Low back pain is one of the most common conditions people suffer with, with at least four out of five adults experiencing it at some point in their lives. One of the most common causes of low back pain that we see as chiropractors is the spine or the pelvis becoming misaligned. Misalignments happen often as a result of everyday life stresses. Often it is simple things such as lifting poorly, prolonged bad posture, and sitting incorrectly that causes the spine to become misaligned.
The body is supported by the spine, which carries our spinal cord and nervous system. Nerves branch off the spinal cord between the vertebrae. Therefore, injury may not only lead to local inflammation and pain, but also to irritation of the spinal nerves causing pain elsewhere in the body. Commonly the pain will refer into the buttock and the back or front of the thigh and occasionally all the way to the foot and toes.
The lower back is also called the lumbar spine. It is the area of the spine between the 12th rib (the last rib) and the top of the hips. It is composed of 5 movable vertebrae called Lumbar Vertebrae. At each level of the spine are spinal nerves exiting the spine. In between the bones are the intervertebral discs. The discs are made of a tough fibrous out shell called the annulus fibrosis and a softer gel like nucleus pulposus.
Chiropractic, unlike painkilling drugs, treats the cause of pain, not just the pain itself.
While many people look for medication such as ibuprofen and aspirin when they suffer from low back pain, these should not be considered first-line treatments. While medication may reduce the symptomatic pain, it does not treat the actual problem. This means that once the medication wears off, the pain usually returns. This will continue until the underlying mechanism driving the pain is addressed.
Chiropractic had consistently shown to be effective in relieving lower back pain in the long term, by addressing the deeper problems connected to the pain. By releasing tension in the joints and muscles, Chiropractic provides a safe, simple and efficient form of therapy for back care.
Many studies have shown the effectiveness of chiropractic for lower back pain. Here are just a few:
In a study by Senna & Malachy 2011, spinal manipulation therapy (SMT), of which chiropractic is one discipline, was shown to have significantly better outcomes on the symptoms of lower back pain than those who received ‘sham’ adjustments (a group designed to make the participant believe they were having SMT in order to remove the placebo effect).
An excellent study reported in the world’s premier orthopedic journal, Spine, in 2003 compared medication, acupuncture, and chiropractic in the treatment of chronic spinal pain. Chiropractic treatment was more than 5 times more effective than medication, and three times more effective than acupuncture.–Spine 2003 Jul 15;28(14):1490-502.
Lastly, the Manga Report is an independent study funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health to evaluate the cost effectiveness of all types of treatment for low back pain, including medical treatment, physical therapy, and chiropractic. Here are some of the findings (you can read the entire report online, as it represents the most comprehensive study on the subject to date):
“On the evidence, particularly the most scientifically valid clinical studies, spinal manipulation applied by chiropractors is shown to be more effective than alternative treatments for LBP. Many medical therapies are of questionable validity or are clearly inadequate.”
“There is no clinical or case-control study that demonstrates or even implies that chiropractic spinal manipulation is unsafe in the treatment of low-back pain. Some medical treatments are equally safe, but others are unsafe and generate iatrogenic complications for LBP patients. Our reading of the literature suggests that chiropractic manipulation is safer than medical management of low-back pain.”