Back pain is very common. Most people will suffer one or more episodes of back pain during their lives.
Back pain can be painful, debilitating and persistent, and some people suffer repeated episodes. It can also be associated with other symptoms, such as leg pain or sciatica. It may start following a specific incident, such as bending awkwardly or lifting a heavy weight. Or it can develop gradually, perhaps as a result of poor posture, an uncomfortable work position or repetitive strain.
Types of back pain
There are many different types of back pain, with different causes. The key to getting the right treatment is to establish which type of back pain you may be suffering from and to seek advice if it is not improving.
Your spine is one of the strongest parts of your body. It is made of solid blocks of bone known as vertebra, joined together by softer pads or discs which act as shock absorbers and maintain flexibility. Your back is reinforced by strong ligaments, surrounded by powerful muscles for support. It is, in fact, surprisingly difficult to damage your spine.
The majority of people with back pain are suffering from what is known as ‘simple’ or ‘mechanical’ back pain. This means that the pain is not related to any serious underlying condition and there are no trapped or compressed nerves. We do not always know the exact tissues that are involved in simple back pain. Muscles, joints and ligaments can all be involved. Simple back pain can be caused by poor posture, prolonged sitting in an uncomfortable position, and even muscular tension due emotional or work-related stress.
As we get older, wear and tear may contribute to back pain. The shock-absorbing pads or discs between the bones of the back can narrow with age and this can cause stiffness, pain and make it difficult to move.
Simple back pain is relatively common. Less frequently, the nerves of the back can sometimes become irritated, compressed or trapped. Again, there can be many reasons why this happens, but slipped discs or wear and tear can lead to pain spreading down the leg, which is commonly referred to as sciatica. This can be accompanied by pins and needles, tingling, numbness and weakness in all or part of the leg and foot.
Why do people get back pain?
People experience back pain for all sorts of reasons. It might be the way they sit or stand, or because their work or lifestyle causes stress and strain on their back. Worry or stress can cause tension in the back muscles, or can delay recovery of existing back pain. Sometimes an old injury, or wear and tear over time, might also cause problems.
However, there is often no obvious reason why back pain develops.
Although it can be very painful, back pain rarely has a serious underlying cause. Seeing a qualified health professional, such as a chiropractor, who is experienced in diagnosing conditions of the back and spine, can help treat back pain, and also identify if a referral or specialist investigations are needed.
Symptoms of back pain
Back pain can be very uncomfortable as the tissues and structures of the back are very susceptible to pain.
Back pain can be felt in one or both sides of the back, sometimes between the shoulder blades or from waist level and into the buttocks and down the front or back of the legs. It can be a sharp or dull pain, and can spread into the lower legs and sometimes as far as the feet.
If the pain does not go after a few days, or starts to get worse, it is worth seeking professional advice. Early treatment will help you get better faster.
Coping with back pain
About half of people who have an episode of back pain will have another episode within a couple of years. But that still doesn’t mean that it is necessarily serious. Between episodes most people return to normal activities within two or three weeks, with few remaining symptoms.
Back pain can be very painful due to inflammation and muscle spasm, and you may need to take it easy for a while. But resting for more than a day or two does not usually help, and may actually do more harm than good. It is best to try to keep moving and seek the help of a trained professional, such as a chiropractor, if you are finding it difficult to cope, or to speed up recovery.
Your back is designed for movement. The sooner you get back to normal activity, the sooner your back will feel better. The people who cope best are those who stay active and get on with their life despite the pain.
If your back pain does not improve, it is important to seek help. Early treatment will get you better faster.
Seeing a chiropractor for back pain
Chiropractors specialise in assessing, diagnosing and managing conditions of the spine. They are highly trained in finding the cause of pain in the spine. In the UK they undergo a minimum of four years’ full-time training. Importantly, chiropractors are regulated by law and must work within strict professional and ethical boundaries.
Before starting treatment, a chiropractor will do a full assessment. This will involve taking details about your condition, current health and medical history, and performing a physical examination. It is important for your chiropractor to gather as much information about your back pain as possible so that the most precise diagnosis can be made.
Your chiropractor will then explain what is wrong, what can be done and what you can expect from chiropractic treatment.
How Does a Chiropractor Diagnose Neck Pain?
Your chiropractor will evaluate your spine as a whole because other regions of the neck (cervical), mid back (thoracic) and low back (lumbar) may be affected as well.
Before deciding which approach to try for your pain, the chiropractor will do a thorough examination to diagnose the specific cause of your neck pain.
Cervical spine, neck examination
He or she will determine any areas of restricted movement and will look at how you walk as well as your overall posture and spinal alignment. Doing these things can help your chiropractor understand your body mechanics.
