Q I am in my early 30s and am suffering from unbearable lower back pain. I thought I was too young to have to deal with this now and really want to avoid an operation if possible. Could I benefit from a visit to the chiropractor and what would it entail? Y.N.
A DR JUAN VAN BREDA REPLIES:
Severe lower back pain can strike at any age, caused by any of a wide spectrum of reasons. The younger person will commonly have a history of a single, or several, traumatic injuries that can often directly correlate with the onset of pain. The older person will probably have a more chronic degenerative condition resulting from the cumulative effect of a lifetime of minor and significant injuries compounded by misuse and abuse of the body and specifically the low back.
The low back is central to the functioning of both the lower and upper halves of the body, carries the weight of the body into the structure of the pelvis and distributes this load to the hips, the lower extremities and ultimately the ground. It is thus central to most life activities.
Through incorrect bending, lifting, carrying, poor ergonomics, playing asymmetric sports, and trauma, the joints of the vertebral column and pelvis of the lower back become injured and/or displaced, which chiropractic terms subluxated or a subluxation.
Different types of injuries will result in anything from mild to severe debilitating low back pain, with possible neurological symptoms radiating down one or both legs, and potential weakness in one or both legs. The neurological symptoms can be quite varied: pain, numbness, tingling, pins and needles, deadness, itchiness, etc. Direct injury to the joints results in inflammation and pain at the specific joint. Acute and chronic low back pain can result from many possible causes and these differential diagnoses must be considered and excluded before coming to a final diagnosis. Some of these possible pathologies could be serious in nature and include: cancers, infections (in South Africa tuberculosis is a very real concern), fractures, osteoporosis, arthritic conditions, etc.
No one readily accepts the thought of spinal surgery which involves hospitalisation, pain, medication, recovery and rehabilitation – all taking time out of life and expensive in direct costs and lost income.
This leads to patients first fully exhausting all non-invasive or ‘natural’ treatment possibilities. Chiropractic has, over decades, been scientifically proven to be the most appropriate and effective treatment for low back pain.
Since the inception of chiropractic principles in 1895 in Davenport, Iowa by Dr Daniel David Palmer the modality has evolved and spread to most countries in the world.
Chiropractic seeks to assess and identify subluxations which impair healthy neurological function, and correct (adjust) the subluxation, thus allowing the body to heal and return to optimal health. These chiropractic adjusting techniques are applied on the basis of very accurate diagnostic analysis and consequently are of low force and not painful or traumatic to the patient.
A typical consultation will include the comprehensive reviewing of the patient’s medical history including: previous specialist consultations and the related reports and studies; diagnostic evaluation utilising chiropractic testing methods supported by orthopaedic and neurological tests; and ultimately a selection of chiropractic techniques, followed by specific post-adjustment testing to confirm that the desired therapeutic goal has been achieved. Often a follow up consultation will be needed and the patient may be required to do various treatments at home such as ice pack applications and exercises, correct the ergonomics at work, while driving and in the home environment.
Dependent on the specifics of the patient and how their treatment programme evolves, further examinations, MRI imaging, tests or specialist consultations may be required. Sometimes, dependent on these investigations, a patient may be referred for surgery.
WHO CAN BENEFIT?
The short answer is: everybody who has a vertebral column. Chiropractic can be of value to all ages – from the newly delivered baby injured in birthing to the world-class athlete seeking to win an Olympic gold medal, to the patient in the last days of their life who just needs to be more comfortable, to the centenarian who wants to be mobile and pain free.
Animals also benefit, especially horses, dogs, cats and birds.
Chiropractic strives to allow all to realise their full life potential and live in perfect health.