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Should I See a Chiropractor for Lower Back Pain? Understanding the Causes and Treatment Options

This is not medical advice. If you’ve recently had an accident, go see a doctor.

Are you considering visiting a chiropractor for your lower back pain? While chiropractic care can offer temporary relief, it's important to understand the underlying causes of your pain and explore long-term solutions. In this article, we'll delve into the functional causes of back pain and discuss the role of chiropractic care in addressing acute short-term troubles. Discover how lifestyle changes, exercise, and a comprehensive approach to treatment can provide lasting pain relief.

My Experience with Seeing a Chiropractor for Lower Back Pain

Should I See a Chiropractor for Lower Back Pain

I first visited a chiropractor for my back pain when I was 11 years old. After the initial 2 visits, I began adjusting myself about a dozen or so times per day.

After the first adjustment it would get more difficult to get the next, so I’d end up pulling and twisting harder and harder to get one more crack. It becomes addicting.

The treatment of spine problems with adjustment or spinal manipulation is a popular method because the effects appear to be immediate.

The reality is that the relief is temporary, and the spine getting ‘out of alignment’ is the symptom, not the cause.

For most people, chronic back pain can be a lifelong problem, which means that we need a lifelong solution. So does this mean that you should see a chiropractor for lower back pain? First, find the root of your pain.

Learning about the functional cause of your pain will empower you to understand the cause of your pain, and take the steps necessary for long term pain-relief.

Lower Back Pain Functional Cause: Load Intolerance

A primary problem with the adjustment philosophy to back pain is that a large percentage of people have back pain because of a lack of stability.

There are 4 functional causes of back pain: flexion intolerance, extension intolerance, extension with rotation intolerance, and load intolerance.

If your lower back pain is caused by load intolerance - ie your back hurts when you pick up something heavy - no amount of adjustments will help, and in fact extra movement at your spine could cause additional damage!

Instead, you would need to focus on learning to create intra-abdominal pressure by using the valsalva maneuver during active daily living and while lifting heavy loads.

Valsalva Maneuver for Lower Back Pain

Lower Back Pain Functional Cause: Posture

posture and lower back pain

If you spend excessive time with poor posture and a rounded spine, you will gradually wear down the structures of your spine.

Poor posture moves stress from muscles to ligaments and this can cause degeneration and pain. Spend more time in positions that make you feel good and less time in those that don’t.

If you have back pain after sitting, standing, or sleeping, it’s likely that you’re doing it wrong! Learn about good posture and study your own body to find areas where you can improve.

Lower Back Pain Functional Cause: Joint Imbalance

joint imbalance and lower back pain

Muscles are most often the cause of chronic pain (The Janda Approach, page 44)

Sitting too much at work can create a joint imbalance that leads to excessive use of the lumbar spine, which will cause pain and inflammation, and finally dysfunction and impaired movement patterns.

Extended periods of sitting will likely cause you to have tightened hip flexors, so performing a couch stretch will help to restore hip joint balance and alleviate your back pain.

Learning how to properly use your large glute muscles throughout your daily living and exercise will also help to alleviate your pain and discomfort.

When to See A Chiropractor for Lower Back Pain

So you might still be wondering when to consider chiropractic treatment for lower back pain. The takeaway should be that chiropractic manipulation can be beneficial for acute short-term troubles, while physical therapy and exercise appear to be better for chronic conditions (Skargren, Carlsson and Oberg, 1998).

You can think of chiropractic as a tool, similar to a steroid injection, that provides temporary pain relief so that you can begin stretching and strengthening to address the underlying cause.

when to see a chiropractor for lower back pain

For most people dealing with chronic back pain, chiropractic by itself is not enough to create long term pain relief.

If you want to experience chiropractic for yourself, search for a chiropractor who is knowledgeable about habit change, exercise, and stretching, and realizes that long term relief will come from lifestyle changes and exercise.

If you want to learn more about treating your own back pain, check out Back Mechanic by Dr. Stuart Mcgill.

If you want help on your journey to pain-free living, schedule a consultation.

Hope this helps! - Tom


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