Few conditions place a burden on our society like back pain. Eight out of ten adults will experience it at some point in their lives. While many people think that back pain generally goes away on its own, studies have demonstrated that back pain tends to follow a pattern similar to asthma. This means that rather than clearing up completely, it goes through a series of aggravated episodes and periods of remission.
When properly managed and treated, back pain shouldn’t interfere too much with a persons quality of life and ability to perform their daily activities. However, if the condition is ignored or treated inappropriately, back pain can become chronic and extremely debilitating.
The physical causes of back pain can include serious conditions like disc herniations and degenerative arthritis. More commonly, back pain is of a mechanical origin. The joints and vertebral bones of the spinal column function correctly when they are in a normal state of alignment and movement. In this situation, the brain receives normal signals monitoring this functional state. When the spinal structures are injured or not moving correctly, damage and inflammation can result in pain signals being sent to the brain instead. This will then be felt as back pain.
Chiropractors spend the majority of their clinical training learning how to analyse and correct these spinal conditions with gentle spinal adjustments (sometimes called manipulation). A 2009 study comparing spinal manipulation to back school and physiotherapy found better short term and long term outcomes for patients having spinal manipulative treatment for their back pain. A survey of 14000 people recorded that 88% of people with back pain who had tried chiropractic care found it very helpful.
In addition to spinal adjustments for patients with back pain, chiropractor will often instruct them with a range of exercises which help to stabilise the spine and provide support to the healing process. In this way, a patient can progress toward a long term outcome including relief from back pain as well as improved capacity to do their normal daily activities.
It is important that a patient actively engages in their back pain treatment. Having a clear understanding of the mechanisms that cause back pain and the methods by which it can be treated places a person in the strongest position to manage their back pain most effectively.