The Chiropractic Approach to Low Back Pain

What is back pain?

Back pain typically occurs in the lumbar spine and pelvic region otherwise know as the buttocks.  The pain can occur from a tightening of muscles or joints that get jammed due to a specific incident or small injuries that occur over time from work, athletics or even desk jobs.

What is the most common cause of back pain?

The most common cause of back pain is related to repetitive strain injuries that occur on the job or during daily activities.  Working on the computer, cooking, sewing or any activity that keeps you repeating the same movements from the same position can be the culprit of that nagging backache. The strain happens when either the muscles are tight and you are unable to stretch them, or when a joint is misaligned and the muscles become painful as they try to re-align the joint.

What are the less common types of back pain?

Degenerative disc disease, arthritis, herniation and neurologic conditions are all injuries that occur to the spine and more commonly in the low back.  These conditions will likely cause you great distress and you will need to seek a health care provider’s services.  The following symptoms require an immediate visit to your doctor:

  • History of cancer
  • Unexplained weight loss >10 kg within 6 months
  • Age over 50 years or under 17 years old
  • Failure to improve with therapy
  • Pain persists for more than 4 to 6 weeks
  • Night pain or pain at rest
  • Persistent fever (temperature over 100.4 F)
  • History of intravenous drug abuse
  • Organ transplant
  • Recent bacterial infection
  • Major muscle weakness
  • Trouble lifting your foot
  • Numbness and lower extremity weakness
  • Anal sphincter dysfunction
  • Recent trauma
  • History of osteoporosis

What are the basic causes of back pain?

  • Desk job
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Herniated disk
  • Gravity
  • Sports injury
  • Bacterial Infection
  • Fractures
  • Cancer
  • Repetitive strain
  • Jammed (misaligned) joints

Why see a Chiropractor instead of a massage therapist?

Chiropractic care helps re-align joints which stops the pain related to the muscles trying to push the joint back into alignment.  A typical response to this type of pain might be to stretch or get a massage.  While this might temporarily ease the pain, if you don’t re-align the joints, the muscles will loyally return to their job of trying to push the joint back into place and you will be back in pain once again.  This isn’t to say that massage can’t be a terrific partner in getting rid of long term pain. We feel that massage and chiropractic can make an excellent team!

Getting adjusted not only will help relieve your low back pain, but offers other health benefits as well.  According to research by Sean M. Hannon, BA, DC, chiropractic adjustment can result in the following physiologic changes:            

  • Increased strength
  • Increased oxygen consumption capacity
  • Increased range of motion
  • Decreased pain
  • Increase cardiac regulation
  • Increased immunity

Considering these benefits, it is easy to see why athletes and other health conscious people seek out regular chiropractic care. If you suffer from chronic or even occasional back pain, contact our office.  We can help!

What are some of the techniques we use to treat low back pain?

Our doctors are trained in many different types of adjustment techniques ranging from hands-on to instrument adjusting.  They also use different types of soft tissue therapies that can benefit an injury whether it is chronic or acute.  Treating both joint and soft tissue issues allows an injury more complete resolution than either alone.  The techniques used are:

  • Graston – soft-tissue and fascia therapy
  • Activator – instrument adjusting (non-force)
  • Sacro-occipital Technique (SOT) – Use of pelvic alignment (non-force)
  • Diversified Adjustment – Manual medicine with hands
  • Thompson Drop Adjustment – Using the table to increase speed of adjustment but not the pressure put on a body
  • Quatum Neurology – instrument adjusting (non-force) uses nerve reflexes as well
  • Gonstead – Classic manual chiropractic adjustment
  • Kinesio tape – muscle therapy and proprioceptive training using tape
  • Cranio-sacral technique – hands-on soft-tissue manipulation
  • Pediatric and Pregnancy Specific adjustments – hands on but specifically designed for certain times of life
  • Webster Technique – pelvis alignment for turning breech babies

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?


SAD is a type of depression that develops during the dark and cloudy grays days of winter.  Surprisingly, this depression doesn’t surface until the spring and early summer, after the winter months have sapped our energy and lowered our moods.


What are the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder?


While loss of energy and depression are most common, other symptoms can include:


  • Hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Heavy feeling of arms and legs
  • Oversleeping
  • Social withdrawal
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed



What causes SAD and what are the theories behind it?


The specific cause of SAD is still unknown. Generally it seems to affect certain patients more than others. A person with a genetic predisposition or mental health issues is most vulnerable. The common theories explaining SAD are:


  • Biological clock (circadian rhythm):  Reduced levels of light will disrupt the body’s internal clock which can lead to depression.
  • Serotonin levels:  Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that effects mood and gets a boost from sunlight. These levels may drop in the winter and trigger depression.
  • Melatonin levels: Melatonin is a hormone that helps control our sleep patterns and moods. Production of this hormone can be reduced during the winter months which can disrupt sleep and trigger low moods.


Who is most at risk?


  • Females
  • Those with a family history of SAD
  • Those with clinical depression or bipolar disorder
  • Those living very far away from the equator


How to know if you meet the criteria for suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder?


You might be diagnosed with SAD if:


  • You have experienced a depression or fatigue in at least two consecutive years around the same time of the year
  • The depression seemed to go away suddenly when the season changed
  • There are no life-related explanations for your depression or mood changes


What are the treatment options for SAD?


  • Light therapy:  A very easy way to see if you have this disorder is to buy an inexpensive full spectrum light bulb that fits in your vanity and note whether your mood improves somewhat or completely.  This may be adequate treatment for some people.  If your mood only improves slightly then you may want to talk to your doctor about a high-quality light therapy box.
  • Medication:  Herbal supplements like 5HTP can increase serotonin and melatonin levels for maintaining a healthy sleep pattern. Other vitamins and herbs can assist in depression disorders.  Pharmaceuticals options include Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac and Effexor.
  • Talk therapy:  Helps teach coping mechanisms for SAD.
  • Get a massage! The healing power of touch has been shown to lift some of the symptoms of SAD while giving much needed relief to tired achy muscles.


What can I do to prevent SAD?


  • Exercise regularly 4 times a week for a minimum of 30-45 minutes.
  • Getting outside in the sun for as little as 10 to 15 minutes can help prevent SAD.
  • Replace your traditional vanity light with a full-spectrum bulb to reap its advantages while getting ready for school or work in the morning.
  • Supplement with Vitamin D 2,000 iu daily. Increased dosages should only be taken if recommended by your doctor.  Vitamin D supplements are especially important if you wear sunscreen regularly.