Low Back Pain

Did You Know?

  • 8 out of 10 Canadians suffer from low back pain at some time in their lives.
  • Back pain is the second leading cause of time loss at work in Canada (second only to the common cold).
  • Back pain is one of the costliest forms of time loss from work.
  • Untreated back pain recurs in 80% of people.
  • Chiropractic care can speed up recovery and reduce the rate of recurrence of low back pain

What are the Causes?

Back pain has a variety of causes, from simple muscle strains to damaged discs. The following are three common causes:

  1. Sacroiliac Syndrome
    Your Sacroiliac or SI joints sit on either side of your tailbone at the base of your spine. They are large joints which are important in everyday life because they move when you walk and they dampen the shock that each step places on your body. Think of them as shock absorbers.  But they can become locked which causes a generalized dull ache in the low back which may also be felt in the buttocks or even down the back of the thigh. Protective muscle spasm may also occur which limits normal activity; however, there are no muscles that actually cross the SI joints. That is one of the reasons this type of low back pain does not respond to stretching and exercise alone and often requires chiropractic adjustments to relieve the pain.
  2. Facet Joint Syndrome
    This is a very common cause of lower back disorders. Facet joints occur in pairs at the back of each vertebra and they prevent excessive motion of the spine. When these joints are exposed to excessive trauma – from sports, work, normal aging, etc. – they can become inflamed and motion may be restricted at a particular level of your spine. This may cause low back pain or even pain which is felt in the back of the thigh. Once again, protective muscle spasm may further complicate the situation.
  3. Ruptured Discs
    The term “slipped disc” is actually a misnomer which does not really occur. Each vertebra is separated from its neighbour by a cushioned disc. Each disc is tightly attached to its neighbouring two vertebrae and can therefore, never “slip” out of place. What can happen, though, is that a disc which has weakened due to repetitive injury or small traumas may rupture. This allows some of the soft center material to leak out through the tough outer casing into the vertebral canal. This “leak” can press on the nerves which go to your legs, causing sharp pain down to your toes. This leg pain is often worse than the back pain itself. This is a less common form of back pain than SI or Facet Joint Syndrome, but it is somewhat more serious. If you are concerned about the possibility of a ruptured disc, look for these symptoms:
  • deep dull ache in the lower back and/or buttocks
  • leg pain with numbness, tingling or weakness
  • body tilts to one side to relieve the pain
  • movement is restricted and slow
  • leg pain with coughing, sneezing or straining

A Word About Sciatica

Many people are confused about the term “Sciatica”.  Sciatica simply means pain down the leg along the path of the sciatic nerve.  This is not a diagnosis, it is only a description of a symptom associated with certain types of back pain.  In other words, the term sciatica doesn’t tell you where the pain is coming from, only that it includes some leg pain.  You can’t properly treat the symptom of sciatica if you don’t know exactly where it’s coming from.  If could be related to a disc herniation, facet problems, SI joint problems, piriformis syndrome, etc.  If you’ve been told you have sciatica, that’s only part of the story.  You need to find the cause of the sciatica.  The focus of a chiropractic examination is to find the root cause of your problem, not just identify the symptoms.  From there, we can formulate a treatment plan to correct your problem.  Remember – treat the cause, not the symptoms.