In America alone, over 3 million people suffer every year from lower back pain. It is estimated that up to 70% of the population will have at least one episode of lower back pain at some time in their life. Back pain is also the third most common reason for people to schedule a doctor’s appointment, making up almost 25% of doctor’s visits every year. If you are one of the millions affected by lower back pain, chiropractic care can be an effective alternative to medication or surgery.
Common Causes of Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can be caused by a variety of factors, however some of the most common causes can be found below:
Disc Bulges and Herniations
Between each vertebra in the spine we have intervertebral discs. These discs help hold the vertebra together and also act as shock absorbers for the spine. When too much pressure is placed on a disc, they can begin to bulge, or in some cases herniate. A herniated disc occurs when the wall of the disc ruptures and the internal material of the disc, like the jelly in a jelly donut, is pushed outside of the disc.
Bulging or herniated discs can result in lower back pain because when the disc is pushed outside of its normal location, pressure is put on to the spinal nerves in the lower back. This nerve pressure can not only lead to pain in the lower back but can also cause pain, tingling or weakness in either leg.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Over time, the disc can begin to lose its normal height. As the space between each vertebra becomes smaller, lower back pain becomes more likely since a smaller disc space also results in less space for the spinal nerves. A degenerative disc also results in a less stable spine. To compensate for this lost stability, the body often produces osteophytes or bone spurs. These osteophytes can put additional pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, leading to increased pain.
Although degenerative disc disease is commonly associated with the elderly population, people in their 20s and 30s can also have decreased disc spaces. Since the disc does not have a direct blood flow, it relies on motion to get nutrients in and out. Therefore, if a joint stops moving properly, the disc can not get the nutrition it needs, as a result, the disc will start to degenerate. Decreased motion leads to disc degeneration whether you are young or old. Consistent movement is important to help keep the disc healthy and functioning properly.
Posture and Inflexibility
People are spending more time seated than ever before. When we sit for long periods, especially with incorrect posture, the muscles in the back of our legs, mainly the hip rotators (gluteal muscles) and hamstrings become too tight. Chronically tight hip rotators and hamstrings contribute to lower back pain. Tight muscles in these two areas usually cause a weakness to the core muscles, the abdominals and quadriceps, which can further complicate the issue.
This combination of muscle imbalances can lead to the lower back vertebra and pelvis to be pulled out of their normal position. In this case, chiropractic care is extremely important to properly realign the spine and pelvis to relieve any nerve pressure. However, long term strengthening of the core muscles and stretching the hip rotators is extremely important to help correct the underlying cause. You can find specific exercises to help with lower back pain here.
Treatment Options for Lower Back Pain
Chiropractic care is effective in treating the vast majority of cases of lower back. By aligning the spine to the correct position and restoring proper function to the spine, chiropractors are able to relieve lower back pain. Your doctor can also recommend at home stretches and strengthening exercises to correct any muscular or postural imbalances. For more information on chiropractic care, click here.
If the cause of your lower back pain is either a bulging or degenerative disc, spinal decompression therapy can be a great treatment option. Spinal decompression is able to specifically target the lower back discs, to help relieve pressure from the disc and increase blood flow into the disc. We have had great success treating cases with spinal decompression that have not responded well to chiropractic care in the past. For more information on spinal decompression, click here.