Your Guide to Low Back Pain
By: Jane H. Baxley, D.C.
Low back pain simply stinks. I’m sorry, there’s no better way for me to say it. Before becoming a chiropractor, I suffered from low back pain for years. In fact, it’s what led me to visit my first chiropractor and ultimately decide to make it my career. Through the years I’ve researched and tried many different tools and therapies. Some good, some bad, most offering temporary relief at best and a few that were so revolutionary that they completely changed the way I practiced chiropractic.
Low back pain is one of the most common causes of missed work and studies show that over 80% of us will experience severe, debilitating back pain at some point in our lives(1).
Because this affliction plagues so many, I wanted to offer a helpful guide to low back pain describing some of the different types and causes, give you some tips to manage it on your own, and advice on when and how to seek help.
What is low back pain and what causes it?
Maybe you were in a car accident, fell or were tackled playing sports, lifted heavy sacks of mulch while gardening, or have a desk job and are feeling pain after hours of sitting at your desk. Sometimes it may feel like it came from out of nowhere-one minute you feel fine, then bend over to pick up a tissue that you dropped on the floor and feel your back “go out”. Then comes the pain or soreness in the area around the small of your back. The pain might be right in the center of your back, off to one side, go to one or both buttocks and may even travel down one or both legs.
All the scenarios above describe pain caused by misalignments of body structure (bones getting pushed out of place) over time. The pain is from muscle spasms as your body tries to compensate, and from stress to the joint surfaces of the misaligned bones. The bones in our bodies get pushed out of place and distorted by many activities, large and small. The body can correct some of these distortions because there are muscles that can pull some of these out-of-place bones back into the right position. But when a vertebral bone in your spine gets pushed forward toward the front of your body, there is no muscle behind it that can possibly pull it backwards again. The entire body acts as a single functioning interconnected unit and reacts to this causing your pain.
Why is back pain a big deal?
One big problem is that symptoms such as back pain can create other body problems later if not prevented or corrected properly. When someone has back pain either from a macro-trauma (car accident, major fall or sports injury) or micro-trauma (sitting behind a desk for hours at a time for years, and repetitive motion strain), they also use their bodies differently (such as walking, leaning, tightening and twisting in an attempt to avoid pain) setting up often unconscious compensation patterns. Over time these patterns of movement become habitual and may persist even after the symptom goes away.
Bad news is that this could potentially set you up for abnormal wear and tear on joints and re-injury. The good news is that for most people, if the body is adjusted correctly it can unwind and correct these compensation patterns on its own. As normal motion and function is restored, there is less abnormal tension on the structure of the body resulting in reduced pain, improved posture, and a feeling of increased energy.
“My pain is ‘just’ muscular”
Well, yes and no. Low back pain always has a muscular component. When the body is trying to compensate for misalignments, the muscles must get involved and attempt to stabilize your body (so you won’t fall over), resulting in muscle tightness and pain on one side or the other. When the misalignments are fully corrected, these compensations are no longer needed, and the muscle pain and tightness generally resolves by itself.
When does low back pain signal a medical emergency?
Thankfully most cases of back pain have the type of mechanical/structural causes that tend to be resolved effectively with the suggestions provided in this article, and very few need to be resolved with back surgery. However, some back pain can be caused by a pathological condition including infection, cancer or inflammatory arthritis, or serious mechanical issues such as fracture.
The following is not an exhaustive list, but some back symptoms that require immediate or urgent medical care include:
- Back pain affecting your bowel or bladder function (inability to control bowel movements or uncontrolled bladder function or difficulty in passing urine)
- A sudden loss of sensation in the groin area
- Back pain radiating (traveling) to the front of your abdomen
- Back pain associated with nausea/vomiting or a fever
- Back pain that occurs immediately following a trauma, ie. car accident, slip/fall, sports injury (2)
Please seek immediate medical attention of any of the above apply to you.
What can you do on your own to relieve Low Back Pain?
In this section I’ll share some of my favorite tips to help relieve your low back pain at home. I need to stress that we are talking short term relief here as low back pain generally has a deeper structural component that needs to be addressed for your relief to be long term and also prevent serious future complications.
- Check chairs at work and couches at home-sit on firm surfaces with your hips higher than your knees. Super soft couches and chairs are the enemy!
