Low back pain is the most common condition we treat in our office. It’s among the top 10 reasons you might see your primary care. In fact, 80% of us will suffer significant back pain during our lifetime. Luckily, low back pain responds very well to conservative care, like chiropractic. Studies show that if people see chiropractors first, they are 40% less likely to have surgical intervention and spend 40% less on care when compared to seeing their PCP or an orthopedist first. You could say that back pain is a part of the human condition and a peril of living with gravity. What separates us is what we decide to do about it.
Back pain is common for several reasons. Poor posture and muscle imbalances add stress to tissues. Repetitive movements with poor ergonomics, like bending with our back or sitting for too long, lead to overuse. At the same time, weak abdominals or spine muscles leave us at risk of injury. What you need to understand is, for whatever reason, if you are having back pain, especially ongoing or chronic pain, there is a tissue that is being stressed beyond its capacity and adaptive ability. This can lead to gradual degeneration of that tissue and eventually injury.
The tissues of the back include muscles, ligaments, joints, and discs, all housing your nervous system. In perfect balance, these tissues work together to keep your body upright and allow you to bend and move. Unfortunately, when imbalance or dysfunction occurs in our spine, these tissues can also become injured and painful. A single mild episode of back pain is probably not concerning. However, if you have repetitive back pain episodes or a severe or ongoing back pain episode, it is important to identify and treat the cause.
Unfortunately, back pain is the number one cause of disability, and up to 10% of back pain sufferers can transition into a debilitated status. Your pain may be a warning sign that one of the tissues in your spine is wearing down. If ignored the resulting condition may require a long rehabilitation or even surgery. When significant injuries to spinal tissues occur, there is always rehab potential, but it isn’t always guaranteed that your spine can return 100% to normal. It’s much easier, cheaper, and healthier to address back pain early on before it becomes a real problem.
In addition to avoiding surgery and disability, there are lots of great reasons to address your back pain now. Pain signals, especially chronic ones, steal energy from your brain and can distract you from your life. Your sleep may be reduced, which has widespread negative health effects. Pain is an energy leak and can leave you feeling tired and unmotivated. This can affect your drive and ability to exercise or engage in activities you enjoy. Don’t put your health and life on the back burner! Get evaluated and discover what a natural, non-invasive approach to healing the body can do for your back pain.
$25 New Patient Low Back Pain Health Screening
$25 for a complete chiropractic health screening including a consultation, exam, X-rays if necessary, a report of findings, and a plan of action.
How Our Low Back Pain Care Plan Works
At Brown Chiropractic, we treat people, not conditions. Our first priority is to get to know our patients, their lifestyles, and their goals for care. This allows us to partner with them and together create a care plan that is both individualized and specific to their needs.
Our comprehensive evaluation process not only identifies painful tissues but also the root cause of the condition. This allows us to take our patients through a step-by-step plan that gets them out of pain quickly and with lasting results.
Patients often find they not only get out of pain but feel better than they ever could have imagined. This allows them to perform at a higher level in all aspects of their life.
How We Treat Low Back Pain in Yarmouth, ME
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
Identifying the root cause of the problem
The first step to treating low back pain is our comprehensive consultation. This is where we get to know you, understand your symptoms, their effect on your life, and your goals for care.
We then perform a complete evaluation. This includes:
- orthopedic and neurological testing to identify what tissues of your low back are injured and painful
- a chiropractic spinal analysis to identify restrictions and malalignments of the spinal segments
- a functional movement screen to determine abnormal postures, muscle imbalances, and dysfunctional movements that contribute to overloading and damaging tissues
All of this is designed to get to the root cause of your low back pain so your care can be effective and efficient. If we identify that further testing is necessary, we can order X-rays or an MRI. Similarly, if we feel that a collaborative approach for your back pain is indicated, we can work with your PCP or refer you to specialists, including orthopedists, physiatrists, neurologists, and more.
Specific Chiropractic Care
The best of myofascial release and adjusting
The first goal of care for low back pain is to provide our patients with relief and facilitate healing. We do this by restoring motion and function to the restricted segments of your spine with an adjustment. These restrictions can contribute to your back pain through local muscle spasms, weakness and altered control of movement within your spine, perpetuating the problem.
