During my 35 years of chiropractic practice, I have found that pain and the treatment of pain is a significant health problem in America. It is estimated that 50% of Americans suffer from chronic pain. The majority of chronic pain emanates from spinal problems of the neck and back. This article will discuss chronic spinal pain, its causes, the most efficacious treatment and recovery time prognosis.
I recently had a patient, in his mid-50s, come to me who had been suffering with lower back pain for several years. The condition was gradually getting worse. In the month or two preceding his visit to me the discomfort had become bad enough that he was having trouble walking for more than 10 to 15 minutes. He had been taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and using moist heat on his back, but these measures didn’t seem to be helping. He said that he had had a number of back pain episodes through his life. When he was younger medication and rest readily produced pain relief. However now that he was older, he wondered “why is my back pain recovery taking so long?”
When I performed an examination and took x-rays of his lower back, I was able to explain and show to him why he was having the intensity and duration of his present discomfort. His examination revealed several pieces of information. He could not bend forward, backward or side to side much at all. Additionally, I could feel swelling in the area of complaint of his back. This area also felt warm to the touch. This indicated he was having inflammation of the area.
We all know that if we stove our finger or sprain our ankle motion becomes restricted and it becomes swollen and inflamed. This also happens with the neck and back. Inflammatory chemicals and fluids invade the injured area, and it feels puffy and warm when we touch it with our fingers and movement is limited.
His x-rays revealed a degree of bone on bone narrowing of the spinal disc spaces with small bone spurs present. This is considered to be wear and tear arthritis. Medically, it is termed degenerative joint disease or spinal spondylosis. This arthritis or degeneration is simply the result of accumulated lifetime injuries to an area.
This underlying degenerative change will certainly affect how quickly or slowly an area will heal. When my patient was younger and did not have any spinal wear and tear, his back would heal quickly. Now that he had accumulated a number of injuries and had spondylosis it is apparent why his back was taking longer to heal.
Fortunately, as he received chiropractic care his discomfort began to lessen. He also found that he was able to walk longer periods without experiencing back discomfort. His treatment consisted of utilizing gentle, chiropractic spinal adjustments to correct the misalignment of the spinal bones of his back. It took some treatments of safe, chiropractic adjustments to correct the problem as much as possible. His remaining symptoms were negligible, and he was able to return to walking significantly longer. I told him to remember that he did not have the back of a 25-year-old anymore and that he needed to exercise some caution with his activities. He was also given some daily stretching and strengthening exercises to perform in order to maintain his improvement.
As he left on his last day of treatment he said: “Doc, if my back starts giving me the least little problem I promise not to wait so long. I’ll get into your office right away.”