When it comes to treating back pain our chiropractors are best known for manual treatments such as spinal manipulation (also called spinal adjustments), where they use their hands to free stiffness or restricted movement in the spine, or mobilisation, which is the gradual moving and stretching of the spine.
This is a very effective way of treating back pain, back ache or back stiffness and you might notice an immediate improvement in how you feel and how well you are able to move.
The chiropractor you see may also use other recommended treatments such as certain types of acupuncture, muscle techniques, stretching exercises and rehabilitation, all of which will form part of a package of care. Your chiropractor may also offer lifestyle advice to help recovery and to prevent repeated episodes of back pain.
Back pain is usually uncomplicated in nature, even if the pain is severe, and most episodes resolve quickly with the correct advice and treatment.
But there are different types of back pain and it is always important to identify the type you have so the appropriate treatment can be selected.
Most people suffer from what is known as ‘simple’ or ‘mechanical’ back pain. This is not a serious underlying condition and there are no trapped or compressed nerves. This type can be very painful but it can also be felt to be achy, stiff or tight, or a combination at different times.
Sometimes a lot of tissues are involved in simple back pain – muscles, joints and ligaments can all be involved at the same time – but sometimes a specific source of pain can be identified and, if so, you will be told what it is.
But the effectiveness of your treatment does not depend on whether the cause is specific or non-specific. Your back will be always be treated as a whole in order to take into account all the possible reasons for the problem and to achieve the best possible outcome.
Simple back pain can be caused by poor posture, sitting too long in a bad position, or stress, which causes muscles to become tight and tense.
And as you get older the associated general wear and tear can result in back pain. The discs (shock-absorbing pads) between the bones of your spine become thinner with age and this can cause cause stiffness and pain.
This does not mean your symptoms cannot be improved and resolved, it just means you might need to do more to feel as good as you did when you were younger.
Less frequently, the nerves of the back can sometimes become irritated, compressed or trapped. There can be many reasons why this happens, but slipped discs or wear and tear can lead to pain spreading down the leg, which is commonly referred to as sciatica. This can be accompanied by pins and needles, tingling, numbness and weakness in all or part of the leg and foot.
Although it is still possible to make this problem feel better it is more of a challenge and it may take longer to achieve. It is also wise to consider having an MRI scan as well so better decisions can be made about managing the problem, which might include being referred to a specialist. Your chiropractor will write a letter for you if this is is the case.
On the rare occasion when a possible serious cause of your back pain is identified you will be urgently referred to the correct person. Fortunately this is very uncommon situation but our chiropractors are highly trained and alert to recognising when something is not right.