Seeing a Chiropractor For Your Back Pain
Elizabeth Barrett Browning penned the famous words that most wives and girlfriends swoon to, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways". So what does that have to do with your back pain and chiropractic? Applying author's prerogative I will substitute the word help for love and the result is, "How can I help thee? Let me count the ways".
Back Pain Often Appears to be Mysterious
There are many conditions that cause back pain. But these conditions can be narrowed down to 4-5 general problems, although each of these general problems does have subcategories. Let me give you an example. The five general conditions with their subconditions could be:
a. Disc bulge
b. Disc herniation
So what is the current standard medical practice answer? Usually an analgesic (to mask pain), a muscle relaxant (usually makes the patient sleepy), and an anti-inflammatory (to reduce inflammation without knowing the cause of inflammation if any). So how would a chiropractor assess your back pain?
First, an investigative consultation with you, the patient, helps the doctor narrow down the cause of your pain. This is important as their may be overlying problems such as muscle strain, disc bulge, and decreased circulation.
Second, a thorough physical examination will enlighten the doctor as to what systems are involved through the use of proper orthopedic and neurological tests. A radiographic examination may be medically necessary to rule out conditions such as cancer or aneurysm or rule in conditions such as arthritis.
Once a diagnosis is obtained the doctor can make a determination on which treatment options usually work the best in patients similar to you. My professional opinion is that chiropractors should not treat cancer, aneurysms, or diabetes, without working with a medical colleague in tandem. That being said I have treated patients that had each of those conditions but my goal was not the alleviation of those conditions but other complaints that the patient had.
So what are the options to treat back pain that falls into one of the first two categories? I would entreat you to use common sense. For example, if you have a disc bulge or herniation what will analgesics, muscle relaxants, or anti-inflammatories do to treat the cause? Almost nothing! True, the analgesics may reduce the pain you are experiencing but the pain is not the cause of the problem, only a symptom. Likewise for the muscle relaxants which will usually help you sleep and the anti-inflammatories which will reduce inflammation of the tissue that is irritated by the disc.
Approximately 80% of back pain falls into the description of "mechanically induced back pain" of which the first two categories belong. These are your strain, sprains, arthritis, disc bulges, pinched nerves, etc. Unfortunately, most medications do nothing to treat mechanical issues of the back, only the symptoms resulting from those issues. That is why it is estimated that almost 70% of people who suffer back pain will experience it several times throughout their lives.
Chiropractors use several different types of physical modalities to relax the muscles, reduce the inflammation, and decrease the pain just as the medications might accomplish, but ultimately they will perform manipulation to reduce and alleviate the mechanical problem, which causes the pain and other symptoms. In 1994, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Health Care Policy and Research found manipulation to be most effective and safe.
When choosing a chiropractor look for someone with the qualifications that indicate their grasp of technology, diagnosis, and treatment. Look to see if their office can assess conditions that often accompany mechanical conditions such as nerve or circulatory problems by performing NCV's and arterial doppler respectively. Look to see if the doctor holds advanced degrees in recognized specialties such as sports medicine, orthopedics, or radiology. Finally, if the doctor has a website, see if there are any patients that have written testimonial on conditions that are similar to your own.
Dr. Smith has been in private practice for 30 years. He received his B.S. from the University of Illinois and his medical degree from the National University of Health Sciences. He holds postgraduate degrees in sports medicine, peer review, and manipulation under anesthesia. He has received numerous state and local awards and recognition, is a sought-after speaker and lecturer, and authored the book, "Choosing to Live a Stress Free Life". If you need help with this topic, visit either of his websites for help on stress or back pain.
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