Low back pain is one of the most common conditions we treat at Elevation Chiropractic.
It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of adults experience persistent symptoms of lower back pain at some point in their lives, and about 31 million Americans struggle with the condition at any given time. Given its extremely high prevalence rate — whether due to a weak psoas muscle, sciatic nerve pain or some other cause — it’s not surprising that lower back pain is considered the single leading cause of disability worldwide according to the American Chiropractic Association, with half of all American workers reporting having occasional back troubles each year. Naturally, this leads to millions searching for lower back pain relief. (https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics)
Lower back pain can be mild to very severe depending on its underlying causes, how long it’s been left untreated and the state of someone’s overall health. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that several important risk factors for lower back problems include family history of back pain, smoking or chronic exposure to carcinogens/toxins, being overweight or obese, being female, being anxious or depressed, and either doing too much physical work or living a sedentary lifestyle.
Why is Low Back Pain so common?
The reason why low back pain is so common is because the low back (the lumbar spine) undergoes the most amount of stress over the course of your lifetime. This stress causes muscle tension and therefore spinal misalignment that can oftentimes be seen in postural problems.
Posture is one of the most common reasons people develop low back pain. Postural problems, including spinal abnormalities, along with muscular compensations or inactivity put added pressure on the back. Although people of all ages experience low back pain — including both athletes and those who are sedentary — middle-aged to older adults (especially when overweight) are most likely to develop severe symptoms and therefore can benefit from lower back pain relief treatments like chiropractic care, soft tissue therapy and regular exercise.
Why is it important to treat LBP quickly?
It’s important to treat low back pain quickly because it can lead to degeneration down the road. It’s a common occurrence that patients were in an accident or had an injury that they didn’t address or treat for 10 or 20+ years, causing the effects to escalate over time making it much more difficult to repair.
Acute vs Chronic
There’s a difference between acute and chronic low back pain. Acute pain means something traumatic has happened and you can pinpoint the cause of the pain, usually within the first 72 hours of an injury. Chronic pain means you’ve been dealing with this problem for more than three months, at that point you may not even know what caused it in the first place.
Muscles, Ligaments, Joints and Discs
Lower back pain can be the result of acute injury like a bulging disc or from chronic repetitive movement that can cause issues like a pinched nerve. On the flip side, tight and/or weak muscles in a major muscle group like the hip flexors can cause persistent pain. Although there are many causes of low back pain, the objective is the same: to reduce and eliminate pain.
How We Treat Lower Back Pain at Elevation Chiropractic
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
Treating low back pain starts with a comprehensive history and consultation with a doctor who’s really going to listen to what’s been going on. At your initial comprehensive consultation, you will have the opportunity to share your health history and get to know us! In your in-depth consultation with our Elevation doctors, they really listen and take a full hour to get to know you, your health, and your goals.
One of the common issues we hear from patients who come into our office is that they feel like they haven’t been heard when they’ve spoken to other doctors. We are going to make sure that we get a full history of what’s been happening so that we can best serve you.
Chiropractic, Functional, Orthopedic, and Neurological Exams
At Elevation, our goal is to get to the root cause of the problem, not just mask the pain. Therefore, we do a thorough, comprehensive exam where we administer chiropractic, functional orthopedic, and neurological exams. Our goal with these exams is to find the root cause of the problem. Sometimes pain is more a symptom than the actual root cause. Finding the root cause allows us to permanently fix the situation.
Specific Chiropractic Care in Cape Girardeau, MO
In our office, specific chiropractic care is the most important thing that we do for patients suffering from low back pain. Most spinal dysfunction is created by something called subluxation – where a single vertebra in the spine has either become misaligned or is not moving properly with the vertebra above and below. When that happens, it irritates the nerves that come out in between the vertebrae and that leads to symptoms like pain down an arm or a leg, tight muscles, even disc issues.