When we adjust your spine, it normalizes the sliding and gliding of joints, reducing muscle tension and optimizing the biomechanics of your back. In addition to adjustments, we use myofascial release and assisted stretching to provide complete relief and further normalize spine mobility. This makes stretching and doing exercises more comfortable and effective for correcting back pain.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
For faster recovery and long-term resilience
During your movement screen, we will identify any abnormal postures, muscle imbalances, and movement dysfunction contributing to your back pain. Each patient receives a customized program designed around their specific needs and goals for care. This often includes stretching protocols for the hips and strengthening for weakness in the core and sometimes muscles of the back. For back pain, we also typically work with proper bending and lifting mechanics, usually designed to mimic the particular work or home activity that contributes most to pain.
For pain management and faster healing
In some cases, there can be significant inflammation in the tissues of your back and or severe muscle spasms. This can make manual therapy and adjustments initially uncomfortable or difficult. When this occurs, we have various options to reduce pain and inflammation and speed up healing. These include electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and laser.
- Electric stimulation sends electrical pulses through the muscles and nerves and can be used to reduce muscle spasm and pain.
- Ultrasound sends sound waves into tendons and muscles increasing blood flow speeding up healing.
- Cold laser emits low frequency light and, like ultrasound, increases blood flow, reduces inflammation, and actually stimulates cells to reproduce healing tissues up to 50% faster.
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Common Causes of Low Back Pain
Bulging and Herniated Discs
Disc bulges and herniations are common causes of low back pain with very different presentations. Disc bulges are broad progressive degenerative changes to the disc that can be completely asymptomatic or, at times, a significant contributor to back pain. Disc herniations are more acute when tearing of the exterior disc fibers allowing disc material to displace, potentially placing pressure on nerves. The tearing of the disc can cause severe low back pain and nerve pressure, inflammation can cause significant pain, and numbness and tingling into the leg and possibly the foot.
Although extremely painful, disc herniations can and should be managed conservatively, and 96% resolve without surgical intervention. Adjustments, soft tissue, and specific exercise protocols help reduce pressure on nerves and can help manage pain while speeding up recovery.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal where our spinal cord and nerve roots live. The narrowing occurs because of arthritis and, more specifically, a combination of disc bulging/herniation and degenerative facet joints, along with the thickening of other tissues in the vertebral canal.
Patients with stenosis have pain, weakness, and loss of sensation in their lower extremities with activities like walking and even standing. They tend to get immediate relief with sitting or bending forward. These are the folks you see leaning onto their shopping cart at the grocery store. Surgical outcomes for stenosis are poor, and this condition is best managed with activity modification, spinal manipulation, traction, and specific flexion-based exercises.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction (SI Joint Pain)
Your sacrum is at the base of your spine, with your pelvic bones on either side. You have two SI joints where your pelvic bones and sacrum meet. This joint is responsible or partly responsible for 15-30% of low back pain cases. This joint is crucial for transferring and absorbing force from your lower extremity to your spine. It becomes inflamed and painful in the presence of a significant functional or structural short leg or when abnormal postures or muscle imbalances repeatedly force it into hyperextension. SI joint dysfunction responds extremely well to chiropractic adjustments. Treatments also focus on correcting a short leg or abnormal posture such as lower crossed syndrome.
Muscle Strains and Spasms
Muscles are common generators of low back pain, and painful muscles are a side effect of poor postures, a weak core, or a repetitive motion that exceeds your back tissues’ capacity to safely tolerate. In some cases, muscle tension responds to other inflamed tissues like ligaments, joints, or discs.
When muscles develop tension and trigger points, they can cause a dull, achy, sore stiffness. Massage can often provide relief but can be short-lived without correcting the cause of the muscle tension. True muscle strains include tearing muscle fibers, which can result in prolonged soreness and discomfort until those tissues heal. Back spasms occur as a more extreme protective response to the threat or injury of tissue.
Back spasms are relatively easy to treat, and we can provide relief quickly. However, back spasms that are a result of tissue damage can take more time to resolve and may involve managing inflammation initially before spasms fully resolve.
