Research and statistics are now clear, lower back pain is the number one cause of disability worldwide. Low back pain affects billions of people every single year. It is so prevalent in the United States that it costs our country anywhere from $100 to $200 billion every year (primarily in lost wages). There are an estimated 149 million LOST workdays every year because of this problem. Unfortunately, the older one becomes the more likely they will be to experience lower back pain due to the deterioration of the intervertebral discs in the aging process.
Symptoms of lower back pain can vary widely. Some people will experience mild aches and pain such as joint stiffness, limited range of motion, or poor posture, while others will experience more intense symptoms such as numbness and tingling down their leg, burning pain, cramping pain, etc. Oftentimes low back pain can be made much worse by twisting, bending, lifting, and in severe cases, sneezing, coughing, or going to the bathroom.
To understand the causes of lower back pain we have to first understand the intricacies of our low back system. Our low back consists of five lumbar vertebrae sitting on top of one another. Between each lumbar bone is a thick intervertebral disc (which is primarily water and collagen), the 5th lumbar rests on top of your sacrum. All of these bones are wrapped in thick tight ligaments that hold them in place. On top of that, we have incredibly strong core muscles that wrap 360° around our bodies. Our low back connects to the pelvis and bears most of your body’s weight, as well as the stress of lifting and carrying items. Because of how much stress is placed on your low back every day, the causes of pain are numerous.
Common Causes of Low Back Pain in Lakewood, WA
Vertebrae, or multiple vertebrae, that lose their natural motion becoming fixated or “stuck” causing inflammation and a build-up of pressure on the nerves exiting the lumbar spine.
Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain
These are injuries caused by sudden rapid movements (car accidents, sports accidents, slips at home, working) that result in either tearing or injury of the muscles in the low back (strain) or overstretching and injury to the ligaments (sprain).
Lumbar Herniated Disc
Whether it be from an acute injury or chronic wear and tear, when the center of the disc “bulges” out of its normal location it can place pressure and irritation on the lumbar nerve roots, or even the spinal cord itself.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Discs are mostly water throughout life. As people age over time, discs lose hydration and thin out. As the disc loses hydration, it cannot resist forces as well and transfers force to the disc wall that may develop tears and cause pain or weakening that can lead to a herniation. The disc can also collapse and contribute to stenosis.
Facet Joint Dysfunction
These are the joints in your lumbar vertebrae. They allow for your lumbar bones to bend, twist, flex, and extend. These joints can be painful by themselves, or in conjunction with disc pain.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
The sacroiliac joint connects the sacrum at the bottom of the spine to each side of the pelvis. The sacroiliac joint can become painful if it becomes inflamed (sacroiliitis) or if there is too much or too little motion of the joint.
This condition causes pain through narrowing of the spinal canal where the nerve roots are located.
This condition occurs when one vertebra slips over the other one. There are five types of spondylolisthesis. The pain can be caused by instability (back) or compression of the nerves (leg).
This condition results from wear and tear of the disc and facet joints. It causes pain, inflammation, instability, and stenosis to a variable degree.
Acute fractures or dislocations of the spine can lead to pain. Lower back pain that develops after a trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident or a fall, should be properly addressed as soon as possible.
Whether it’s tough working conditions, working from home, household responsibilities (cooking, cleaning) poor posture places so much stress on the bones, muscles, and ligaments of the low back.
How We Address Lower Back Pain In Lakewood, WA
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
Understanding the specific cause of your low back pain is so critical in managing it, which is why we always start with an in-depth analysis of your body and your concerns. Our doctors will take the time to sit with you, listen to your concerns, ask specific questions, and thoroughly examine you. Functional range of motion, postural analysis, functional weight-bearing stance, hands-on palpation of your lumbar spine, and, if needed, X–rays will help determine the specific cause of your low back pain.
Specific Chiropractic Care in Lakewood, Wa
As chiropractors in Lakewood, WA, we analyze the spine for what is called “subluxation”. This term refers to the vertebrae or multiple vertebrae that lose their natural motion becoming fixated or “stuck”. This loss of healthy motion can cause inflammation of the soft tissue as well as pressure and irritation to the nerves leaving the spinal cord. Subluxation can absolutely cause low back pain. It can also cause a whole host of other health concerns such as digestive disorders, reproductive issues, extremity pain, tingling, and or numbness.
