Around 80% of people will have a significant back pain episode at some point in their life. Once you have an episode of back pain, it is likely to recur, oftentimes within 1 year of first onset. What a horrible thing! It’s no wonder that billions of dollars are spent on back pain treatment every year, and that professions such as chiropractors have a good outlook for job growth in the near future – everybody is getting back pain and not getting rid of it very effectively. So, what about those billions of dollars? Are they being well spent? Are they curing the pain with the expensive drugs, surgeries, and devices they are paying for? In general, no. The rising costs of back pain treatment have not been directly associated with lower occurrences of back pain. On the contrary, the problem just keeps getting worse. Thus the need for studies such as this one, which investigates the usefulness of several methods of back pain prevention. It compared exercise, education, back belts, and shoe insoles and found that the only decent evidence of ability to reduce risk of low back pain episodes came from exercise combined with education. By education, I mean in-office education from the healthcare provider about what causes low back pain and strategies to avoid re-injuring the spine.
Knowledge is power. When you come to our office, our goal is not to just deliver expert, personalized treatment, but to give you tools through proper education to avoid what harms your back and help it to heal properly. I will not just put you on a table, adjust you, and send you on your way, because if I don’t tell you how to take care of your spine you will be right back in my office for the same reason wondering why treatment isn’t helping. I will help empower you to make better choices and start better habits to help you stay out of my office and stay feeling well. You’ll also notice that I don’t push a lot of products on my patients, or prescribe back belts and insoles very often. That is because they have limited utility in preventing back pain. We only use them when absolutely necessary. If you continue to injure your back time and time again and are looking for more answers, contact us to set up an appointment.
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If you have had neck and arm pain (cervical radiculopathy) or low back and leg pain (sciatica), you know that it can be debilitating. I see patients with these conditions often and here are some observations I’ve had over the years when treating them.
-It’s not as simple as a vertebra being out of place and causing a pinched nerve. The nerves in your arms and legs originate from the spinal cord at the level of your neck and your lower back, or lumbar spine. Those nerves exit the spinal column through gaps between each vertebrae, and that is where they can become pinched by either bulging discs or bone spurs. Disc bulges and bone spurs are much more complicated problems than a theoretical bone slipping out of place and pinching a nerve. In that scenario, the bone could be put back into place to take pressure off of the nerve and the pain would resolve quite rapidly. Don’t get me wrong, we do get some people better quite quickly. In the case of cervical radiculopathy or sciatica, though, it isn’t often that simple. Some people give up on treatment too soon because they want it to be that simple.
-Even though it is not just a bone out of place, a chiropractor can still help. Adjustments do more than just move bones. Adjustments can decrease the pressure inside the discs, which are soft and squishy and made mostly of water. Chiropractic adjustments can also relieve pressure on the pinched nerve by temporarily opening up the space where it passes between the vertebrae. Perhaps most importantly, adjustments affect the communication of pain signals from your arm or leg to your brain. In essence, getting adjusted can turn the volume down on the pain signal. Adjustments are just one tool in a chiropractor’s tool box. While they might not cure sciatica or radiating arm pain alone, they can help make the rest of your rehab more effective.
-If you end up needing surgery, doing it later rather than sooner shouldn’t affect your outcome. I’ve had patients give up after not seeing results after 1 or 2 treatments, only to consult with a surgeon and move forward with surgery. If the pain is caused by a bulging disc, and it is bearable and you aren’t progressively losing function in your arms or legs, it is safe to wait for surgery while you give conservative care a real chance at helping you. This study shows that even 1 and 2 years after the onset of symptoms, patients have a relatively equal chance of good surgical outcomes as those undergoing early surgical intervention. So when I recommend a trial of care lasting 4 weeks with 2 visits/week, I’m not doing it to pad my pocket book. In my experience, that is giving conservative treatment a fair chance before considering more invasive options. It’s enough time and enough visits to make a change, but not too much time that it could affect your surgical outcome if it comes to that.
If you or a loved one are suffering from cervical radiculopathy or sciatica, give conservative treatment a chance before doing anything more invasive. Contact us with any questions or to schedule a visit. (503) 526-8782