I have been dreading the thought of writing about this topic. Why, I am not sure. I think it could have something to do with the reaction I get from people when they find out I am a chiropractor, which usually goes something like “Oh, you’re a chiropractor huh!” Then they immediately double over and ask me to “crack” their back because it hurts soooo bad. Insert sigh emoji.
The truth is many folks would never know the whole body health benefits of chiropractic if it wasn’t for back pain so I shouldn’t bad mouth it too much.
Not to mention, back pain is a huge issue here in the states. In fact, we pay out to the tune of nearly 86 billion per year on this one issue alone and create a huge number of dependent drug users.
The bad news for someone with back pain is that they have pain.
The good news for someone with back pain is that they have pain.
What I mean by this is that pain only turns on when your body is trying to tell you something. The really bad news would be if you completely ignore it.
So let’s say you’re dealing with back pain, be it low back, mid back, or in the neck. You have some choices on what you can do.
First option: Do nothing at all. Let it fester and hope it goes away. By choosing this option you allow your nervous system to suffer. You potentially remain in pain for a long time and this is how something acute becomes something chronic. No bueno.
Second option: You see a pain doctor. They give you steroidal injections into the site of the pain and hope by the time the injection wears off your body will have righted the ship, or, they put you on some type of pain medications to take daily. If you want a synergistic effect, maybe they’ll even throw in some anti-depressants. Let’s forget about the “side effects” of these for a minute and realize exactly what this does. It covers up the symptoms your body is blessing you with so you can actually make positive changes in order to correct the problem. Again, amelioration of the symptoms is not the correction of the cause and once again, this allows acute to turn into chronic.
Third option: You have surgery. The numbers regarding successful back surgery are literally all over the place. Depends on who’s doing the surgery, what your definition of success is, how long following the surgery you ask the patient etc. A five year study conducted by The United States Agency for Health Care Policy provided extensive research on acute low back pain a few years ago and found that only 1 in 100 acute low back patients would benefit from having surgery. Couple this with long term arthritic changes along with surgical complications and you have a recipe for creating a lifelong dependency on painkillers and more surgery.
Fourth option: You perform some type of physical therapy with muscle strengthening techniques, yoga, Thai Chi, or some other form of physical exercise to help stabilize what could very well be an unstable spine. While the pain may get better initially, building muscles around a subluxated spine is like building a house on a faulty foundation.
Fifth option: You relentlessly watch those late night infomercials where you hang yourself upside down while dangling weights from your feet, wear a special brace, buy a machine that immediately resolves all back issues, hemorrhoids, and gout, then you actually go out and purchase it, only to find out what buyers remorse is truly all about.
Sixth Option: You see a chiropractor and get your skeleton balanced out so the muscles start getting the right signals from the brain. Now if you want to look into incorporating the fourth option at least you won’t be building muscle mass around a crooked frame allowing osteoarthritis to take root.
Every case of back pain is different and luckily there are all types of chiropractors out there who perform varying techniques. What works for one, may not work for the other. If you have tried chiropractic in the past and it was ineffective, there’s an excellent chance your body was simply unresponsive to the technique being utilized. Try a different office with a different approach, but most of all, do not give up hope and resign yourself to a lifetime of chronic misery, pain and drugs.
Dr. Andrew R. Burns