- Limit sitting (get up every 30-45 minutes consider a sit stand workstation and change your position every 30-45 minutes)
- Be conscious of your posture-yes, your mom was right when she told you to stand up straight. Slumping over stresses the spinal joints and causes pain over time. Difficulty standing straight easily and without effort is a sure sign your spine is misaligned.
- Stretch the muscles that affect the low back
- back of legs: hamstrings, glutes
- side bends: psoas
- Don’t lift with a rounded back! Tighten your core and hinge at the hips with a flat back and keep the load close and in front of you (no twisting). Or squat and use your knees if your knees can take it.
- Don’t lift heavy loads (especially if you haven’t worked out in a while!)
- Consider your mattress especially if you experience pain when you wake up. If your mattress is old and soft, it’s time to get a new one
- No sleeping on your stomach-this will also lead to neck pain
- Keep moving! Even if you are experiencing a significant bout of low back pain, prolonged bed rest may make it worse (3)
- Ice can sometimes relieve a bout of acute (recent) back pain. Chronic, longer term pain may be relieved with short sessions of heat
When and how to seek help:
If you or someone you know are experiencing low back pain, there is hope. There is a new way to correct the forward vertebral bones causing your spinal distortion and pain and provide lasting relief. This breakthrough method is called Advanced BioStructural Correction™ (ABC™) and is the most effective method of treating back pain that I have tried or experienced.
During chiropractic school the low back symptoms that brought me to pursue a chiropractic degree progressively got worse until I ended up (ironically) with a disc herniation at L4-L5. The pain from my back shot down my left leg to my foot and I had difficulty standing and walking. I was adjusted by the best doctors using all the traditional techniques taught to us in school, but it wasn’t until I had been introduced to ABC™ after graduating that I started to find significant and lasting relief.
All the other methods I had tried and learned as a chiropractor would only offer temporary relief with the pain coming back within a day or a week. This is because these other methods didn’t get to the source of the problem. Often they attempt to realign all misaligned joints without determining which ones are causing a problem, and which are out of line in an attempt to compensate to try to keep you stable. ABC™ only corrects the parts of the spine that have misaligned in a way the body cannot correct on its own, so the body can release the compensation patterns naturally as a result.
The ABC™ system allows me to find the vertebra that is forward and free it up and move it back into place. It’s pretty easy and comfortable and mostly done standing. As an example, after I find the vertebra that is forward, I stand in front of you with my hand behind your back, blocking below the vertebra that needs to move backward. You cross your arms, bend forward and I give you a gentle squeeze or push. Sometimes you feel a pop or click as the vertebra goes back into the proper position. After the treatment your body feels less pain because it is straightened, realigned, and balanced.
I am pleased to have recently relocated my practice from the bay area to Vacaville. For over a decade, my office has helped many people correct their spinal alignment, improving posture and function using Advanced BioStructural Correction™.
In addition to ABC™, my office provides other advanced therapies to boost the healing process. These include Rapid Release Therapy, a powerful and efficient muscle and soft tissue therapy, and MLS Laser, a high-powered medical laser for healing and pain relief of disc herniations and other connective tissue injuries. These therapies work in tandem providing your body with the best possible chance of healing.
Give us a call at (707) 446-1714. I’m happy to offer a free phone consultation to discuss if our therapies are right for you and how we can help you get your life back!
- Hartvigsen J, Hancock MJ, Kongsted A, Louw Q, Ferreira ML, Genevay S, Hoy D, Karppinen J, Pransky G, Sieper J, Smeets RJ, Underwood M; Lancet Low Back Pain Series Working Group. What low back pain is and why we need to pay attention. Lancet. 2018 Jun 9;391(10137):2356-2367. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30480-X. Epub 2018 Mar 21. PMID: 29573870.
- Ben-Yishay MD, A, 2/5/2021, Back Pain Red-Flags for Emergency Room vs. Physician Consults, SpineHealth, 5/23/2021 <https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/back-pain-red-flags-emergency-room-vs-physician-consults>
- Nwachuku DO, A, 2/13/2020, Bed Rest is Not The Best for Beating Back Pain, SpineHealth, 5/28/2021 <https://www.spine-health.com/blog/bed-rest-not-always-best-bet-beating-back-pain>