Facet Joint Dysfunction
Facet joints are the posterior joints of the spinal segments and are the counterpart to discs. Postures with excessive extension and tightness in hip flexors and low back excessively load these joints and can cause them to become inflamed and painful. Facet joint dysfunction responds very well to chiropractic adjustments and corrective exercises focused on flexion of the lumbar spine and strengthening of the abdominal muscles. Long-term loading of these joints can cause degenerative changes to the cartilage, contributing to your low back pain symptoms or other conditions, like stenosis.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I be worried about low back pain?
A single mild episode of low back pain is probably not concerning. However, if you have repetitive back pain episodes, a severe ongoing back pain episode, it is important to identify the cause and treat it. This is especially true if you have symptoms that radiate into or cause weakness in your lower extremities.
What can I do to relieve my low back pain in Yarmouth, ME
The most important thing to relieve low back pain is returning to normal movement and activities. If you can walk, stretch, or do light exercise without aggravating your pain, that’s an excellent place to start.
What causes low back pain?
Poor posture and muscle imbalances add stress to tissues. Repetitive movements with poor ergonomics lead to overuse. Weak abdominals or spine muscles leave us at risk of injury. Most people have some combination of those factors. Most people note that something related to work or a recreational activity causes or aggravates their pain.
How should I sleep with low back pain?
The correct sleeping position is the position that gives you the most relief. Some back pain, such as disc injuries, are aggravated by flexing the spine. In that case, trying to sleep on your side with your low back extended may be most comfortable. Other conditions feel worse in extension, and sleeping on your side in the fetal position or on your back with pillows under your knees will likely be most comfortable. Most important is getting out of bed by laying on your side near the edge of the bed, sliding your legs off the bed, and easing yourself into a sitting position sideways. This puts as little stress on low back tissues as possible.
How do I tell if low back pain is muscle or disc-related?
Sometimes it can be hard to tell what tissue is causing pain without an examination. Generally, muscle pain can be touched, stretched, or loosened with activity. Disc pain usually includes an injury, and the pain will be consistent and reproducible with the same motions (usually bending forward or to one side) each time. Discs also often refer to pain in the gluteal region and can compress nerves, causing pain and numbness and tingling to radiate down your leg.
Why won’t my low back pain go away?
That can be for several reasons. The most common are poor posture and muscle imbalances, repetitive movements, poor ergonomics, and weak abdominals or spine muscles. There may be degenerative changes occurring in your spine. If a tissue in your back continues to receive the same damaging forces, it will continue to send signals of pain.
Can a chiropractor in Yarmouth, ME help with low back pain?
Most definitely! We are a one stop shop for all things spine care. We have various adjusting techniques and soft tissue mobilizations to unlock or mobilize the joints and muscles of your spine, providing you with relief. If significant inflammation has developed, we have modalities such as ultrasound, E-stim, and laser to speed up healing. We follow that up with corrective stretches and exercises so you can heal yourself and keep your back resilient for the rest of your life.
What is better for low back pain: a chiropractor or a massage?
Massage can be great for reducing tension or trigger points in muscles that cause low back pain. You may get significant relief from massage! However, back pain is usually more complex than that. Massage therapists are not trained in pathology or in diagnosing or managing significant spinal conditions. Your back pain may exhibit tight muscles but likely includes other tissues like joints and nerves. Ideally, we work with your massage therapist so they can address the tight muscles more extensively, giving your chiropractor more time to focus on other tissues and manage the causes and other factors related to your back pain.
When should I see a chiropractor in Yarmouth, ME for low back pain?
If you have repetitive back pain episodes, a severe or ongoing back pain episode, it is important to identify the cause and treat it. Unfortunately, back pain is the number one cause of disability, and up to 10% of back pain sufferers can transition into a debilitated status as a result. Your pain may be a warning sign that one of the tissues in your spine is wearing down. If ignored, the resulting condition may require a long rehabilitation or more invasive intervention like injections or surgery.
How can you tell if your spine is out of alignment?
Pain is usually a good indicator that something is out of alignment. However, in the absence of obvious pain, I usually tell people if you’re having a hard time getting comfortable in bed or sitting for an hour, there is usually a joint restriction and or muscle accumulating stress. It’s much easier to find and fix it before you feel pain than to heal tissues when they have become inflamed or injured.