Do you have low back pain?

Back pain is the number one health problem facing the work force in Canada today.


Eighty per cent of the population between the ages of 30 to 50 will suffer from low back pain at some time during their lives.  A significant portion of those who suffer a first time episode will go on to have chronic low back problems.


Low back pain can be divided into two main types: mechanical type pain and compressive type pain.


Mechanical type pain results from irritation injury to the discs, the facet joints, the ligaments, or the muscles of the back.  A common cause of mechanical pain is disc degeneration.  Mechanical type pain usually starts near the lowest part of the low back and may spread to include the buttock and thigh areas.  It rarely extends below the knee.


Compressive type pain occurs when the nerve roots that leave the spine are irritated or squeezed.  A common cause of compressive pain is a herniated disc.  One of the earliest signs of pressure on a nerve root is numbness in the area supplied by the nerve.  There is pain in the same area, usually extending below the knee to the foot and it is not unusual for the back itself to be painless.  Finally, the muscles that the nerve controls may become weak and the reflexes disappear.


Over the years your back is subjected to repeated stress which may not result in pain at the time of injury.  These repeated injuries add up, and eventually result in degeneration of the spine and low back pain.  Most episodes of low back pain are at least partially the result of degenerative changes occurring in the back.


These may be an acute injury associated with an individual episode, but the overall condition of the spine usually determines how fast one recovers and the risk of the condition becoming chronic.


The goal of any treatment program should be to improve the current condition and to slow the progression of the degenerative process.  The doctors role (medical or chiropractor) in the treatment of low back pain should be aimed at identifying significant problems that require immediate attention, and attempting to prevent chronic back problems by giving you the tools to prevent further injury.

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