Up to 80% of all people will suffer from low back pain at some point in their life. It’s the #1 cause of disability in the United States. Low back pain is so common because the low back, the lumbar spine, takes the greatest punishment and undergoes the most amount of stress over the course of your lifetime.
It’s important to treat low back pain quickly because it can lead to degeneration, arthritis, and disc problems down the road, potentially resulting in unnecessary surgery. We see a lot of people in our office that were in an accident or had an injury in high school that went untreated for 10 or 20 years. Over time, the effects of their injury escalated making it much more difficult to fix. They let an acute problem become a chronic one.
Acute pain means something traumatic happened and you can pinpoint the cause of the pain, usually within the first 72 hours of an injury. Chronic low back pain means you’ve been dealing with this problem for more than three months, at this point you may not even know what caused the pain in the first place. Many people believe that if they have arthritis they cannot get help with chiropractic care, BUT that is the furthest thing from the truth. Chiropractic care is a deterrent and can prevent further wear and tear with proper alignment and exercise, all the while reducing or eliminating pain.
Low back pain could be the result of problems with your muscles, ligaments, joints, or discs. While these issues individually can lead to low back pain, it’s important to find the root cause of the problem. In our office, we make sure that we address all four of these potential problem areas by doing a specific and comprehensive exam to decide what’s causing the problem.
Low Back Pain
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How Our Low Back Pain Care Plan Works
We Will Tell You If We Can Help
A chiropractor will also let you know if we can’t help and advise or refer you to a health care provider that can. We do a thorough complimentary consultation and, if we can help, a comprehensive examination that may include x-rays or other diagnostics.
A Customized Treatment Plan
We use the data collected from our consultation and examination and provide you with a written Report of Findings that your chiropractor explains. We will design a customized care plan that reflects your unique body and situation.
Get Back to Your Life
We initially expect your pain to subside quickly and your overall function and health to undergo correction. A chiropractor works to correct the underlying cause of the problem to fix that “leaky” roof, rather than just place buckets to collect the water.
How We Treat Low Back Pain in New Bedford and Fairhaven, MA
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
Our doctors always start with a comprehensive history and consultation where they will really listen to you to find out what’s causing your lower back pain. The doctor will then do a chiropractic, functional, orthopedic, and neurological exam. If necessary, digital X-rays will be taken to assess the lumbar curve (lower back) and joints for degenerative changes that may indicate past trauma. These images are the “roadmap” of where to work and how to get to the root cause of low back pain.
Specific Chiropractic Care in Fairhaven, MA
A subluxation is a word chiropractors use to describe the loss of movement, swelling or inflammation, nerve root irritation, disc issues, and degenerative changes – like arthritis – at a specific joint level. This joint dysfunction and spinal nerve root irritation can be the cause of your low back pain. It’s important to rid your body of these subluxations because not only can they cause physical pain but, if left untreated, over time they will cause inflammation, edema, and joint immobility that can lead to chronic arthritis and disc issues.
The spinal nerve roots emerge from the spinal cord and travel between the bones in your neck and back to branch millions of times and innervate every gland, muscle, and organ in your body. The nervous system runs your entire body and the spinal vertebrae protect it. If a vertebra is subluxated you cannot be at your best! Your vitality and energy will drop, and you cannot perform optimally.
Your spinal nerve roots not only sense pain, numbness, and tingling sensations when irritated but they can also cause muscle spasms and weakness and even organ and glandular dysfunction.
Imagine a garden hose leading to the vegetable garden in your backyard. What happens when a large rock is sitting on that garden hose? What do you think would happen to your garden in a week, a month, a year if it didn’t get an adequate amount of water? Those beautiful vegetables you were counting on, will not flourish. The job of a gardener is to take the rock off the hose, much like the job of a chiropractor is to take the pressure off a nerve by removing the subluxation with an adjustment.
If your low back pain is caused by a subluxation, it won’t get better until it is addressed. Correcting the subluxation with a chiropractic adjustment improves joint mobility, decreases inflammation and nerve irritation, and returns you back to a healthy functional state. If allowed to stay there too long, the subluxation can create long-term or chronic pain issues and even eventual disc problems.
Many times when the low back is injured there will be muscle and ligament damage and subluxations will persist. In addition to your chiropractic adjustments, there are other therapies we use to not only speed up your healing response but to improve tissue repair.
This therapy uses cold temperatures to reduce acute inflammation and even chronic edema.
