Low back pain
If you are experiencing low back pain, you are not alone. Approximately 80% of people will suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives. Fortunately, help is at hand in most cases. Injury, poor posture, heavy lifting, stress, or repetitive small strains are common causes of back pain. But not all back pain is the same. It may vary from stiffness in the back, to sharp pain, to cramping in the leg, to tingling in the toes. It is important to find out the cause of your back pain in order to help you get better. Below are some of the more common mechanical causes of back pain.
Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Syndrome
Sacroiliac joints, on either side of the tailbone, are important for normal motion in the hips and back. Tightness or imbalances in alignment in the back, hips, and lower limbs can cause irritation of the sacroiliac joint. This may be felt as a localized pain in the joint itself, or the pain may be felt as a general-area ache in the back, buttocks, hip, groin, or leg.
Facet Joint Syndrome
Up to 50% of lower back disorders are of this type. Pairs of facet (spinal) joints are located between each vertebral segment of the spine to allow for its supple movement. When these joints are exposed to trauma – from sports and other injuries, work, repetitive stress, heredity and aging – low back and/or leg pain can be experienced. What may result over time is an arthritic or stiff spine that is less flexible and more vulnerable to injury.
Ruptured (Herniated) Discs
Discs are the cushioning pads between each of the 24 spinal vertebrae. Sometimes, after a great strain, part of the disc’s soft centre bursts through its tough outer casing into the spinal canal. The herniated disc can then irritate or press on the spinal nerves, causing pain. The following symptoms may indicate a herniated disc:
- Deep, dull ache to the lower back or buttocks
- Leg pain with numbness, tingling, or weakness
- Inability to stand straight
- Restricted back movements
- Back or leg pain from coughing or sneezing
The term “slipped disc” is a misnomer. The disk does not actually slip out of position; rather, the tough outer fibres break down (from one large strain, as in lifting something heavy, or gradually from repeated smaller strains or poor posture). With enough damage to the outer layers, the entire structure is weakened and this can result in the soft inner center bulging out and compressing the spinal nerves that supply the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet.
The word “sciatica” refers to pain and/or numbness/tingling resulting from irritation and compression of the sciatic nerve, commonly from a bulging or herniated disc. The sciatic nerve is a bundle of nerves originating in the low back and supplying the hips, buttocks, legs, and feet. Patients often ask why they have tingling in their toes if the problem is in their back; the answer is that if the sciatic nerve is compromised, the effects can be felt anywhere along its course.
How can a chiropractor help me?
Most lower back pain is caused by mechanical problems of the muscles or joints. The majority of lower back conditions can be treated effectively by chiropractic manipulation or other chiropractic techniques. A chiropractic manipulation is a quick, controlled thrust to a stiff joint to restore proper movement and relieve pain. A popping sound may be heard with the procedure. Other procedures may include gentle joint mobilization, muscle release techniques, passive stretching, and advice on home exercises, workplace ergonomics, and other self care.