Back Pain

Back Pain – The Science of Back Pain

Each year, many Americans suffer from lower back pain. Ninety percent of the adult population suffers from this musculoskeletal condition at least once during their lifetime. Back pain is the fifth most common reason that Americans visit the doctor. The fact that this pain is so prevalent leads to questions regarding common causes and the most effective and least expensive method of treatment.

The most common contributors to pain in the lower back are overuse or injury of joints, ligaments, and muscles, misalignments or improper motion of the bones of the spine which can occur from injury, poor posture, or over use, and pressure on the nerve roots within the spinal canal. This nerve pressure may be caused by osteoarthritis, which usually results during aging. Another cause is a herniated disc caused by repeated motion or vibration, increased pressure, or sudden heavy strain in the area.

Spinal deformities, like scoliosis, spinal canal narrowing (called spinal stenosis), and spondylolisthesis, which occurs when one vertebra slides over another, may also place pressure on nerve roots. Other spinal conditions that are common are osteoarthritis, and misalignments of the pelvic joints, called the sacroiliatic joints. Sacroiliac joint misalignment can occur during pregnancy and persist after delivery of the newborn.

Approximately one in five Americans reports some form of back pain on a monthly basis. The typical self-treatment regimen includes applying ice to the area to ease discomfort and decrease inflammation and swelling, guarding activity in the first hour after awakening and gentle stretching exercises. Topical gels and creams featuring ingredients like menthol, camphor, eucalyptus oil, salicylate, or capsaicin may also sooth the pain.

No specific exercise has been discovered to be completely effective in providing relief. However, general forms of exercise helps back pain sufferers maintain their mobility. A healthcare professional will provide recommendations for exercises. Some exercises widen the space between vertebrae and reduce pressure on the nerves, while others stretch the back muscles.

If lower back pain does not resolve within several days to a week, or if it continues to reoccur, professional treatment is recommended. Whenever the pain is injury-related or is so severe that it inhibits movement and sleeping, or if the pain extends down the leg and below the knee or numbness is experienced in the rectal area, groin, foot, or leg, a professional should be consulted.

Some people experience unexplained weight loss, lost bladder or bowel control, nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain when their lower back hurts. These individuals should immediately consult a professional. If pain is accompanied by sweating, weakness, or fever, professional help should be sought. Individuals who have a history of cancer, osteoporosis, substance abuse, or IV drug or steroid use should never self-treat their low back pain.

As far as treatment goes, osteopathic, chiropractic, and medical doctors, physical therapists, and Ph. Ds have studied this issue. Much of their research is included in reputable journals like the Archives of Internal Medicine, the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Spine Research Journal, and the Journal of the Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Though these professionals have not reached a consensus regarding treatment, their work brought important facts to light.

In a 2004 study, participants suffering from pain in their lower back received spinal adjustments or manipulations from Chiropractors. The average treatment cost per episode was reduced by 28 percent for participants from Chiropractors. The cost of hospitalization declined by 41 percent, back surgery cost dropped by 32 percent and the cost of medical imaging, including MRI's and X-Rays dropped by 37 percent.

In another study, participants who regularly visited a Chiropractor were more satisfied with their treatment plan than those being treated by another type of healthcare provider. According to one author on the subject, private insurers and the public would save more than 10 million dollars in skeletal muscle relaxant medication alone if a chiropractor provided primary treatment for lower back pain. Anyone suffering from this pain should consider chiropractic spinal manipulation as a treatment before deciding on a course of action.

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