve clicked on this post then you are likely frustrated with your back pain and you are looking for some answers.
If that’s you then I’d encourage you to read through these three effective strategies that we prescribe almost daily in our clinic to help people manage and heal their low back pain.
These strategies help our patients take control of their health. They also help them beat the pain that they may have been struggling with for years.
All three of these strategies are super simple. The first two strategies are done in your own home, on your own time.
Strategy #1 – Motion is Lotion
The small joints of your spine and neck may seem strong but often the impacts and repetitive injuries over your lifetime have weakened these critical joints.
The ligaments that are designed to hold these joints together can become damaged with as little impact as a 20 or 30 km/h fender bender. That’s not a lot of force but can have a big impact on your spinal health.
Once these tiny spinal ligaments are damaged, your spinal joints may not be able to move well, or at all.
Watch this short video where Dr. Ken demonstrates a simple but effective exercise that we prescribe for your lower back to gently but slowly get motion back in your lower back.
By moving your lower back through a greater range of motion the joint surfaces will provide lubrication and nutrition for the whole joint.
Without that lubrication and nutrition, your joints will continue to degenerate and eventually be at risk for early onset spinal arthritis. (White A. A. and Panjabi M. M., 1990, Clinical Biomechanics of the Spine, 2nd ed. Lippincott, New York)
That’s where today’s chiropractic is so effective.
When specific adjustments are delivered to a region of the spine that is not moving well, the joint is dramatically impacted. It’s like months and months of stretching and mobility restored instantly; only safely and effectively with a safe, specific spinal adjustment.
So if you’re looking for a faster fix, today’s chiropractic is a much faster solution than months and months of home-based exercises.
An even better option is to do both, so your chiropractor is helping you and you are helping yourself.
Another positive side benefit to a chiropractic adjustment is that it helps low back pain directly by helping your nerves.
Spine researchers have documented significant pain issues when these delicate joints of your spine are not moving or positioned properly. (Dong L. and Winkelstein B. A., 2010, “Simulated Whiplash Modulates Expression of the Glutamatergic System in the Spinal Cord Suggesting Spinal Plasticity is Associated With Painful Dynamic Cervical Facet Loading,” J. Neurotrauma., 27(1), pp. 163–174)
If you want help getting your mobility and nerves working better than click the link below.
Strategy #2 – The classic question for back pain – Ice vs. Heat. Who wins and when.
The simple answer is that there is no simple answer. The answer to the ice vs. heat question is . . . . “it depends”.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you in the dark. I will share with you what we recommend to our patients so that you can choose the solution that fits you best.
When Ice is Best
When we first start working with a new patient their body may resist the change we need to see. Ice helps hold their adjustments by stiffening up the muscles in the area we are working to change.
Generally, ice application for 7-10 minutes in the neck and up to 20 minutes in the lower back will give us the help we need.
After the initial 2 weeks of working with someone the body has decided to give up the fight and ice is no longer necessary. Occasionally we will instruct someone to continuing icing after their adjustment for many months but that is rare.
Ice may help you when you start to add mobility to your lower back with the exercise we shared in strategy #1. It may also help if you’re starting a work out plan and you have been away from activity for some time.
Think about ice “helping your body hold” the new positions and deal with any inflammation that might occur from this newly discovered (or re-discovered) mobility.
If people apply heat to an already inflamed body part it may feel good in the moment but it drives the inflammation deeper and you will pay for it the next day.
Usually once a month we have a new patient call in after they have hurt their lower back. The first thing they did was reach for the heating pad heat, then they can’t get out of bed the next day.
They call us in absolute agony for help. And we’re glad to help, but ice would have been a better strategy.
When do we reach for heat?
Believe it or not, very rarely.
Some arthritic conditions (Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chronic Pain Conditions, Fibromyalgia) respond well to heat.
Sometimes we recommend a rotation of ice, then nothing, then heat, then nothing and then finish up with ice. We always end with ice. Why? Because of the story I mentioned above; inflammation can take hold and put you in a bad spot.
In the lower back, we would recommend 18-20 minutes of ice, followed by about 30 minutes of nothing and then 18-20 minutes with the heating pad. After the heat, another 30 minute break and then finish off with ice.
If the spine is warmed up before bed, often the inflammation overnight can put that person into a crisis and it’s not worth it. Yes, I know this is the third time I have said this, but I’ve seen too many people make themselves worse with heat.
Heat can be good if it’s applied to the whole body. A hot tub, hot bath or shower is different than a heating pad.
Strategy #3 – Many Hands Make Light Work
Many people with back pain feel like they have to go it alone. They suffer silently thinking that they just have to put up with the pain or that it will eventually go away.
Some people actually think that back pain is normal. Back pain definitely is not normal and is a signal that there is a problem.
Unfortunately “Dr. Google” doesn’t help. When you search lower back pain online you will see everything from “don’t worry about it, your back pain is no big deal” to “your back pain might be cancer”.
When should you seek professional advice?
Likely sooner than you think.
The important thing to understand with back pain is that your body is trying to get your attention for a reason. The sooner you pay attention, the sooner you will know if it’s a serious condition or not.
Even the peace of mind from an accurate diagnosis can help you manage your pain better.
Most people are quick to respond to a red flashing light on the dashboard of their vehicle. But that same person will suffer with back pain for weeks or months before they schedule a checkup. Don’t be that person.
Yes, a proper assessment will take some time and it might even cost you some money, but we need to take back pain seriously.
What are you looking for when you are seeking an expert opinion?
When we do an exam we use several different measurements. Posture is a great sign of how your spine is doing. Posture is a simple test but will often point us in the right direction.
The next test is to feel how the spine is moving and assessing the muscles that move the spine (or in the case of spasm, not letting the spine move).
More physical testing like muscle testing and range of motion are important but sometimes can be blurred by pain and spasm.
The final test is a very specific x-ray of the area of the spine that might be the culprit.
With modern digital x-ray, we get an incredible view into how the spine is doing. We can pick up postural imbalances, arthritic changes and areas the nerves may be getting pinched.
Another key for an accurate diagnosis is that we need to see the spine weight-bearing.
That means we need to take spinal x-rays standing up if we want to accurately detect many structural problems.
All this seems fairly logical but you would be surprised how many chronic cases of lower back pain we see where the person has never had a thorough exam or an accurate diagnosis.
How do we know what needs to be done without an accurate diagnosis?
You would never let your dentist just start randomly drilling your teeth. Why would you let someone adjust your spine without doing the necessary tests to determine what is wrong?
Saving time and money.
If you want to save time and money, ensure you start with an accurate diagnosis.
I know that sounds basic but I’ve seen some very frustrated people waste months (and sometimes years) on problems that should have been solved simply with a better examination process.
So if you’re looking to beat lower back pain once and for all, without breaking the bank, start with an accurate diagnosis.
Then any work that is done is effective so you get the results you deserve.