Back pain is very common. Most people will suffer one or more episodes of back pain during their lives. In many cases, it starts suddenly and gets better quickly, without the need for any treatment.
However, back pain can be painful, debilitating and persistent, and some people suffer repeated episodes. It can also be associated with other symptoms, such as leg pain or sciatica. It may start following a specific incident, such as bending awkwardly or lifting a heavy weight. Or it can develop gradually, perhaps as a result of poor posture, an uncomfortable work position or repetitive strain.
People experience back pain for all sorts of reasons. It might be the way they sit or stand, or because their work or lifestyle causes stress and strain on their back. Worry or stress can cause tension in the back muscles, or can delay recovery of existing back pain. Sometimes an old injury, or wear and tear over time, might also cause problems. However, there is often no obvious reason why back pain develops.
Although it can be very painful, back pain rarely has a serious underlying cause. Seeing a qualified health professional, such as a chiropractor, who is experienced in diagnosing conditions of the back and spine, can help treat back pain, and also identify if a referral or specialist investigations are needed.
Back pain can be very uncomfortable as the tissues and structures of the back are very susceptible to pain.
Back pain can be felt in one or both sides of the back, sometimes between the shoulder blades or from waist level and into the buttocks and down the front or back of the legs. It can be a sharp or dull pain, and can spread into the lower legs and sometimes as far as the feet.
If the pain does not go after a few days, or starts to get worse, it is worth seeking professional advice. Early treatment will help you get better faster.
About half of people who have an episode of back pain will have another episode within a couple of years. But that still doesn’t mean that it is necessarily serious. Between episodes most people return to normal activities within two or three weeks, with few remaining symptoms.
Back pain can be very painful due to inflammation and muscle spasm, and you may need to take it easy for a while. But resting for more than a day or two does not usually help, and may actually do more harm than good. It is best to try to keep moving and seek the help of a trained professional, such as a chiropractor, if you are finding it difficult to cope, or to speed up recovery.
Your back is designed for movement. The sooner you get back to normal activity, the sooner your back will feel better. The people who cope best are those who stay active and get on with their life despite the pain. If your back pain does not improve, it is important to seek help. Early treatment will get you better faster.
Seeing a chiropractor
Chiropractors specialize in assessing, diagnosing and managing conditions of the spine. They are highly trained in finding the cause of pain in the spine. In the UK they undergo a minimum of four years’ full-time training. Importantly, chiropractors are regulated by law and must work within strict professional and ethical boundaries.
Before starting treatment, a chiropractor will do a full assessment. This will involve taking details about your condition, current health and medical history, and performing a physical examination. Sometimes it may be necessary to refer you for other tests, such as X-rays, MRI scans or blood tests. It is important for your chiropractor to gather as much information about your back pain as possible so that the most precise diagnosis can be made.
Your chiropractor will then explain what is wrong, what can be done and what you can expect from chiropractic treatment.
According to British Chiropractic Association, chiropractors are best known for manual treatments such as spinal manipulation, where they use their hands to free stiff or restricted joints, or mobilization, which is the gradual moving of joints. But they may also use other recommended treatments such as certain types of acupuncture, electrotherapy, stretching exercises and rehabilitation, all of which form part of a chiropractor’s package of care. Your chiropractor may also offer lifestyle advice to help recovery and to prevent repeated episodes of back pain.
If your chiropractor does not think you can be helped by chiropractic treatment, you may be referred back to your general practitioner or to another health professional. Chiropractors do not prescribe medication, so if this is needed, you may be referred back to your general practitioner. As chiropractors support a joined-up approach to care, they may ask if they can send a brief report to your general practitioner.
Many people who suffer long-term back pain benefit from regular, supportive chiropractic care to reduce the risk of recurrent episodes.