3 Things Your Doctor Won’t Tell You About Low Back Pain
According to the CDC, low back pain is the second most common cause of disability in the United States and the prevalence rate has been on the rise for several years. Furthermore, the CDC estimates that 80% of the population will experience low back pain at some time during their life.
Keeping those statistics in mind, there’s a good chance that if you’re reading this article, you’ve also experienced low back pain at some time in your life; I know I have. For some of us, it’s a dull, achy, uncomfortable sensation and for others, it’s a crippling sharp, stabbing or shooting sensation that can bring you to your knees!
You might think that with so many people affected, doctors would know exactly what to do about it. But there are three things that doctors don’t tell you about the cause and treatment of low back pain.
What Your Doctor Won't Tell You
First is that the problem is generally “biomechanical.” That means that there is something about the way your body is moving that is causing you to experience low back pain. You may have an improper curvature of your lower spine or inflammation of the muscles, ligaments or tendons. It could be degeneration of the disc space, misalignment of a vertebra or even a herniated or ruptured disc. Any of these conditions can put pressure on the nerve roots in your low back causing you to have symptoms like pain, itching, burning, tingling, pins & needles or numbness. When the cause of pain is biomechanical in nature, that’s when you see people standing, sitting or walking in an unusual or unnatural way. They are assuming those positions because it relieves the pain.
Second, the most common medical answer to this condition is to prescribe muscle relaxers and/or pain killers. True, with a strong enough pain killer (like opioids) medicine can manipulate your biochemistry in such a way that you will no longer feel the pain. What should be obvious with this approach is that it only “masks” the underlying problem. It’s like having a door slammed on your hand and someone giving you morphine for the pain. You definitely won’t feel your hand anymore, but the condition that CAUSED the pain is still present and until someone opens the door… your pain will come back when the medication wears off. As strange as it may sound, this is precisely the way most low back pain is treated in America, which itself leads to a second problem, an opioid epidemic.
Third, your body is self-healing. If you cut yourself it heals up, but if you cut a steak… it doesn’t. You would think that this would naturally be the first route doctors would take in helping the patient get well, but in this day of high-tech and low-touch, medicine seems to have forgotten the fact that the best healer in the world lives inside of you. Your body was designed to be self-healing and self-regulating.
So, what’s the answer? The best choice for the treatment of low back pain is to visit a chiropractor. It’s the least invasive and most effective choice that is drug-free, surgery-free and virtually risk-free. Chiropractors are specifically trained in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. Your visit should include a consult with the doctor to determine if your specific condition is something chiropractic can help with or if you need to be seen by someone else. If your condition can be helped by chiropractic care, the doctor will take a thorough history, physical and orthopedic exam, and most likely an x-ray of the region to determine what the problem is, how to treat it, and give you some expectation of how long recovery might take. Just like taking your hand out of the door, this is the first step towards healing, it doesn’t happen overnight so treatment plans will vary depending upon the severity and duration of your symptoms as well as what issues are involved. Some things simply heal slower than others.
Last, but not least, some people believe that if you go to a chiropractor, you have to keep going forever. This is a common misunderstanding. Taking care of your spine and nervous system is like exercising. You can work out until you look and feel fantastic but if you quit your exercise routine you won’t continue to look and feel the way you did before. The same can be said for spines. If you go to an orthodontist to straighten out crooked teeth, they will eventually give you a retainer once the braces come off. You don’t have to wear your retainer but… if you don’t, you can have a reasonable expectation that your teeth will gradually get out of alignment over time. Because spinal bones function the same way, your chiropractor may recommend “maintenance care” to help keep your spine and nervous system healthy.
How often should you go? Each person’s spine is unique. In my practice, I keep spreading out the visit frequency until the patient begins to notice signs that it might be time for an adjustment. Once we find that interval, then that’s what I recommend for the patient. It’s like this… if you listen to your body when it whispers, then you won’t ever have to hear it scream!
Dr. Scott Godsey