Acute low back pain. What do you do?
I wanted to start addressing a few specific conditions on the blog. Low back pain seemed like a pretty logical one to throw in there. It is the condition most associated with chiropractic care, and the condition with the most research supporting the use of chiropractic care as a treatment. There is an excellent database called DynaMed available to medical providers. Some of the information provided will be based on the research cited in DynaMed, some will be from my own experience and the experiences of my colleagues.
There are many potential pain generators in the low back. The vertebra, facet joints, intervertebral discs, spinal nerves, sacroiliac joints, and all of the surrounding musculature, ligaments, and connective tissues. Any combination of these tissues can be injured and become a potential source of low back pain. Part of what a good doctor will do is determine which of these structures are causing your pain. This will help dictate treatment. Figuring out what exactly is injured is your doctors job. There are several causes of low back pain that are potentially very serious. Not to scare you, just to make you aware. That is part of the reason I think it is a good idea to be checked by a professional even for what might seem like simple low back pain. Another reason is to fix a small problem before it becomes a big problem. Here’s a simple analogy: Which makes more sense, to change your oil every 3,00 miles or replace the engine once a year? Maintenance makes sense. I want to outline a few things you can do on your own to help with the pain until you have a chance to see your favorite chiropractor.
One: Stay active. Light activity such as walking will help keep your muscles from completely locking up and will help you recover more quickly. “Bed rest” is old school advice and no longer recommended in most cases. That being said you should be careful. Avoid forward bending, especially in the morning. Do not lift heavy things. There are also techniques for proper low back positioning that your doctor can show you.
Two: Heat or Ice? DynaMed suggests heat. I suggest ice. In the acute phase ice is going to help limit inflammation, but it also helps with reducing pain. After the first 2-3 days start using contrast. 10-15 minutes of ice followed by 10-15 minutes of heat. Repeat 2-3 times.
Three: Meds? Taking NSIADs, such as Ibuprofen, is okay in the short-term. Long term it can cause internal bleeding and lead to organ failure, especially if combined with alcohol.
Four: Go see your chiropractor! The research is there. Chiropractic care works for low back pain and has higher patient satisfaction ratings than other forms of care. Find a chiropractor you like and trust and go see them. Your back will be glad you did!
This is a big topic and I did not even come close to covering everything, but its a start for those of you dealing with acute low back pain.