Chapter 2.6 - Back Pain
In this chapter, Dr. Donache presents Complementary/Alternative Medical (C.A.M.) Therapies for the prevention and treatment of the different types of lower back pain, including muscle spasms, pinched discs, herniated nerves, and sciatica.
The chapter includes an overview of the disease's symptoms, conventional treatment methods, and alternative therapies, including Bio-Energetic therapies, Bodywork and Movement therapies, and Mental / Emotional treatments.
This chapter is taken from Dr. Donache's upcoming book, Finding Balance - Integrating Complementary/Alternative Medical (C.A.M.) Therapies for the Prevention of the Top 30 Diseases in America. Each section of chapter 2, which describes alternative treatments for each of the top diseases, is available for download on this website.
Table of Contents
Glossary of Terms Used in this Chapter
Additional Disease Descriptions and Treatments Available for Download
Table of Contents
- ABOUT THIS DOCUMENT
- BACK PAIN
- CONVENTIONAL APPROACHES
- Medication Treatment Options
- Spinal Manipulation
- Other Non-surgical Care
- C.A.M. THERAPIES
- BIO-ENERGETIC THERAPIES
BODYWORK AND MOVEMENT THERAPIES
- Nutrition and Supplements
- Enzymatic Therapies
- Rainforest and Western Herbs
- Rainforest Herbs
- Western Herbs
- Homeopathic Remedies
- Essential Oils
MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
- Therapeutic Bodywork and Massage
- Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Hatha Yoga Postures
- PRODUCT ORDERING INFORMATION
- GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Back to Top
Almost everyone feels an ache or a pain in the lower back at some point in life.
If pain is severe, it can make certain movements or activities difficult. In most cases, however, low back pain is not a symptom of a serious medical problem. Most low back pain improves with time -- usually within two to four weeks. Virtually everyone is at risk for low back pain, although the aches are most commonly felt by adults aged 35 to 50. Some activities that can put you at greater risk for lower back problems include: long periods of sitting or standing; heavy lifting and other physical labor; work that requires repetitive bending and twisting. The human back comprises a complex web of muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, joints and nerves. Our lower spine supports 70% of our body weight. When any one of these structures becomes worn, injured or inflamed, pain can occur. The spine is actually a stacked column of bones called vertebrae. The five vertebrae in the lower back make up the lumbar spine. Intervertebral discs, gel-filled cushions with rigid outer coats, separate the vertebrae and help absorb pressure on the spine. The spine surrounds and protects the spinal cord. Nerves that carry messages to the brain branch off between the vertebrae and extend throughout the body. If low back muscles, tendons, and ligaments are overworked or stretched too far, muscle spasm may occur. Some doctors believe this is the most common source of low back pain. Aging and pressure can cause a disc to tear or bulge. This is called a herniated disc. When a herniated disc presses on a nerve root, pain can occur. This is sometimes called a pinched nerve. Pressure on the roots of one of the sciatic nerves, which serve the legs, may cause pain, numbness or weakness in the leg. These symptoms are called sciatica. Injury or the aging process can cause changes in the vertebrae and joints that can lead to lower back pain. However, doctors stress that most back pain is not a sign of a serious medical problem.
Many people turn to their primary care practitioner such as a physician or osteopath when back pain occurs. Many find relief from health care providers such as massage therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, physiatrists and chiropractors.
- Massage Therapists work with muscles and tendons, using different techniques like muscle kneading and compression to lessen tension in the muscles. This increases circulation and helps the body flush out cellular debris, which speeds tissue repair and aids in healing back problems. Massage Therapists who are trained in Cranio-Sacral therapy may perform spinal manipulation that allows the spine to align itself based on improving cerebrospinal fluid flow in the spinal column from sacrum to cranium.
- Occupational Therapists may recommend other specialists and may supervise lifestyle changes in the home and work environment. O.T.'s often recommend devices designed to ease the burden of living with a recovery from back pain.
- Physical Therapists specialize in improving joint and spine mobility and muscle strength. They are not medical doctors and are strictly limited to physical therapy.
