Chiropractic respects the
body's ability to heal itself.

A Non-Drug, Non-Surgical Approach to Wellness

Chiropractors relieve body pain by applying gentle, controlled pressure to the spine in order to re-align to its natural position. 

An aligned spine helps to open up the communication pathways between the brain and body. When the pathways are open, the body has the ability to heal itself.

Dr. Lisa Olszewski

President
Michigan Association of Chiropractors

Back Pain

You are not alone, nearly 80% of adults experience back pain. But what causes back pain? In our modern society back pain is increased due to the time we spend sitting at our jobs and during our free time.

Sitting is becoming the new smoking. Back pain isn’t just a nuisance, it’s expensive, not only for individuals, but for the nation as a whole.

Living a healthy lifestyle can help to reduce your back pain. This includes healthy eating, reducing stress, maintaining a sleep. These changes can solve many back problems, as well as many other ailments. These are measures you can take to prevent back pain.

If you experience back pain you shouldn’t wait to get help, surgery is often only needed as a last ditch effort, so it’s always better to get the problem corrected early.

Only about 10% of patients need surgery to alleviate back pain. If back pain is not alleviated by non-surgical treatments and has continued for a few weeks or months, it may be time to see a spine surgeon. If the pain is severe and medication isn’t working then it may be advisable to consult with a spine surgeon sooner.

Some types of back surgery are less invasive than others. A microdiscectomy is minimally invasive and does not change the anatomy of the spine, whereas most types of lumbar spine fusion surgeries are more invasive and do change the anatomy of the spine. Minimally invasive approaches heal within a few weeks and have around a 90% success rate. Invasive surgeries, such as fusion surgery, take several months to heal and have a success rate between 70 and 90%.

A chiropractic approach to treating lower back pain is to find the source of the back pain and correct it, not just treat the symptom; this ensures that the body can heal naturally. Lower back pain often responds dramatically to the correction of vertebrae positioning and the restoration of normal motion. Chiropractors use spinal manipulations or adjustments to precisely apply a directed force to the vertebrae that is out of position.

The doctor may either use their hands or specialized tools to apply a quick thrust or slower pressure to the misaligned joint. Additionally, your chiropractor may suggest adding exercises, hot or cold compresses, or massage to compliment your adjustments. It may also be helpful to consider some lifestyle changes such as healthier eating and stress reduction techniques.

A physical therapist can teach you exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles in the affected area to relieve pressure on the nerve. They may also recommend modifications to activities that aggravate the nerve. They can show you positions and exercises designed to minimize pain. A physical therapist may also recommend applying heat or ice, traction, an ultrasound, electrical stimulation or short-term bracing for the neck or lower back.

Massage therapy is beneficial for many chronic conditions, including low back pain. Massage offers a drug-free, non-invasive and humanistic approach to combating back pain based on the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Structural relaxation massage techniques both work well to remedy chronic low back pain with few side effects. Massage helps those with back pain function better even after six months, which can help support their ability to work, take care of themselves and be active.

For those who use massage as a preventive measure to back pain or to manage daily back stress, one massage a month is common. Weekly massage sessions may be necessary for injury relief or to relieve chronic neck or back tightness that interferes with daily life. If this is the case, weekly sessions are essential in order to build on each week’s improvements in healing until the desired results have been achieved.

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc refers to a problem with one of the rubbery cushions (discs) between the individual bones (vertebrae) that make up your spine. Sometimes called a slipped disc or a ruptured disc, a herniated disc occurs when some of the soft center of the disc pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior.

You can have a herniated disc without knowing it – herniated discs sometimes show up on spinal images of people who have no symptoms of a disc problem. But some herniated discs can be painful. Most herniated discs occur in your lower back (lumber spine), although they can also occur in your neck (cervical spine).

Common signs and symptoms of a herniated disc are arm or leg pain, numbness or tingling and weakness. Seek attention for a herniated disc if neck or back pain travels down your arm or leg, or if numbness, tingling or weakness accompanies it.

