Low back pain affects 80% of the population at some point in their life and one-third of the population on a yearly basis. One of the most common causes of low back pain comes from a slightly restricted joint in your spine.
Your lower back is made up of 5 bones stacked on top of each other with a soft “disc” between each segment to allow for flexibility. Normally, each joint in your spine should move freely and independently. Our examination of your spine has shown that one or more of the joints in your low back is slightly misaligned and restricted. We call this condition “lumbar segmental joint restriction”.
To help visualize this, imagine a normal spine functioning like a big spring moving freely in every direction. A spine with a joint restriction is like having a section of that spring welded together. The spring may still move as a whole, but a portion of it is no longer functioning.
Joint restriction can develop in many ways. Sometimes they are brought on by an accident or an injury. Other times, they develop from repetitive strains or poor posture. Several factors may make you more likely to experience low back problems. These include: being overweight, smoking, strenuous work, repetitive bending, twisting and lifting, prolonged exposure to whole body vibration- i.e. operating a motorized vehicle, stress, anxiety, depression, dissatisfaction with your job and even your attitude!
Restricted joints give rise to a self-perpetuating cycle of discomfort. Joint restriction causes swelling and inflammation, which triggers muscular guarding leading to more restriction. Since your spine functions as a unit, rather than as isolated pieces, a joint restriction in one area of your spine often causes “compensatory” problems in another. Think of this as a rowboat with multiple oarsmen on each side. When one rower quits, the others are placed under additional stress and can become overworked.
Joint restrictions most commonly cause local tenderness and discomfort. You may notice that your range of motion is limited. Movement may increase your discomfort. Pain from a restricted joint often trickles down to your hips or thighs. Be sure to tell your chiropractor if your symptoms include any radiation of pain below your knee, weakness, groin numbness or changes in bowel or bladder function.
Long-standing restrictions are thought to result in arthritis – much like the way a slightly misaligned wheel on your car causes premature wearing of your tire.
You should recognize that your problem is common and generally treatable. Chiropractic care has been shown to be the safest and most effective treatment for joint restrictions. Our office offers several tools to help ease your pain. To speed your recovery, you should wear supportive shoes and avoid activities that increase your pain. Be sure to take frequent breaks from sedentary activity. Yoga has been shown to help back pain sufferers so consider joining a class or picking up a DVD.