E-stim sends mild electrical pulses through the skin to help stimulate injured muscles and manipulate nerves to reduce pain and relax muscles. E-stim may not be appropriate for everyone but for many people, this painless procedure accelerates recovery and provides relief from painful or uncomfortable symptoms.
In addition to heating and relaxing the muscles, ultrasound therapy breaks down scar tissue and increases local blood flow. All of this works together to increase healing rates in the area, making it a suitable way to speed up slow-healing or chronic issues. In an acute injury, it is used to reduce pain, increase circulation, and increase the mobility of soft tissues.
Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization
IASTM is a form of soft tissue manual therapy that allows clinicians to effectively address scar tissue and fascial restrictions and maintain optimal range of motion in their patients through the use of instruments called blades and percussion massagers like the Hypervolt and Theragun.
The intersegmental traction table mobilizes the spinal column while simultaneously stretching the ligaments and muscles. The roller table gently and effectively reestablishes the normal range of motion in the spine. It helps reduce muscle spasms that can be caused by weakened postural muscles or spinal injuries. This helps to increase blood flow and oxygen to the discs, ligaments, and muscles, thereby improving balance, strength, and mobility.
Using red light heat therapy, an infrared sauna induces relaxation, promotes detoxification, relieves sore muscles and joint pain such as arthritis, and improves circulation.
Massage benefits many people with soft tissue injuries. Some benefits we see are reduced muscle tension, improved circulation, stimulation of the lymphatic system, reduction of stress hormones, relaxation, increased joint mobility and flexibility, improved skin tone, and improved recovery of soft tissue injuries.
Micronutrition and Supplements
Antioxidants help maintain and restore healthy tissues by reducing oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress is associated with chronic inflammation and inflammation is a common contributor to back pain. The best anti-oxidant with multiple PubMed published articles associated with its health benefits is Protandim, ask our receptionist about it.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids naturally reduce the body’s inflammatory response. Inflammation can be necessary during healing, but too much inflammation or chronic inflammation can be destructive. Supplementing with Omega-3 is thought to help decrease chronic inflammation. Since inflammation is a common contributor to back pain, it follows that decreased inflammation will likely decrease back pain.
Aside from strengthening your bones, magnesium maintains your muscles and nerve functions. Sufficient intake of magnesium may help muscle spasms and significantly reduce back pain. Taking vitamins and minerals can help with your lower back pain, but they also provide many benefits for your overall health.
Studies suggest that CBD can help with pain and inflammation. When it comes to back pain specifically, one review from 2018 suggests that CBD may be beneficial for people with fibromyalgia and nerve-related pain. If either condition is the cause of your back spasms, CBD may help provide pain relief.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
Many low back pain issues are caused by muscle weakness or imbalance, particularly in the core muscles. At Barley Wellness, we have a functional fitness facility where our doctors will customize a plan for you based on your functional assessment. During your exam, we will assess how you move and we’ll create exercise plans that address those specific functional deficiencies. Not only will we help you in our office we’ll also give you a plan to do at home so that your function is restored as quickly as possible.
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Causes of Low Back Pain in New Bedford and Fairhaven, MA
A subluxation is the loss of movement, swelling or inflammation, nerve root irritation, disc issues, and degenerative changes – like arthritis – at a specific joint level. This joint dysfunction and spinal nerve root irritation can be the cause of your low back pain. It’s important to rid your body of these subluxations because not only can they cause physical pain but, if left untreated, over time they will cause inflammation, edema, and joint immobility that can lead to chronic arthritis and disc issues.
Specific chiropractic adjustments are the only solution to a subluxation. You can do all the massage, stretches, and exercises that you want, but if a vertebra is stuck out of alignment or is not moving properly, until you get that motion back or correct the alignment, you’ll continue to have issues. This is why having your spine assessed by a chiropractor is so important. Today most professional athletes see a chiropractor for optimal performance and most professional sports teams have one on staff.
Bulged Lumbar Discs and Herniated Lumbar Discs
The spinal disc is the shock absorber, or the cushion, in between the bones of the spine, the vertebrae. Discs are like jelly doughnuts. The strong crisscrossing fibers on the outside are like the doughnut and the nucleus, which is a gelatinous material, is like the jelly of the doughnut.
Over time, the discs can wear down and dehydrate. When that happens, those strong, crisscrossing fibers begin to tear. This can be exacerbated by an injury, picking something up incorrectly, or getting into an accident. If those fibers tear enough, the gelatinous nucleus takes the path of least resistance and moves toward the outside of the disc, creating a bulge. Unfortunately, that path of least resistance is directly back towards where the spinal nerve roots and spinal cord are located. That bulge puts pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine and creates pain in your low back that can also radiate down your leg.
