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Understanding low back pain

Monday, Jan. 1, 2018
woman with low back pain

Low back pain is one of the most common conditions experienced by patients at our clinics. At any given point in time, approximately 10% of the population will be experiencing some form of low back pain, and of this group, nearly 25% report it persisting for over one month in duration.

Low back pain can have drastic implications on the workplace environment, on the physical and also the psychological wellbeing of an individual, and this is why it has become such an important topic for health care professionals to address.

There are many different facts of a patient experience to address in order to have a successful outcome with the management of back pain. We cannot just look at the physiological bodily changes, but must address the bio-psycho-social experience. That is to say, there is a physiological change that results in the pain experience, but the patient’s beliefs and previous experiences will also impact on their recovery from a bout of low back pain.

One of the greatest difficulties we have as experienced clinicians is breaking a misconceptions about low back pain.  A study performed by Brinjikji et al (2014), looked at the occurrence rate of spinal changes in asymptomatic patients. The results of the study are included in table format below.  Just because an MRI identifies a patient with changes throughout their spine (whether it be a disc protrusion, facet degeneration or annular fissure), does not correlate to a pain experience.  

chart of low back pain

One of the most common questions we seem to be asked by patients is “should I stop seeing my chiropractor now that I’ve started to see a physiotherapist.” This is a difficult question with no simple answer. As with most injuries, we recommend a holistic approach to pain management involving a wide variety of medical professionals including chiropractors, doctors, osteopaths etc. and believe it provides our patients with a good recovery.  However, we must take into consideration that every patient is an individual and every patient has different concerns and needs. Their beliefs about a treatment modality will dictate their success with ongoing treatment.

What we do know about back pain is we must keep it moving. As I tell all my patients, “Motion is Lotion” to the spine. The more we stop moving, the worse it will get. Keep the spine moving, whether it is at physiotherapy, or at the chiropractor.

If you are experiencing low back pain, please visit www.lifemark.ca/locations to find a clinic near you.

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