- Physiatrists, also known as doctors of physical rehabilitation medicine, are medical doctors who treat back pain by the use of various physical therapies, lifestyle changes, and back braces, which promote healing by reducing the load on the spine. Physiatrists are not licensed to perform surgery, and are less likely than other M.D.'s to hospitalize their patients. They have a good record for treating back problems, including low back pain and herniated disks.
- Chiropractors are licensed to perform spinal manipulation and may recommend nutritional and/or lifestyle changes. They primarily use high-velocity manipulations of the neck and back to correct problems. According to a 1994 report issued by the U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, spinal manipulation may be the most effective treatment for acute back pain. Chiropractors are not medical doctors, and therefore cannot prescribe drugs or perform surgery.
Numerous studies have shown that people with lower back pain who are treated at chiropractic and massage therapy clinics recover faster, and at less cost, and end up with less pain and more mobility than those treated in hospitals.
Kidney, bladder, and prostate problems, female pelvic disorders, and even constipation may produce back pain. Chronic conditions that can cause back pain include arthritis, rheumatism, bone disease, and abnormal curvature of the spine. Fractures are rarely the cause of back pain.
Any health care professional you see will explain and discuss diagnostic tests and treatment appropriate for you. X-rays are often considered a routine part of back pain diagnosis, yet only a few back conditions show up on x-rays. If the pain is caused by muscle strain or a herniated disk, an x-ray will do little to aid the diagnosis, since disks, muscles, and ligaments are all soft tissues. X-ray exposure bears special hazards for pregnant women. With the new imaging procedures such as computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), disks can be seen.
You can help yourself get better by taking it easy during the first few weeks after your initial symptoms. That probably does not mean lying in bed, but it may mean avoiding certain activities that can worsen your pain. In general, you should avoid any heavy lifting as well as prolonged periods of standing or sitting in one position. In the long term, it can help to learn how to minimize daily stresses on the back. Some therapists offer back schools that teach safe ways to perform routine activities such as getting into or out of a car, bending correctly and safely lifting objects. If you sit for long periods of time, stand up and readjust your position periodically to minimize stress on your back. Exercise can help you recover from low back pain -- walking and swimming are important activities for beginning, but full recovery requires strengthening exercises for the back and abdomen after the pain subsides. Your therapist can provide you with recommended exercises that are right for you.
Back to Top
Glossary of Terms
- Back Schools
- Formalized courses of instruction that focus on the anatomy and safe use of the back.
- Licensed health care providers trained in the maintenance and restoration of health primarily through specific hand-on manipulation of the musculoskeletal system and spine.
- Herniated Disc
- An abnormal protrusion or bulging of an intervertebral disc, which may cause complications, such as pinched nerves; also called "slipped" or prolapsed disc.
- Intervertebral Discs
- Shock-absorbing cushions that separate the vertebrae; contain a gel-like substance that can leak out and cause bulging.
- Cordlike Tissues that connect the bones within or around a joint; if overstretched, they may be a source of pain.
- Lumbar Spine
- The lower spinal region that normally curves inward; the five vertebrae above the pelvis.
- Muscle Spasm
- A painful, involuntary contraction of muscle tissue.
- Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
- A class of inflammation-relieving medicine that includes aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen; available over the counter and by prescription.
- Pinched Nerve
- Compression of a nerve or nerve root - often by a herniated disc- resulting in pain, numbness or weakness.
- Sciatic Nerve
- One of a pair of nerves that form at the base of the spine and continue down through the legs.
- Pain that radiates to the leg or buttocks, as a result of compression of the nerve roots in the spine that join to form sciatic nerves.
- Spinal Cord
- Nerve tissue that runs from the base of the brain through the center of the spine.
- Spinal Manipulation
- The use of external force to move vertebrae and increase the flexibility of the spinal joints.
- The column of vertebrae that provides structure for the trunk, anchors the muscles and protects the spinal cord.
- The 33 bones that make up the spinal column.
Back to Top