The Progression of Low Back Pain

Approximately 70% of the people that come in to the clinic complain of low back pain. Low back pain can take many forms, but, in general, long-standing low back pain follows a typical plot line.

I will often hear from a patient that their low back has been bothering them, on and off, for years. It bothers them after gardening, shovelling the driveway, sports, or a similar physical activity. They will report that it is happening more frequently and lasting longer.

Now, this explanation may seem self-evident, but please allow me to explain the situation as we chiropractors see it.

The reason the low back hurts following activity is because the back is not functioning properly. There are 5 lumbar vertebrae and 2 sacro-iliac (SI) joints that must move in harmony for optimal low back movement.

The initial trauma to the back/pelvis usually starts in childhood. Anyone who has children has seen them fall off the monkey bars, wipe out on a bike, or fall on their backside skating. These little accidents initially sprain the back and pelvis and affect its movement pattern. Next we add a lifetime of ski wipeouts, car accidents, icy parking lot slips, and we get a back and pelvis with repeated small-scale trauma.

Then we sit. We sit at work, in the car; we sit to eat and watch TV. This sitting loads up the back and tightens the hip, leg and back muscles.

Now, instead of vertebrae and SI joints working in harmony when we are active, one or two of the joints do most of the movement and get sore. As the years add up, these overworked joints can become worn and arthritic. The situation builds over time. The problem becomes chronic and then even small activities can strain the back, until finally we are frustrated enough to do something about it.

This is the role of chiropractic care. We assess the level of damage to the low back, and depending on the severity of the situation, come up with a plan to get the lumbar spine and SI joints moving again in harmony. This will reduce pain, but, just as importantly, allow the low back to tolerate activity again, giving us another hike, another day skiing, another day in the garden. We have seen that the more a body moves, the longer it lasts and the more enjoyment we can get out of life.

Like I said, this is a long-term build-up, but the sooner we tackle the problem the better chance we have of making a difference. If this sounds familiar, please come in and have a physical exam and assessment. We would love to help you become more active.

Written by Dr. James Mayne, DC

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