A small percentage of people with herniated disks eventually need surgery. Your doctor may suggest surgery if conservative treatments fail to improve your symptoms, especially if you continue to experience numbness or weakness, difficulty standing or walking, or loss of bladder or bowel control.
In many cases, surgeons can perform a less invasive surgery and remove just the protruding portion of the disk. Rarely, the entire disk must be removed. In these cases, the vertebrae may need to be fused together with metal hardware to provide spinal stability. Your surgeon may suggest the implantation of an artificial disk, though it is uncommon.

Chiropractors use manual therapies, such as spinal and manual manipulation and mobilization, which can be effective for the treatment of herniated discs. Spinal manipulation, or chiropractic adjustment, applies pressure to the disc and is meant to improve functionality, reduce nerve irritability, and restore range of motion in the back. Mobilization moves and stretches the muscles and joints in order to increase the range of motion.

This approach, as with all back pain treatments, is to prevent chronic back pain. Actively caring for your body through exercise and a healthier lifestyle can help prevent chronic pain.

Physical therapists can show you positions and exercises designed to minimize the pain of a herniated disk. A physical therapist may also recommend applying heat or ice to the area affected by the herniated disc, spinal compression therapy, ultrasound therapy, electrotherapy and/or short-term bracing for the neck or lower back.

Massage is not absolutely contraindicated for disc herniation; treatment methods should be used cautiously. The transverse processes protect the nerve roots from further compression during most massage techniques, but minor vertebral movements that occur from pressure applied to the region could aggravate symptoms.

Massage is helpful to decrease muscle tension in the area and may reduce compressive loading on the disc. However, this massage also should be performed carefully and only once the extent of the disorder has been clarified.

Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve occurs when too much pressure is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, such as bones, cartilage, muscles, or tendons. This pressure disrupts the nerve’s function, causing pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness.

It can occur at several sites in your body. In your wrist it can lead to pain and numbness in your hand and fingers (carpal tunnel syndrome). With rest and other conservative treatments, most people recover from a pinched nerve within a few days or weeks. Rarely is surgery needed to relieve pain from a pinched nerve.

Symptoms of a pinched nerve are numbness in the area supplied by the nerve, sharp, aching or burning pain, which may radiate outward, tingling, “pins and needles” sensations, muscle weakness in the affected area and frequent feeling that a foot or hand has “fallen asleep”. These symptoms may be worse when sleeping. Seek medical attention if symptoms last for several days and don’t respond to self-care measures, such as rest and pain relievers.

If the pinched nerve doesn’t improve after several weeks to a few months with conservative treatments, your doctor may recommend surgery to take pressure off the nerve. The type of surgery varies depending on the location of the pinched nerve.Surgery may entail removing bone spurs or a part of a herniated disc in the spine, for example, or severing the carpal ligament to allow more room for the nerve to pass through the wrist.

Pinched nerves are usually caused by either a bony impingement, meaning there might be a joint that is pressing on the nerve, or, in many cases a bulging disc, herniated disc, or tight muscles. Chiropractic treatment relieves pressure off the nerve and offers relief from pinched nerve pain. A pinched nerve doesn’t only have local pain. One in the neck can radiate down the arm, or another in the low back may radiate into the leg. Chiropractors can help relieve these pains by repositioning the bones, relaxing the muscles, and reducing the pressure on nerves.

A physical therapist can teach you exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles in the affected area to relieve pressure on the nerve. They may also recommend modifications to activities that aggravate the nerve.

Exercises may strengthen the back or core muscles and decrease or eliminate pressure on a nerve root. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen could be helpful. Injections of corticosteroids may also be beneficial for many types of pinched nerves. Resting the affected area is often very effective, especially in cases of injury caused by repetitive activities.

Massage is helpful to decrease muscle tension in the area and may reduce compressive loading on the disc. However, this massage also should be performed carefully and only once the extent of the disorder has been clarified.

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