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Low Back Pain: What Can You Do?

Woman holding lower backTightness in your low back? Waking up stiff and sore in the morning? Difficult to make it through the workday due to discomfort in the lumbar spine? You are not alone. Low back pain is an almost universal issue; 80% of the population will deal with low back pain at some point. Low back pain is time consuming and costly; it is the number one cause for missed work.

Discomfort in the low back can keep you from enjoying the activities that you love – sports, hiking, spending time with family. Low back pain can be caused by injuries such as motor vehicle accidents, slips, and falls. What research finds much more common is that lower back pain usually comes from a cumulative effect of bad habits. Poor posture, poor sleep position, and poor positions in the workplace. Sitting in front of a computer, checking phones for emails and text messages, sitting in the car going to and from work. These bad habits add up over time, until either something breaks down, or you experience pain bad enough that you feel motivated to seek a doctor.

There are many options available for low back pain. In this blog we will be discussing the options of a general physician, surgeon and chiropractor and the research that supports those options.

1. General Physician (M.D.)

General physicians often utilize prescription medications to help reduce pain and inflammation. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are often recommended to help with the symptom of pain and discomfort. Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are most often used. These are over the counter drugs that act to block the inflammation process in the body which helps alleviate pain. These drugs do have side effects that may appear over time. Research suggests that NSAIDs may lose some of their effectiveness for people who take them every day for weeks or months.

If NSAIDs do not help the pain, your general physician may recommend muscle relaxers or pain killers. Muscle relaxers are central nervous system depressants that have a sedative effect on the musculoskeletal system. Muscle relaxers carry a big risk of side effects, like drowsiness and dizziness. Opioids are sometimes prescribed for low back pain. Recent research shows that they usually only provide short-term relief. They carry a lot of risks, like hormonal changes, dependency, nausea, constipation. Over time they can lead to depression and sexual dysfunction.

2. Orthopedic Surgeon or Neurosurgeon (M.D. or D.O)

Both orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons do most types of spinal surgery. There are a number of risks associated with spinal surgery including: reaction to anesthesia, bleeding, infection, blood clots, heart attack, stroke, herniated disc, and nerve damage leading to weakness, paralysis, pain, sexual dysfunction, or loss of bowl or bladder control. Spinal surgery has a success rate of about 50%. Repeat spinal surgeries is a treatment option with diminishing returns, no more than 30%, 15%, and 5% of patients experience a successful outcome after the second, third, and fourth.

3. Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.)

Doctors of Chiropractic, or chiropractors, are trained in the detection and correction of disorders of the bones, nerves, muscles, and ligaments. Chiropractors are holistic in their approach to care. They do not prescribe prescription drugs or perform surgery. They use a conservative, non-invasive approach to help the human body heal. Using their hands or instruments, chiropractors adjust the spinal bones to improve the function of the spine and nervous system which ultimately leads to a reduction in pain and discomfort.

So…which should you choose?

Each option has its merits. Seeking care for low back pain is a necessity to make sure you are healthy and healing appropriately. Research shows that 94% of patients who had sought out chiropractic care had seen a 30% reduction in lower back pain when measured in the fourth week of care. On the other hand, 56% of patients who had sought medical care were able to attain 30% reduction in pain. Chiropractic care is proven by research and science to be a better alternative to drugs and surgeries offered by medical doctors.

Chiropractic care is safe and allows for a more natural approach. In the end the decision is up to you as to which doctor is best for you, the most important thing is that you do not let low back pain cause missed work or interrupt the joys of life.

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