It should come as no surprise to anybody who has ever suffered from back pain that it is the most common reason patients come to see chiropractors such as Dr. Nathen Horst. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 31 million Americans deal with back pain at some point in their lives. It is the most common reason for missing work and the second most common reason for visiting a primary care physician. Furthermore, more than $50 billion a year is spent on costs related to back pain.
Of course, patients’ most important concern is not only the cause of their back pain, but how best to treat it. These concerns are what often bring patients in to see Dr. Horst, as more standard treatments may have already failed.
What Causes Back Pain?
There can be a range of causes of back pain, but most fall into one of two main categories: Injury or illness/medical conditions. Common injuries include those related to sports, the workplace, or car accidents. Furthermore, improper posture (particularly when bending down or lifting heavy objects), obesity, advancing age, or psychological stress can all either cause or exacerbate back pain. Common medical conditions that may cause back pain include osteoarthritis, bulging or herniated discs in the spinal column, or sciatica. Certain conditions that are not directly related to the spine may also cause back pain, including kidney stones, pregnancy (particularly in the third trimester), or ovarian cysts.
Regardless of the cause for back pain, the nerves leading either to or from the spinal column are pinched or compressed in some fashion. This will then lead to back pain because the nerves are not functioning properly and send incorrect signals to the brain, which interprets these signals as pain stemming from the back.
Back Pain Treatments
Depending upon the severity of the pain, treatment can range from simply resting and applying heat or ice to the back, to surgery to relieve pressure on the nerves. Standard treatments for minor back pain will usually include either over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medications, along with rest and gentle stretching. More serious cases usually involve physical therapy to retrain the muscles of the back to work properly. Surgery to fuse parts of the spinal column as a treatment for herniated or bulging discs is only recommended in severe cases of back pain.
Chiropractic care will incorporate some of the standard treatments, such as rest, massage, hot/cold packs, and stretching. However, it will include some other treatments that are unique to chiropractic care. Perhaps the best known of these is the spinal adjustment. The basis of chiropractic care is that the spinal column will shift out of proper alignment over time. These shifts are known as vertebral sublaxations. A chiropractic adjustment to the back shifts the vertebrae back into proper alignment, thus relieving the pressure on the nerves.
Spinal adjustments can be done either with the hands or with a small, spring-loaded instrument. In some cases, Dr. Horst may also use a special table, which has hinged sections that can be dropped downward as he performs an adjustment. This uses gravity to help open up the spaces between the vertebrae further, which can make the adjustment more effective.
Back pain can be frustrating, both from a financial and a physical standpoint. Chiropractic care can provide safe, effective, non-invasive relief from these frustrations.