Why Structural Care for Low Back Pain?
People are continuing to experience low back pain at an incredibly high rate. Current statistics show that 8 out of 10 Americans will experience low back pain at some point. (1) If that weren’t bad enough, low back pain doesn’t seem to really have a preference regarding who it affects. The CDC reports that of people who have experienced low back pain in the past three months there is less than a 4% difference between males and females. A common misconception is that low back pain is a problem that develops as we get older, but 1 in 5 people aged 18-24 reported having low back pain. (2) So it isn’t surprising that people are looking for an answer.
So what are the options? Over-the-counter drugs? Prescription drugs? Surgery? Physical therapy? Chiropractic? Something else? Each approach has pros and cons. Let’s dive a bit deeper into each and see what might be the right choice for you.
Medication – Short term prescription pain medication demonstrated modest relief of pain, and limited improvement in disability. Long term use of opioids can actually be associated with an increase in disability. Also, most prescription medications did fare any better in relieving low back pain than simple over-the-counter ones. (3) What we can take from this is that while the medications might help for a little while, they don’t seem to provide a good long term solution. With growing concerns regarding addiction and side effects caution has to be used when treating low back pain with narcotics.
Physical Therapy and Traditional Chiropractic – A little over half (54%) of people who saw a chiropractor for their low back pain reported getting effective results. Physical therapists did similarly although slightly worse with 48% reporting their care as fairly or very effective. (1) Unfortunately that still leaves a lot of people still suffering. The initial thought might be that those patients just had more severe cases that needed surgery. Let’s take a look.
Surgery – University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine clinical professor of orthopedic surgery, Charles Rosen, M.D., was quoted saying “An enormous number of back surgeries don’t give patients long-term relief.” He even went as far as to say, “”Maybe 5 percent of patients with back pain need surgery.” Another study drew the conclusion that, “This Lumbar fusion for the diagnoses of disc degeneration, disc herniation, and/or radiculopathy in a WC setting is associated with significant increase in disability, opiate use, prolonged work loss, and poor [Return To Work] status.” This conclusion came after the study showed that only 26% of people returned to work 2 years following a spinal fusion whereas 67% were able to return to work if they did not have surgery. (4)
So what’s left? Well at Align Chiropractic we feel a different approach, the structural approach, is our best chance for a positive outcome. We address the underlying structural issues that cause the cascade of events that lead to low back pain, disc herniations and/or degeneration, or symptoms down the leg. We take an in-depth analysis of the patient before us, and then address the structural shifts to create our best outcomes. Research shows that structural rehabilitation of the spine has more evidence supporting it than traditional chiropractic. (5) By incorporating treatments designed to not only improve the objective measurements of the spinal column, but also to facilitate healing and restructuring of the associated soft tissues (discs, muscles etc) we see success in much higher numbers than the reported 54%. We have invested heavily into the techniques and equipment that have been shown to have the best outcomes. We offer spinal decompression therapy, which is backed by studies showing resolution of symptoms in 86% of patients who completed decompression therapy, while improvement was shown in 92% of patients. (6). We don’t stop there. We also incorporate Class IV Laser Treatments which have been shown to improve blood flow, improve tissue healing, reduce inflammation, and ultimately reduce pain. (7)(8 )
Our goal is to restore normal structure. With normal structure your body is set up for success allowing for normal, pain-free, function.
6. Gionis, Thomas MD; Groteke, Eric DC. Surgical Alternatives: Spinal Decompression. Orthopedic Technology Review. 2003; 6