If you’ve ever experienced lower back pain, you are not alone. Almost everyone will have lower back pain at some time in their life that interferes with work, recreation, family, and productivity. Lower back pain is experienced in varying time lengths, severity, and areas of the body it affects such as getting pain running from their back right down the leg, known as sciatica.

It would be easy if back pain only had one cause, but that’s not how it works. To be able to talk about where the pain starts, we need a little background on the spine along with one or two terms. The spine has 24 movable bones called vertebrae. These are divided into 3 sections. The first section is the neck with 7 vertebrae. The second section is the thoracic or mid back section, with 12 vertebrae and this portion has a rib cage attached. The third is the bottom section the lumbar spine, which has only 5 vertebrae. Under the lumbar section is the sacrum , a large bone attached to the pelvis, and all the way on the bottom is the coccyx. In between each of the movable bones is a disc, just like a cushion or shock absorber. Behind the discs is the spinal canal, a pathway for the spinal cord. On the sides of the canal are the nerve openings, where the spinal nerves exit, and will all the way in the back of the vertebrae are the joints, one on each side. Now we can look at where the pain comes from. Most of the time, it is from the disc or the joints. Discs can start to wear down just like an arthritic joint. We call this disc a degeneration and as the cushion wears down, it gets thinner and the vertebrae move closer together. Over time the edges of the vertebrae get a little jagged as spurs form. Discs can also bulge or herniate. Most people have heard of herniated discs and may even know someone who has suffered with this problem. A herniation is a portion of the disc that bulges out out into the spinal canal or nerve opening. Spinal problems may also be caused by the joints in the back of the vertebrae. Just like the disc or even shoulders or knees, the spinal joints can degenerate over time. We call that arthritis.

Now that we know the most common causes of lower back pain, what do we do about it? Studies have found that chiropractic care is better than medical care which includes medication and even better than hospital management of back pain, especially in chronic and severe cases. There are a number of reasons for that; First, chiropractors are spine specialists. Other health care practitioners may see back pain patients as a small part of their practice while most patients in a chiropractic office are there for spinal evaluation and treatment. No other profession has the spine as their primary focus. Second, chiropractors address the cause of your pain, where medications alone cannot do that. An easy example is someone standing on your foot. Taking medication may make it feel better for a while, but it can’t fix the problem, which is you having someone stand on your foot. Third, chiropractors will look for the other factors that may be affecting your problem. If certain postures or daily activities are continually aggravating your back, those factors need to be addressed in order to get a long lasting correction.

Finding the right doctor for your problem is so important, so being aware that chiropractors are the largest group of spine specialist offering an alternative to drugs and surgery for your pain may start you in the right direction. Having your first evaluation with a doctor who understands your problem and can start you quickly on the path back to health means the world when your are suffering. A chiropractor will also be able to recommend an overall program including postural changes and home exercises. A well rounded and balanced approach to restoring your health will help you get better faster and stay better longer, allowing you to quickly return to those things you enjoy.

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