With today’s advancement in technology and our reliance on it, more and more people are finding themselves in a sedentary position while performing almost all tasks. Whether it’s sitting in the car on a long commute, sitting at a computer during the day, or relaxing in the evening by sitting in your favorite chair watching TV, our lives lead us less and less activity. This prolonged sitting and sedentary lifestyle has caused many problems with our health, especially low back pain. Prolonged sitting places your spine and pelvis in an unnatural weight bearing position. Add to this weight gain and lack of exercise, and you have the perfect recipe for early spinal degeneration and damage.
Eight out of ten Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their life and more than half of Americans live with some type of chronic or recurrent pain. The cost is measured in more than just pain: Medical treatment of back pain is estimated to cost $25 billion annually, according to Duke University researchers (1). Workers compensation costs and time lost from work add another $25 billion. This debilitating pain costs more than money as it affects every aspect of a person’s life by not allowing them to work, play with their children, or even perform the simplest of everyday tasks. This issue is deeper than just pain.
Where Low Back Pain Starts:
Your body was designed to move! Stress from all aspects of life, whether it is emotional issues, prolonged sitting, physical activity, or a traumatic injury; can cause damage and misalignment to spinal joints and surrounding tissue. This damage results in the formation of scar tissue. Scar tissue replaces normal tissue and is half as strong and pliable as normal healthy tissue. This formation weakens and restricts the joint movement causing severe inflammation to occur in the area. A natural side effect of this is muscle spasms. This is your body’s way of letting you know there is a problem and prevents you from overexerting a weak joint to protect it. This process, including misalignment, inflammation, and muscle spasms is a classic indicator of a subluxation in the spine, placing pressure on the nerves. As this process occurs, due to the lack of joint movement, degeneration begins to set it.
Side note: In this process, there is inflammation, muscle spasms, and pain. So our current medical solution is to prescribe muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and pain killers. Does any of this fix the problem and restore proper motion to the joint??
Sciatica is a common term used to describe low back pain and if you’ve ever experienced it, you know exactly how debilitating it can be. The sciatic nerve is formed from the lower three lumbar spine nerve roots and first two sacral nerve roots. These nerve roots join together to form the largest nerve in the body (about the circumference of your pinky finger). The sciatic nerve runs down through the pelvis and innervates the entire lower extremity. Sciatica, by definition, is when one or more of these nerve roots are impinged on, causing pain and dysfunction in the low back and in the legs in more serious cases. This extreme condition can have many presentations but is almost always a result of allowing a small problem to worsen, barring severe accidents or trauma. In severe presentations, it can cause urinary incontinence and muscle weakness in the legs. This is a life-threatening emergency and needs to be checked immediately as it can result in permanent damage if left untreated.
The Bigger Picture:
Pain is usually the symptom that makes us realize that something is wrong. Unfortunately, it requires a large amount of pressure and almost 50% decrease in nerve function to cause pain. Plus, only 8-10% of the nerve in your body sense any sort of pain.
The nerve roots that form the sciatic nerve also go to extremely important areas in your body like the lower digestive tract, reproductive organs, and lend branches to the autonomic nervous system that controls the auto-regulating functions in your body. The sad truth is that most of these nerves sense no pain at all. Meaning, if you have enough pressure on the nerves to cause low back and/or leg pain, you are already experiencing some sort of dysfunction in the other organs that these nerves go to.
A common solution to this situation is to treat the symptoms. By administering pain killers, anti-inflammatories, and muscle relaxers to relieve the symptoms, the patient may feel better but the underlying problem still has not been addressed. (I implore you to do research on the side effects of NSAIDS, as they are very severe.) This medical concept is a large reason why almost everyone after the age of 50 is told they have some type of degenerative arthritis. The issue isn’t age, the issue is that the problem was never corrected and the joint continues to degenerate. When the joint is degenerated to a certain point, surgery becomes the answer where typically bones are fused together or parts of the joint are removed. This process may relieve the pressure on a joint, but adds more stress to surrounding joints as they have to make up for the loss of movement.
The Chiropractic Way: It’s what we do!
Chiropractic care has been shown through extensive research to have great success with this type condition by realigning the spine, restoring proper movement, and relieving the pressure from the nerves through a series of spinal adjustments. By correcting the problem, it also stops the current and prevents future degeneration as the joint is allowed to move and heal itself. This approach will also remove the pressure from the nerves going to all of the other organs. By restoring the normal function of the joint, it allows your body to perform at its maximum capacity again. By correcting the problem without any foreign substances put into the body, there are no side effects, just more function!
- Exercise is an important part of strengthening the spinal joints. As your body heals, exercise allows these joints to become stronger and more pliable which makes them less susceptible to injury. It is however very important to allow your body to heal, as every person heals at their own pace.
- Take breaks often. You don’t need a lot of room to do some simple exercises in a cubicle. Run in place, stretch, jump, or do some squats or lunges. Your co-workers may laugh now, but they’ll come running when they are hurting.
- Reduce your sugar intake and focus on an anti-inflammatory diet. This allows the body to heal even faster as inflammation prevents normal healing agents from functioning.
- Use Ice. Icing the area prevents inflammation and allows the joint to heal faster, especially after strenuous activity when it can prevent inflammation from forming. You should follow this icing regimen: 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, 20 minutes on.
- Stretch: Lying on your back with legs straight, flatten your back on the floor and bring one knee to your chest. Hold that position for about 10 seconds and then switch legs. Last bring both knees to the chest. This will stretch the muscles of the low back.
Don’t cover up the symptoms as this creates problems later on as the original problem continues to worsen. Choose natural health through chiropractic.