Our goal with specific chiropractic care is to take pressure off of the nerves and restore proper function to your spine. Once that is done, a lot of the symptoms that you may be suffering from will start to go away.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
Many low back pain cases are due to muscle weakness or imbalance, particularly in the core muscles. At Elevation Chiropractic, we also practice functional fitness where our chiropractic assistants and doctors will customize a plan for you based on your functional assessment. In your exam, we’ll assess how you move and we’ll create exercise plans that address those specific functional deficiencies. Not only will we be helping you in the office, but we’ll also give you a plan to do at home so that function is restored as quickly as possible.
What Can I Do To Strengthen My Lower Back?
Exercises! When thinking about lower back workouts, you want to include leg and low back exercises (like squats and deadlifts), but also abdominal exercises (like plank holds), as well as movements for your upper back (like pull-ups and ring rows). For the fullest and most focused workouts to improve lower back strength and function, make sure you target the following muscle groups:
- Erector spinae
- Latissimus dorsi
- Gluteus maximus, medius and minimus
- Hip flexors
What Exercises Strengthen The Low Back?
Almost any exercise can train your core and lower back muscles. The key is to perform each exercise with good posture and a tight core to reinforce good habits and increase the effectiveness of each movement. Here are the top lower back exercises:
Start on your belly with your legs straight and arms extended overhead. Lift your legs and your chest to create a banana shape with your body. Stay long and extend your biceps by your ears. Squeeze your butt to create strength and tension along the back body. Hold this position for 30 seconds, rest and then repeat 2–3 more times.
From the arch hold, begin to make small “kicks” with the arms (forward, parallel to ground) and legs (backward and parallel to ground). These exercises add dynamic movement to the arch position. Complete 50 repetitions of swimmer kicks.
From the top of a push-up, or plank position, drop down to your forearms. Drive your forearms down into the floor as you pull your belly button up towards your spine. Engage your legs and squeeze your butt. Hold this position for one minute, rest, then repeat two more times.
Don’t let the name fool you. This exercise is a great practice in balance and core control. From the top of a push-up with your hands underneath your shoulders and your legs strong and core tight, extend your right arm forward as you lift your left foot off the ground. Return to planks and then extend your left arm forward and lift your right foot up. Return to plank. Continue to alternate back and forth between sides for one minute. Rest, and then repeat two more times.
Common Causes of Low Back Pain in Cape Girardeau, MO
Bulged Lumbar Discs
The spinal disc is the shock absorber or the cushion in between individual vertebrae. I describe discs like a jelly doughnut. The fibers that are around the outside of the disc are like the doughnut and the nucleus, which is a gelatinous material, is like the jelly of the doughnut.
Over time, the discs can wear down and dehydrate. When that happens those fibers begin to tear, especially if you have an injury, pick something up incorrectly, or get into an accident. If those fibers tear enough the gelatinous nucleus takes the path of least resistance and moves toward the outside of the disc, creating a bulge. That bulge puts pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine and that creates pain in your low back that can also radiate down your leg.
Herniated Lumbar Discs
Like with bulged discs, the outside fibers can begin to tear and the nucleus can start to move towards the outside of the disc. If the fibers tear enough, the nucleus can actually break through the exterior of the disc and sit on a nerve ending. Herniated discs tend to create more leg pain, then low back pain, and they also create more intense pain. When the disc ruptures, that takes the pressure off the low back area, but it creates a lot of pain down into the leg because the nucleus is out of the disc and sitting on the nerve.
A natural way for the herniated disc to resolve itself is a process called fago se cytosis – your body sees the nucleus as a foreign object so it will inflame to try to help eat up that nucleus and reabsorb it. If that doesn’t work, it can create pain that is usually enough to cause people to start to look into surgery. We try to treat herniated discs naturally, but after a certain course of treatment surgery may be the only option.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative Disc Disease is an age related condition where the discs begin to break down. (Obesity, smoking, and work that is hard on the spine can also contribute to Degenerative Disc Disease.) Similar to a bulging or herniated disc, as discs become dehydrated and break down they start to lose their natural height. A fully hydrated disc has height to create proper openings for the nerves to emerge from the spine and travel throughout the body. When the disc starts to shrink, the foramen – the holes that the nerves come out of – start to get smaller, irritating the nerves. This is what creates that low back pain and potentially radiating pain.
