A large percentage of the population of the United States will experience a significant episode of lower back pain before the age of 40. Significant lower back pain is defined as more than the mild soreness one gets after physical activity like gardening or vacuuming the house. Low back pain of significance is a very intense to excruciating pain and keeps one from normal activities such as sleeping well, being able to do chores at home or in the yard, interfering with job duties, taking care of children and family members, being able to bath, get dressed, drive and cook for oneself, and being able to enjoy recreational activities like golfing, exercise and hobbies.
Overall, the evidence is that lower back pain does not resolve itself when ignored. For this reason low back pain of significance is a controversial subject. Many health professionals and insurance companies tend to still believe that lower back pain is a condition that resolves on its own within a period of time. They also believe that if the pain returns the patient should just “deal with it” and it will go away at some point.
Yet scientific studies do not show this to be the case. Significant lower back pain tends to not go away or resolve itself on its own. It is not a health condition that should be ignored. For instance, a comprehensive research study published in The European Spine Journal in 2003 reported that 62% of patients who had a major episode of low back discomfort still experienced pain 12 months after it began. The percentage of people who experienced relapses or re-occurrences of back pain after an initial episode was 60%. And 33% of those experiencing an episode of pain in their back had relapses of work absences within one year.
Since it is clearly apparent that chronic pain of the back is a condition that requires professional treatment and supervision what is the preferred method of management?
Fortunately, this also has been studied and the solution is chiropractic care. Chiropractic treatment is performed by licensed doctors of chiropractic. Chiropractors have extensive training in the anatomy and biomechanics of the lower back. They also are able to expertly diagnosis the causes of mechanical/physical pain of the back. Once a chiropractor has examined a patient and determined what is causing the lower back pain they can then administer chiropractic manipulative therapy, sometimes called a chiropractic adjustment. Chiropractic manipulations work to realign the spine and to correct abnormal movements of the spine.
Two research studies were done to determine an effective way for patients and doctors to treat chronic lower back discomfort with chiropractic care. The studies gave a number of patients chiropractic adjustments three times a week for four weeks. With this care patients made substantial improvement with their degree of pain and their abilities to perform normal activities of daily living. Half of the patients then ended their care. The other half of the patients were then given chiropractic manipulation once every two or three weeks for a period of nine months. Those patients continuing care not only maintained their improvement of pain reduction and function of daily living activities but also had further gains. The patients whose care was discontinued regressed back to the original pain and dysfunction they initially exhibited.
Chiropractic therapy has been shown to be more effective for pain of the back than medication, exercises or surgery. It has also been proven to be the safest of all treatment for back pain as well as the least costly. Consumer Reports has also published information that shows chiropractors have very high satisfaction rates among patients.
The next step in the treatment and management of chronic low back pain is to recognize it as a condition similar to high blood pressure or diabetes and realize that with some degree of periodic chiropractic maintenance or supportive care we can effectively help patients with ongoing chronic lower back pain.