Herniated discs, more severe than bulged discs, occur when the outside fibers tear and the nucleus “leaks” out towards the outside of the disc. If the fibers tear enough, the nucleus can break through the exterior of the disc and sit on a nerve. Herniated discs tend to create more leg pain than bulging discs and more intense pain. When the disc ruptures it takes the pressure off the low back area but it also creates a lot of pain down into the leg because the nucleus is out of the disc and sitting on top of the nerve.
A natural way for the herniated disc to resolve itself is a process called phagocytosis – a breaking down and removal of that disc fragment. When this happens, your body sees the nucleus as a foreign object, inflames the area, and then tries to “eat” up that nucleus and reabsorb it. If that doesn’t work, it can create pain that is usually enough to cause people to start to investigate surgery. We treat herniated discs naturally, but if your care is beyond our scope of practice, have no fear, we will refer you to another specialist as surgery may be the only option.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is an age-related condition where the discs begin to break down. Obesity, smoking, past trauma, and work that is hard on the spine can also contribute to degenerative disc disease. Similar to a bulging or herniated disc, as discs become dehydrated and break down they start to lose their natural height. That’s why as we age you may notice that you are an inch shorter than you were 20 years earlier! A fully hydrated disc has enough height to create proper openings for the nerves to emerge from the spine and travel throughout the body. When the disc starts to shrink, the foramen – those openings that the nerves come out of – start to get smaller and thereby irritate the nerves. This is what creates that low back pain and potentially radiating pain.
Unfortunately, with degenerative disc disease, spondylosis, and arthritis, whatever damage has been done cannot be reversed, it can only be treated to reduce pain and improve function. The physiology and cellular makeup of that disc tissue, however, will never be the same. This is why it’s so important to get treatment as soon as possible whenever you’re dealing with low back pain.
Sciatica vs Piriformis Syndrome vs Double Crush Syndrome
Both sciatica and piriformis syndrome can create leg pain, typically beginning in the buttocks and running all the way down the back of the leg to the big toe or stopping anywhere along the way.
While both conditions interfere with sciatic nerve function, sciatica results from spinal dysfunction such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. Piriformis syndrome, on the other hand, occurs when the piriformis muscle, located deep in the buttock, compresses the sciatic nerve.
The problem with sciatica is that it could be from both a spinal dysfunction, like a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, and as a complicating factor, like piriformis syndrome. When they happen at the same time it’s known as Double Crush Syndrome. If there is true sciatica caused by a disc or joint in the low back, this initiates inflammation and a tightening/spasm of all muscles in the lower back and down the backside of the leg. As the disc inflames and pinches on the nerves innervating that leg, the piriformis muscle tightens and in turn “crushes” the sciatic nerve. Chiropractors are trained to diagnose sciatica, piriformis syndrome, and double crush syndrome.
Spinal Stenosis can create a lot of significant symptoms because of the pressure it puts on the spinal cord and the adjacent nerves. People will usually find that standing or walking can aggravate their pain and that resting, sitting down, or even bending forward can help relieve some of that pressure. Not only can spinal stenosis cause pain it can also cause weakness, numbness, and Cauda Equina Syndrome, a more medically urgent bladder dysfunction.
Muscle strains are the most common causes of low back pain. They tend to be dull and achy, and the pain is intensified with movement or putting yourself into certain positions. Normally the pain stays localized in the lower back versus radiating into your legs or other areas. Muscle strains can be caused by a sudden activity, or over time with repetitive motion, poor posture, and weak core muscles.
Muscle strains usually resolve in four to six weeks, but we want to address them early if possible because, a lot of times, they are a symptom of a deeper problem. This is why, at Barley Wellness, we always try to attack the root cause of the problem versus just addressing the symptoms.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction (SI Joint Pain)
The sacroiliac joint is where the sacrum – the triangular bone at the base of your spine – meets the pelvis. Many times, patients ask when they feel their own SI joint, “is this a tumor or swelling”, because the two SI joints can be felt on either side of the sacrum and may contain edema-like fluid. This joint isn’t built to move a lot and problems can be created by hypermobility (moving too much) or hypomobility (moving too little).
15-30% of all low back pain cases are caused by SI joint dysfunction. The SI joint works to absorb the shock between the upper body and the pelvis and legs. Causes of SI joint dysfunction are leg length discrepancies, pregnancy, giving birth, or repeated stress on the joints by lifting and twisting.