Unfortunately, with Degenerative Disc Disease, whatever damage has been done typically can not be reversed, but it can be slowed. This is why it’s so important to get treatment as soon as possible whenever you’re dealing with low back pain.
Spinal Stenosis can create a lot of significant symptoms, mainly because pressure can be put on the spinal cord as well as the adjacent nerves. Usually with Spinal Stenosis people will find that standing or walking can aggravate their pain and that resting, sitting down, or even bending forward can help relieve some of that pressure. Not only can it cause pain, but it can also cause weakness, numbness, or organ dysfunction – like your bladder or your gown. Those are emergency situations and you need to contact a medical doctor immediately.
Muscle strains are the most common causes of low back pain. They tend to be dull and achy, and the pain is intensified with movement or putting yourself into certain positions. Normally the pain stays localized in the lower back versus radiating into your legs or other areas. Muscle strains can be caused by sudden activity, over time with repetitive motion, poor posture, or weak core muscles.
Muscle strains usually resolve in four to six weeks, but we want to address them early if possible because, a lot of times, they are a symptom of a more root problem. This is why, at Elevation Chiropractic, we always try to attack the root cause of the problem versus just addressing the symptoms.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction (SI Joint Pain)
The sacroiliac joint is where the sacrum – the triangle bone at the base of your spine – meets the pelvis. This joint isn’t built to move a lot and problems can be created by hypermobility, moving too much, or hypomobility, moving too little. 15-30% of all low back pain cases are caused by SI joint dysfunction. The SI joint works to absorb the shock between the upper body and the pelvis and legs. Causes of SI joint dysfunction are leg length discrepancies, pregnancy, giving birth, or repeatedly stressing the joints.
Facet Joint Dysfunction
Facet joints are the joints at the back of the spine where the vertebrae meet. There’s cartilage inside of those joints that, over time, can start to break down and become inflamed. People that have facet joint dysfunction normally feel pain when they go into extension, meaning they lean back, or if they’re standing for long periods of time because that loads those joints.
Subluxation is the dysfunction that chiropractors are looking for and that they treat. Subluxation is dysfunction in the spine, or misalignment of the spine, which creates pressure on the nerves. The nerves are then what create the symptoms and the low back pain.
Specific chiropractic adjustments are the only solution to a subluxation. You can do all of the stretches and exercises that you want, but if a vertebra is stuck out of alignment or is not moving properly, until you get that motion back or correct the alignment, you’ll continue to have issues.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I be worried about lower back pain?
You should be worried about low back pain as soon as you start to feel pain in your low back. Low back pain is your body’s alarm system telling you that something is wrong. Usually pain is the last thing to show up and the first thing to leave, so we want to address it as soon as it starts so it doesn’t turn into more of a chronic issue.
What can I do to relieve my lower back pain in Cape Girardeau, MO?
We talked a lot about ways to relieve your low back pain in the sections above, but the BEST THING that you can do is to reach out to our office or another professional to get an exam and find out what exactly is causing the lower back pain. The cause of the low back pain will determine what’s going to help relieve it.
How do I know if my back pain is serious?
All back pain is serious. We don’t want any dysfunction happening in your spine or really in your body overall. If by ‘serious’ you mean a medical emergency, if you’re noticing any type of nerve issues – which can be tingling, numbness, weakness, inability to control your bladder or your bowels – those are a step above just general low back pain. That would be something where you need to consult with a professional.
What causes lower back pain?
There are many causes of low back pain. It could be acute, like an injury or an accident. It could be something chronic or long term, like improper body mechanics, poor posture, or weak core muscles. it’s important to address not just what’s been going on in the last couple of days, but also what’s been going on over the last few weeks, months, or years
How should I sleep with lower back pain?
