Low back pain
What is low back pain?
Low back pain is pain anywhere in the region from the bottom of the rib cage to the buttocks and can be associated with pain radiating into the groin, abdomen or legs.
Low back pain has lots of potential causes, including musculoskeletal (arising from the muscles and joints), neurological and visceral (arising from your organs). The great news is that most low back pain isn’t serious in nature. Chiropractors undergo a 4-year full-time Master’s degree in order to ensure they can identify the most likely cause of your low back pain and manage it appropriately.
What will happen when I see a Chiropractor with low back pain?
We will take a thorough history of your back pain as well as your medical history and some family medical history in order to give us the most complete picture possible of what is going on with your back. This may include some questions that don’t seem relevant, but we promise they are and that they’re needed in order for us to come to as accurate a diagnosis as possible – we’re not just being nosy, honest!
We then do an extensive orthopaedic and neurological examination to further help us in determining the likely cause of your back pain.
After this, we will sit down together and discuss your diagnosis in detail, your treatment options and formulate a plan of care between us that is best suited for you. In most cases, if it is appropriate, we are able to start treatment on your initial consultation visit.
Common Causes of Low Back Pain
As mentioned, lower back pain has many potential causes, the majority of which are straight-forward and easily treated.
Although people can experience low back pain as a result of diseases affecting internal organs, this is very uncommon and usually accompanied by other symptoms of disease.
It also extremely uncommon for cancers to present as back pain, particularly without other preceding symptoms.
If you are generally well, your muscles and joints are almost certainly the cause of your lower back pain.
It is most likely that low back pain is caused by an issue with both your muscles and joints at the same time, given that a problem with one will affect the other.
Sometimes it can be quite difficult to pin down exactly which structure is causing your pain, because your body makes so many adaptations to compensate for muscle and joint problems.
More often than not the exact pain-causing tissue will change from day to day and depending on what activity you are doing.
For this reason, a lot of back pain is often labelled “simple mechanical low back pain”.
This does not mean that treatment needs to be imprecise, but just goes to show that which tissue is causing your pain at any particular point in time is less important than you might think.
What is the best kind of treatment for low back pain?
In cases of simple mechanical back pain (ie. back pain where serious trauma or disease are not factors), the best kind of treatment is manual therapy combined with exercise. Sometimes a short course of anti-inflammatories can be useful in the early stages of treatment too.
Manual therapy comes in many different forms, and one of the jobs of a chiropractor is to determine which forms are going to provide the best results for each individual patient.
Here at Gloucester Chiropractors we use a wide variety of treatment options including soft tissue work, dry needling (a form of medical acupuncture), joint mobilisation or manipulation, kinesiotaping and home exercises.
Spinal manipulation has been shown to be effective in improving pain, mobility and disability in low back pain, especially when used in combination with education and home exercises.
Our chiropractors have years of experience in selecting appropriate treatment methods and applying them in a safe and effective way.
What can I do to help my back pain?
As mentioned above, the vast majority of low back pain is not serious in nature and a large proportion of low back pain will resolve on its own or with non-invasive treatment such as painkillers, exercise and manual therapy within a few weeks.
The best thing you can do to manage your back pain is stay as mobile as possible and continue with your day to day activities such as going to work where you can, with modifications as needed.
Over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can be useful, though check with your GP or pharmacist that these are safe for you to take if you are unsure.
Using an Ice pack or a hot water bottle on the painful area for 20 minutes can also provide some relief.