OH My Back !!!!

If you suffer from low back pain, you are not alone !

  • At some point in their lives, up to 80 percent of all Americans will experience low back problems. (Frymoyer, JW, N Engl J Med, 1988)
  • Next to the common cold, low back symptoms are the most common reason for visits to primary care physicians. (Cypress, Amer J Pub Health, 1983)
  • The direct annual health care costs for low back problems in the United States are estimated to be at least as high as $20 billion. Indirect costs, such as disability payments and lost work time, could significantly increase the overall cost. (Webster and Snook, J Occup Med, 1990)
  • The average back problem cost employers almost $19,000 - with some back cases costing from $125,000-$150,000.
  • Workers out with back injury for more than six months have only a 50% chance of returning to full productivity.

There are two main types of low back pain.

1) Mechanical Type Back Pain

Years of abusing your back (poor posture, improper lifting and the lack of body conditioning) makes the back prone to injury. The lower back is particularly vulnerable and the dysfunction of its major joints can lead to painful results. Other pain-sensitive structures can be stretched, torn and distorted.

This type of pain is caused from inflammation caused by irritation or injury to the disc, 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 lower spine and may also spread to include the buttock and thigh areas. It rarely extends below the knee.

Normal spinal disc
Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI)
of a healthy disc

degenerated spinal disc
MRI of a degenerated disc

Specific types of mechanical type back pain are listed below:

  • Facet syndrome (back sprain) is most often brought on by a sudden movement or injury, often following years of back neglect, and results in pain and stiffness and difficulty moving. You may find yourself bent off to one side.
  • Sacroiliac syndrome occurs from a sudden injury or movement and is felt as a sudden pain in the hip area. You have difficulty changing positions and the pain can be excruciating. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate from a facet syndrome or disc herniation. This is the most commonly misdiagnosed back problem, usually called a muscle pull.
  • Herniated discs are brought on by a sudden movement, often lifting, on top of general wear and tear and may cause severe pain in the back and legs. It takes quite a while to build up and may take quite a while to get better.
  • Muscle and Ligament Strain is most often caused by poor posture or an old untreated back injury. Symptoms are chronic backaches with occasional spasms.
  • Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) is most common among teenage girls. It is important that it be screened for after the age of 10. Your chiropractor can show you how. While few symptoms may occur, the long term effects can be quite significant.

2) Compressive Type Back Pain

This type of pain is caused when the nerve roots that leave the spine are irritated or pinched. A herniated disc is a very common cause of compressive pain. The nerves that leave the lower lumbar spine join to form the Sciatic Nerve which provides sensation and controls the muscles of the lower leg. Irritation of the nerve root typically produces pain down the back of the leg, side of the calf, and possibly into the side of the foot. A herniated lumbar disc characteristically produces sciatica but not may not cause back pain. The muscles that the nerve controls may become weak and the reflexes disappear.


herniated spinal disc