The best way to sleep is on your back with your spine in a neutral position, meaning that it’s not too arched and it’s not pushed forward more than it should be. Having a pillow that allows you to keep your neck in a neutral position, as well as using a pillow underneath your knees to take any pressure off of your low back, even a small pillow in the small of your low back for support.
Sleeping on your side is next best, you just want to make sure that your pillows aren’t pushing your head to one side more than the other. So it’s in a neutral position, as well as having a pillow in between your knees to keep your hips from getting out of alignment.
Sleeping on your stomach is the least ideal situation when it comes to sleeping.
How do I tell if lower back pain is muscle or disc?
Normally with a muscle strain, the low back pain will be dull and achy. It may diffuse over both sides of the low back but it mainly stays within the lumbar region.
With a disc issue, you not only have low back pain, but you also can have radiation into the buttocks, the hip, or even into the leg or the foot. Discs tend to have more nerve involvement than a pulled muscle or muscle strain. The best thing to do would be to get it examined by a doctor that specializes in determining what the problem is.
How does a slipped disc feel?
A slipped disc is another way of saying a disc bulge. Normally you get low back pain as well as radiating pain wherever the nerve that’s being pressed is traveling. Depending on how badly the nerve is being pressed, the pain can run all the way down into the foot or the toes. Usually you can tell if a disc is pushing really hard against a nerve based on how far down the leg the pain travels. You also may feel more pain when you increase the pressure inside your body. So if you hold your breath or you sneeze, that can create more pressure inside of your body that can create more intense pain.
Why won’t my lower back pain go away?
The body is capable of self healing in a lot of situations. If you have chronic low back pain, however, it can point to a bigger problem. It could be something that’s been there for years and has just never met the threshold of creating pain. It could be a new injury or it could be something more serious. The only way to really know what’s going on is to seek out professional care.
Can a Chiropractor in Cape Girardeau, MO help with lower back pain?
ABSOLUTELY. Low back lower back pain is the number one musculoskeletal condition that we treat at Elevation Chiropractic, and I would imagine most chiropractors in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, also treat low back pain. A Chiropractor should be the first person you go to because this is the thing that we specialize in and it’s always best to try a natural approach before you go the medical route.
What is better for lower back pain, chiropractor or massage?
It really depends on what is causing the lower back pain, but we always recommend going to a chiropractor first. They will be able to address or assess whether the problem is coming from the spine – the misalignment or dysfunction of the vertebrae putting pressure on nerves which is creating the muscle problems or if it’s just a muscle issue. If it’s just a muscle issue, then soft tissue and massage work will help quite a bit. If the tight muscle or the muscle spasm is being created as a symptom of pressure being put on the nerve at the spinal level, then until you take the pressure off the nerve at the spinal level the muscle will continue to be a problem. You may be able to get the muscle to relax or feel better in the short term, but if you don’t address the root cause it will continue to come back.
When should I see a Chiropractor in Cape Girardeau, MO for lower back pain?
IMMEDIATELY. Chiropractic adjustments work by helping to place your body in the proper position that then allows the body to heal itself. One of the key focuses of chiropractic care is realigning the spine and thereby reducing pressure placed on sensitive nerves, which can contribute to dysfunction of the central nervous system. Misalignment can happen at any age and at any time – from a stressful birth into this world to a simple slip.
How can you tell if your spine is out of alignment?
The best way to determine if your spine is out of alignment is to seek help from a chiropractor because that’s what they are trained to address. If you are having some type of spinal issue, muscle tightness, spasms, or nerve pain, there usually will be a subluxation or a spinal misalignment. But, like I said, the best thing to do would be to visit a chiropractor and have them do a comprehensive exam.
Further Reading & Research
Buchbinder R, et al. Lancet. 2018;doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30488-4.
Clark S, Horton R. Lancet. 2018;doi:10.106.S0140-6736(18)30725-6.
Foster NE, et al. Lancet. 2018;doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30489-6.
Hartwigsen J, et al. Lancet. 2018;doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30480-X.