Back pain is a common problem.
Research from the Office of National Statistics* in 1998 found that 40% of adults said that they had suffered from back pain lasting more than one day in the last year and 15% of back pain sufferers said that they were in pain throughout the year. Back pain can range from ‘the odd ache and pain’ in the morning to debilitating pain after injury. Either way back pain stops sufferers from doing day to day activities such as exercising, gardening and getting a good night’s sleep. The spine is made up of 33 vertebrae which help to form each of its joints. In between each vertebra sits a disc which acts as a shock absorber. The spinal cord runs through the centre of the spine and has 33 spinal nerves that pass between the vertebrae to supply the body. The spine is shaped like an ‘S’ which gives the spine gentle curves in the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid- back), lumbar (low back) and the pelvic areas of the spine. These curves allow the joints, muscles, nerves and discs of the spine to work in the best way possible. This process can happen over a number of weeks, months or sometimes years but eventually the problem builds and can lead to ‘pinched nerves’ or disc problems causing pain, numbness and weakness, and can eventually lead to degeneration of the vertebrae and discs of the spine.
Pain is often the way your body has of telling you that you have some sort of movement dysfunction. The pain may not actually be representative of where the loss of function is so chiropractors assess your whole body not just the source of the pain. Many people with long term dysfunction will have restricition in the soft tissues as well. Known as fascia, the soft tissues are a very important component in helping us move.
How do Chiropractors Help?
Chiropractors evaluate the movement of the joints in the spine and body. Areas of joint stiffness are corrected with an adjustment. The aim of adjustments is to restore function that has been lost from the injured area. The adjustment improves the movement of the joint and helps to relax the surrounding muscles, restoring function to the area. Over time this begins to correct the longstanding muscle imbalance and joint tightness and starts to relieve irritation of spinal nerves and discs. The overall effect is reduction in pain and an improvement in movement of the spine and body.
Chiropractors also look at fascia and spend time tracking down the restrictions in the muscles and skin all of which will help towards a smooth coordinated movement that does not put undue pressure on any other structures.
Chiropractors may also give you exercises and advice to help maintain your recovery. If necessary your Chiropractor may refer you to another professional such as your GP.
What Causes Back Pain?
Accidents, prolonged sitting at a desk or in the car, carrying and lifting heavy items and general poor posture put pressure on the spine and the surrounding muscles. If allowed to continue this will change the way the body works. The spine loses its natural curves allowing muscle imbalance, joint tightness and irritation of the spinal nerves. This total loss of good function becomes a state of dysfunction.
What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is from the Greek words meaning done by hand. It is grounded in the principle that the body can heal itself when the skeletal system is correctly aligned and the nervous system is functioning properly. To achieve this, the practitioner uses his or her hands or an adjusting tool to perform specific manipulations of the vertebrae. When these bones of the spine are not correctly articulated, resulting in a condition known as a subluxation, the theory is that nerve transmission is disrupted and causes pain and illness manifested in the back as well as other areas of the body.
From chiropractic’s perspective, society’s new interest in a more holistic, more personal-responsibility based approach to health is a large step in the right direction. Fundamental to chiropractic is respect for the body’s natural ability to attain and maintain optimum health. Chiropractors believe their role is more of a facilitator than a healer: they help facilitate healing and health by working to create optimum conditions. With optimum conditions the body is then able to heal itself. How these optimum conditions are created requires commitment and teamwork between patient and chiropractic doctor. Restoring normal spinal, muscular and nervous system function and adhering to a healthy lifestyle are vital to creating correct conditions for the body to regain its health and to maintain wellness.