All these steps in the diagnostic process will give your chiropractor more information about your neck pain, which will help your chiropractor create a treatment plan customized for you.
Chiropractic Treatments for Neck Pain
Your chiropractor may use a combination of spinal manipulation, manual therapy, and other techniques as part of your treatment plan for neck pain.
At Parsons Chiropractic we do not twist or crack your neck. We use a hand-held instrument to allow us to apply force without thrusting into the spine.
Your chiropractor will also use manual therapies and soft tissue work to treat your neck pain.
Chiropractic for Treating Headaches
Most people describe a tension headache as a feeling of a tight band or dull ache around the head or behind the eyes. A common cause of tension headaches is subluxations (misalignments due to injuries or poor posture) in the upper back and neck which are effectively treated with chiropractic adjustments.
Headaches affect just about everyone at some point and they can present themselves in many different ways. Some people only experience pain in one part of their head or behind their eyes, some people experience a pounding sensation inside their whole head, and some people even experience nausea, while others do not. The pain itself may be dull or sharp and may last for anywhere from a few minutes to a few days.
Chiropractic Care for Headaches
Numerous research studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments are very effective for treating tension headaches, especially headaches that originate in the neck.
A report released in 2001 by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham, NC, found that “spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than commonly prescribed medications.” These findings support an earlier study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics that found spinal manipulative therapy to be very effective for treating tension headaches. This study also found that those who stopped chiropractic treatment after four weeks continued to experience a sustained benefit in contrast to those patients who received pain medication.
Each individual’s case is different and requires a thorough evaluation before a proper course of chiropractic care can be determined. However, in most cases of tension headaches, significant improvement is accomplished through adjustment of the upper two cervical vertebrae, coupled with adjustments to the junction between the cervical and thoracic spine. This is also helpful in most cases of migraine headaches, as long as food and lifestyle triggers are avoided as well. Here at Parsons Chiropractic we do not twist or roughly manipulate the neck, but rather we use gentle instrument assisted adjustments.
Tension type headaches are most common, affecting upwards of 75% of all headache sufferers. Most people describe a tension headache as a constant dull, achy feeling either on one side or both sides of the head, often described as a feeling of a tight band or dull ache around the head or behind the eyes. These headaches usually begin slowly and gradually and can last for minutes or days, and tend to begin in the middle or toward the end of the day. Tension headaches are often the result of stress or bad posture, which stresses the spine and muscles in the upper back and neck.
The most common cause of tension headaches is subluxations (misalignments) in the upper back and neck, usually in combination with active trigger points. When the top cervical vertebrae lose their normal motion or position, a small muscle called the rectus capitis posterior minor (RCPM) muscle goes into spasm. The problem is that this small muscle has a tendon which slips between the upper neck and the base of the skull and attaches to a thin pain-sensitive tissue called the dura mater that covers the brain. Although the brain itself has no feeling, the dura mater is very pain-sensitive. Consequently, when the RCPM muscle goes into spasm and its tendon tugs at the dura mater, a headache occurs. People who hold desk jobs will tend to suffer from headaches for this reason.
Another cause of tension type headaches comes from referred pain from trigger points in the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) or levator muscle on the side of the neck. These are much more common in people who suffer a whiplash injury due to the muscle damage in the neck region.
Cluster headaches are typically very short in duration, excruciating headaches, usually felt on one side of the head behind the eyes. Cluster headaches affect about 1 million people in the United States and, unlike migraines, are much more common in men. This is the only type of headache that tends to occur at night. The reason that they are called ‘cluster’ headaches is that they tend to occur one to four times per day over a period of several days. After one cluster of headaches is over, it may be months or even years, before they occur again. Like migraines, cluster headaches are likely to be related to a dilation of the blood vessels in the brain, causing a localized increase in pressure.
Headache Trigger Points
Trigger point therapy for headaches tends to involve four muscles: the Splenius muscles, the Suboccipitals, the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) and the Trapezius. The Splenius muscles are comprised of two individual muscles – the Splenius Capitis and the Splenius Cervicis. Both of these muscles run from the upper back to either the base of the skull (splenius capitis) or the upper cervical vertebrae (splenius cervicis). Trigger points in the Splenius muscles are a common cause of headache pain that travels through the head to the back of the eye, as well as to the top of the head.
The Suboccipitals are actually a group of four small muscles that are responsible for maintaining the proper movement and positioning between the first cervical vertebra and the base of the skull. Trigger points in these muscles will cause pain that feels like it’s inside the head, extending from the back of the head to the eye and forehead. Often times it will feel like the whole side of the head hurts, a pain pattern similar to that experienced with a migraine.
The Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle runs from the base of the skull, just behind the ear, down the side of the neck to attach to the top of the sternum (breastbone). Although most people are not aware of the SCM trigger points, their effects are widespread, including referred pain, balance problems and visual disturbances. Referred pain patterns tend to be deep eye pain, headaches over the eye and can even cause earaches. Another unusual characteristic of SCM trigger points is that they can cause dizziness, nausea and unbalance.
The trapezius muscle is the very large, flat muscle in the upper and mid back. A common trigger point located in the very top of the Trapezius muscle refers pain to the temple and back of the head and is sometimes responsible for headache pain. This trigger point is capable of producing satellite trigger points in the muscles in the temple or jaw, which can lead to jaw or tooth pain.
At Parsons Chiropractic we use Advanced Muscle Reconditioning to release these muscles.
Knee pain and how chiropractic can help
Chiropractic care is an excellent option for knee pain and Dr Parsons has treated hundreds of patients in Leyland and Ormskirk with knee pain. The care is safe and effective and treats the cause of the problem.
Knee pain symptom consists of pressure, weakness, swelling and instability with movement. Knee pain can also occur with getting up and down from a chair, using stairs and running.
The knee joint is a simple 2nd class lever with the patella acting as a fulcrum. When there is joint dysfunction knee pain occurs.
The knee is a joint that has three compartments. This joint has an inner (medial) and an outer (lateral) compartment. The kneecap (patella) joins the femur to form a third compartment called the patellofemoral joint. The thigh bone (femur) meets the large shinbone (tibia) forming the main knee joint.
The knee joint is surrounded by a joint capsule with ligaments strapping the inside and outside of the joint called the collateral ligaments as well as crossing within the joint called the cruciate ligaments. These ligaments provide stability and strength to the knee joint moving forwards and backwards . The meniscus is a thickened cartilage pad between the two joints formed by the femur and tibia. The meniscus acts as a smooth surface for motion and absorbs the load of the body above the knee when standing. Below the kneecap, there is a large tendon called the patella tendon which attaches to the front of the tibia bone. Their are large muscles of the thigh move the knee. In the front of the thigh, the quadriceps muscles extend the knee joint (straighten). In the back of the thigh, the hamstring muscles flex the knee (bend).
Chiropractic adjustments to the knee are very gentle and are non painful. There is no twisting or bending just a small impulse into the joint, as it does not take much to realign the joint. In conjunction with the adjustment, we use physical therapy exercises and Advanced Muscle Reconditioning to improve the muscles that move the knee joint.
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Chiropractic care for frozen shoulder concentrates on adjusting the shoulder joint and the area at the base of the neck, and then using soft tissue work to release the muscles and tendons. This will be combined with gentle exercises. Chiropractic has often worked where other treatments had failed, including physical therapy, pain killing medications, surgery and steroid injections.
Since nerves supplying the shoulder joint and surrounding tissues originate in the neck, it is always advisable to have your chiropractor assess your neck for vertebral subluxations if you are suffering from this, or any other painful shoulder condition. Restoring proper movement in the spine can help assist proper nerve function in the shoulder area.
Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to be a very effective tool to help resolve this painful condition. Keep in mind that Frozen Shoulders can take a long time to heal, but any improvement represents a significant enhancement to your quality of life.
Sciatica affects the sciatic nerve, a large nerve extending from the lower back down the back of each leg.
What are the symptoms?
• Pain in the leg or rear that is worse when sitting
• Burning or tingling running down the leg
• Weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or foot
• A shooting pain that makes it difficult to stand up
Sciatica usually affects only one side of the lower body. Often times, pain travels from the lower back all the way through the back of the thigh and down through the leg.
The pain may also reach the foot or toes. For some people, the pain can be severe. For others, the pain might be infrequent and irritating, but it can get worse.
What triggers sciatica?
Sciatica can be caused by irritation of the root(s) of the lower lumbar and lumbosacral spine.
Other common causes:
• Spinal stenosis, narrowing of the spinal canal in the lower back.
• Degenerative disc disease affecting the discs that cushion the vertebrae.
• Muscel Spasm
• Pregnancy, which can add a severe strain on the spine.
Additional irritants: excess weight, not exercising on a regular basis, high heels, or sleeping on a mattress that is too soft.
Sciatic nerve compression may result in the loss of feeling, paralysis of a single limb or group of muscles, and insomnia.
Diagnosis of Sciatica is critical. Your chiropractor will examine you and review your medical history to determine what is causing the your sciatica pain. Chiropractic treatment is based on the principle that restricted spinal movement leads to pain and reduced function. Many times sciatica can be caused by muscles in the buttock area pinching the sciatic nerve (‘piriformis syndrome’).
Chiropractic care helps the body heal itself with non-invasive (non-surgical), drug-free treatment.