Twisting is the worst move you could make in the low back, the only thing worse would be twisting in a seated position. An SI joint should move in a specific manner and walking is perhaps one of the best exercises to get those joints moving after an adjustment. You will hear the doctors at Barley Wellness often tell their patients to take a brief walk in the parking lot after a low back adjustment.
At Barley Wellness in Fairhaven, MA, we are dedicated to providing exceptional care for pregnant patients. Our experienced chiropractors understand the unique challenges and discomforts that can arise during pregnancy and offer safe and effective treatment options. Through chiropractic adjustments, the Webster Technique, prenatal massage therapy, custom exercise plans, and comprehensive care, we strive to support pregnant patients in achieving a more comfortable and enjoyable pregnancy journey. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and experience the benefits of chiropractic care during your pregnancy.
Facet Joint Dysfunction
Facet joints are the joints at the back of the spine where the vertebrae meet. These joints have cartilage inside of them that over time can start to break down and become inflamed. People that have facet joint dysfunction normally feel pain when those joints take on a significant load like in extension, meaning they are leaning back, or if they’re standing for long periods of time.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I be worried about lower back pain?
You should be worried about low back pain right away. Low back pain is your body’s alarm system telling you that something is wrong. Pain is usually the last thing to show up and the first thing to leave, so we want to address it as soon as it starts so it doesn’t turn into more of a chronic issue.
What can I do to relieve my lower back pain in the Greater New Bedford, MA area?
There are many ways to relieve your low back pain, many we’ve discussed above, but the BEST THING that you can do is to reach out to our office or another professional to get an exam and find out what exactly is causing you lower back pain. The cause of low back pain will determine what’s going to help relieve it.
How do I know if my back pain is serious?
All back pain is serious. We don’t want any loss of function in your spine because we know it will affect your nerves. These nerves innervate all areas of the body. So, if the spine is off – your body will be too. If this happens your body cannot function at 100%.
If by ‘serious’ you mean a medical emergency, tingling, numbness, weakness, inability to control your bladder or your bowels are all signs of nerve issues that are a step above just general low back pain. That would be something where you need to consult with a professional.
What causes lower back pain?
There are many causes of low back pain. It could be caused by a “macro-trauma” such as an auto/workers comp accident or a sporting injury; or it could be due to a “micro-trauma”, such as a repetitive movement over time or even an undiagnosed and uncompensated leg length discrepancy. It could be acute like a recent injury or an accident. Or it could be something chronic or long-term, like improper body mechanics, poor posture, or weak core muscles. It’s important to address not just what’s been going on in the last couple of days, but also what’s been going on over the last few weeks, months, and years.
How should I sleep with lower back pain?
The best way to sleep is on your back with your spine in a neutral position, meaning that it’s not too arched nor too tucked. Having a pillow that allows you to keep your neck in a neutral position, as well as using a pillow underneath your knees, will take pressure off your low back and is the best way to sleep with low back pain.
Sleeping on your side is next best, you just want to make sure that your pillows aren’t tilting your head to one side in an awkward position. It’s all about maintaining a neutral position. What also helps when you are on your side is having a pillow in between your knees to keep your hips from getting out of alignment.
Sleeping on your stomach is the least ideal situation when it comes to sleeping and is bad for your neck.
We spend 1/3 of our lives in bed, so a good mattress is of vital importance. Today, mattresses can no longer be flipped, and their life span is only 8-10 years. If you are noticing low back pain more in the morning it could mean you need a new mattress. Let the doctors at Barley Wellness help you determine if a bad mattress is the cause of your lower back pain and, if so, help pick the right mattress with you.
Why won’t my lower back pain go away?
The body is capable of self-healing in a lot of situations. If you have chronic low back pain, however, it can point to a bigger problem. It could be something that’s been there for years and has just never met the threshold of creating pain. It could also be a new injury or it could be something more serious. The only way to really know what’s going on is to seek out professional care. We are here to help. No one, not even a chiropractor, knows they have a subluxation unless they are checked by a chiropractor! That’s why spinal check-ups are so important.
How can you tell if your spine is out of alignment?
The best way to determine if your spine is out of alignment is to seek help from a chiropractor because that’s what they are trained to address. If you are having some type of spinal issue – muscle tightness, spasms, or nerve pain – subluxation or spinal misalignment is usually to blame. The best thing to do is visit a chiropractor and have them conduct a comprehensive exam.