The only way to remove subluxation present in the spine is through gentle, specific chiropractic care. The chiropractic adjustment restores normal motion back into the spine thus removing that built-up pressure on your nervous system. The biggest factor when it comes to helping resolve your low back pain is time. The amount of time in which your body has been injured and subluxated will help us determine when we should expect to see significant improvements. If subluxation is the cause of your low back pain it must be addressed, otherwise, you may be stuck chasing pain without any resolution.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
Every patient is unique. This is why at Vital Family we use our exam findings (including X-ray) to help determine which exercises in and out of the office will be right for you. In our office, we will always teach you how to properly warm up the soft tissue in your low back prior to each adjustment, however, what we do at home and at work matters just as much! Whether it’s a 9-5 desk job, heavy construction, parenting, or students glued to their textbooks, we all have stressful lifestyles. This is why we have to balance and mitigate that stress through specific targeted therapy. Our doctors will sit with you and review all the necessary exercises to perform in our office prior to every adjustment as well as things to do at home to ensure that your body has the best possible chance of recovering.
Massage Therapy in Lakewood, WA
Because the anatomy of our low back relies heavily on a healthy soft tissue system (muscles, ligaments, tendons) it is critical that we take care of it. The health of our low back muscles directly relates to how well we receive an adjustment and how long our body holds onto it.
Our licensed massage therapists are skilled in assessing the lower back and pelvis to determine the key areas of muscular imbalances, tension, and injury. Whether it be from an automobile accident, overuse, or poor posture, the health of low back muscles, ligaments, and fascia heavily impacts the level of pain we feel as well as the level of motion our spine is capable of having.
Our therapists utilize several techniques of soft tissue therapy to give you the best possible experience. Techniques include
- Swedish Massage
- Trigger Point
- Deep Tissue
- Lymphatic Drainage
- Myofascial Release
- Chair Massage
- and more….
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my back pain is serious?
The normal amount of lower back pain a person should feel is no pain at all. However, we live in a world where jobs are demanding and people are constantly on the go, so unfortunately lower back pain is incredibly common. Serious kinds of low back pain could look like numbness and tingling down one or both legs, muscular weakness, or regular use of pain medication. Pain during bowel movements and or the inability to control your bladder are potentially extremely serious and should be reported as soon as you notice it.
Why won’t my lower back pain go away?
There are a few reasons why your low back pain may be a recurring issue.
1) You may be just addressing the symptoms without ever addressing the underlying cause of the pain.
2) You may not be giving your body enough time to heal.
The longer you have been living with low back pain the longer it may take to heal. Remember, pain may come and go, but the absence of pain doesn’t mean the healing is done! Give your body the appropriate amount of time needed to heal.
What is better for lower back pain: a chiropractor or massage?
Comparing chiropractic to massage is like comparing apples to oranges! Both are effective for managing low back pain, however, they accomplish different goals. Massage is great for relieving pain and decreasing tension however it may not be getting after the root cause of low back pain. The goal of the adjustment is to restore normal range of motion to the spine, allowing the nervous system to operate normally. We want to go after the cause of low back pain, not just the symptom.
When should I see a chiropractor in Lakewood, WA for lower back pain?
The best time to be examined for lower back pain is prior to the onset of pain! Often there are many signs of dysfunction in the low back that predate any signs of physical pain. Stiffness, limited range of motion, weakness, and numbness are all indicators of an issue requiring attention.
How can you tell if your spine is out of alignment?
As chiropractors in Lakewood, WA our primary focus is on detecting subluxation (misalignment) and removing it through chiropractic adjustment. There are several ways we determine areas of subluxation; we use our hands to palpate the spine for edema, inflammation, chronically tight muscles, and loss of vertebral motion. We also utilize thermal scanning to more precisely see spinal inflammation. X-ray technology allows us to see structural misalignment such as degeneration and loss of normal curvature, all of which can place abnormal pressure on the nervous system.