Low Back Pain

80% of us will suffer from low back pain during our lives and for the most part it is caused by either stressing our backs due to over exertion. This is particularly the case in people who lead a sedentary life and sit at a desk all day and then make unkind demands on their backs at the weekend or suddenly take some exercise.


Acute back pain and the stiffness associated with it can come from any part of the pain sensitive structures in the back. These include the joints, muscles, discs and ligaments. You may experience pain only in the low back or it can radiate from the back down towards the buttock, hips and legs. What happens in the spine is there is a reduction in the movement between two or more spinal segments, muscle spasm develops and occasionally there can be a disc injury. Often the muscles around the spine, buttocks and hips are tight. If this occurs in your mid back (thoracic region) you can even experience difficulty breathing.

Most acute back pain is not caused by anything specific but often occurs from a build up of multiple stresses on the spine from our daily activities, then suddenly we just bend down to tie our shoelaces and we get sudden, severe back pain. It is often associated with lifting or bending down.

In the beginning of an acute back problem often pain is felt in all directions of movement. As the pain subsides it is often felt on specific movements such as bending forward or getting up from a sitting position. It is best to find a position of comfort; this is often walking on a flat surface or lying down on your back with your ankles resting on a chair. 

It is important that the reason behind the problem gets treated otherwise the acute back pain can return quickly and the back will not return to its original function. A chiropractor can both reduce the pain and allow for the body to function as normal. When one does suffer from acute back pain it is important that one tries to keep moving. Movement is important for the healing process and can help prevent associated muscle tightness and stiffness developing. Bed rest and inactivity worsen the condition further.

Rehabilitation is extremely important once your back has been corrected. A specific exercise program including core strengthening and stabilisation is vital to return to normal function and prevent the likelihood of recurrence.

Your acute back pain can also be caused by other conditions and if your chiropractor thinks they cannot help you they will refer you onto the appropriate person so further investigations can be carried out.
A new comprehensive clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians titled Diagnosis and Treatment of Low Back Pain and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine October 2007 marks a historic point when North American medical and chiropractic guidelines with respect to back pain are fundamentally the same. Spinal manipulation has been found to be superior to other types of treatment such as drugs, exercise and advice demonstrating the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment.

Some interesting facts of research:

  • For acute low back pain (an episode of pain for less than four weeks) spinal manipulation (which chiropractors are highly specialised in) is the only non-drug treatment with proven effectiveness and recommended.
  • There is good evidence that spinal manipulation and spinal mobilisation (both of which chiropractors are experts in) is superior to usual medical care for patient improvement.
  • There are now more randomised controlled trials examining spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) for low back pain than any other intervention.
  • SMT and mobilisation are superior to physical therapy and to home exercises in the long-term.
  • Chiropractic management is a non-invasive, cost effective treatment approach for patients with chronic low back pain.
  • One of the benefits of spinal manipulation (administered by providers with appropriate training) is its safety.