Do you have a back injury?
Do you have poor posture? Are you sedentary? Or, do you over exercise? In your work, do you habitually sit in one position? Is your lifestyle high-stress? Answering yes to any of these questions makes you a prime candidate for low back problems.
Pinched nerves can result from all of these situations, causing symptoms, and if left untreated, serious disability.
About the Neck
The neck is comprised of seven individual small bones collectively known as the cervical spine. The neck provides full support to the head, which contains twenty-one bones of its own and has an average weight of 8-12 pounds. The bones of the neck are arranged in a precise pattern and structure to support the head. A delicate curvature must be maintained at all times to allow a clear channel for the passage of the vital spinal cord which travels through the center of the neck bones, and the equally important nerves which exit the cord in between these bones. The curve of the neck also plays a part in determining the overall shape and structure of the rest of the spine, affecting the entire skeleton and its ability to maintain balance.
Structure of the Lower Back
The lower back, or lumbar spine, bears most of the body’s weight-making it especially vulnerable to symptoms and problems. The lumbar spine includes: five vertebrae: the sacrum, or blade-shaped lower end of the spine which helps support the bladder, uterus and intestines, and allows the legs to attach to the hipbones: and coccyx, or tailbone. Between the vertebrae are circular discs of jelly like material encased in tough cartilage. Discs facilitate movement of the spine, serving as shock absorbers and reducing friction.
The underlying cause of back injuries is an imbalance of the bony framework of the body, especially the spinal column.
The structure and balance of the spine may be disturbed by the common incidents of everyday life such as a fall or misstep, getting into or out of the car the wrong way, lifting the wrong way, and by an auto accident or other type of accident.
Weak, flabby, under-exercised muscles contribute significantly to low back problems. So do over-exerted or over-used muscles. Muscles subjected to the same stresses and strains day after day inevitably lead to back trouble. Fatigue makes the back more susceptible to injury, and emotional tension takes its toll by keeping muscles tense, shortened and tightened.
In some cases, low back symptoms may result from disease or infection, though less likely than the other causes.
What Symptoms May Indicate
Low back symptoms may indicate a problem within the structural elements of the back itself, or it may indicate a problem elsewhere in the body, since the spine is the body’s main line of service and communication. Problems related to the structure of the lower back include:
- Misaligned Vertebrae: If vertebrae are misaligned or slipped into abnormal position, the result may be disc and/or nerve problems.
- Pinched Nerves: Some 300,000 nerve fibers pass through each small opening of the spine en route from the brain to the rest of the body. When a dislocation of a vertebra occurs, the small openings of the spine are partially closed, interfering with the normal nerve impulse pattern. The result is pinched nerves, causing symptoms and, if not relieved, even causing serious disability. Pinched nerves are deceiving, since they may masquerade as a number of illnesses: in this case, an organ supplied by the nerve is being affected and signaling its distress.
- Slipped Discs: Any of the spinal discs may be injured or degenerate. But because of their location, discs in the lower spine are subjected to the greatest weight-bearing stress and are most likely to slip or be compressed. The disc’s outer covering weakens and bulges, putting pressure on spinal nerves.
- Ruptured Discs: Occasionally a disc ruptures. In a rupture, the tough outer portion of the disc is torn or split and the soft inner portion then protrudes, often pressing against spinal nerves.
- Sciatica: Sciatica is an inflammation of the sciatic nerve which supplies the tissues of the thigh, lower leg and foot. Slipped discs and pinched nerves may cause sciatica. The roots of the sciatic nerve are in the lower spinal column. Most often, sciatica begins with a long period of intermittent low back symptoms, only erupting into violent symptoms following a sudden jarring or simply a wrong move.
- Disease and infection: Low back symptoms sometimes, though not often, indicates disease elsewhere in the body. Since the nerve system carries impulses from the brain along the route of the spinal column and out to the other parts of the body, it also transmits impulses from the various parts back to the brain. Infections, such as those of the genital or urinary tract, may produce low back symptoms. But diseases of the spine, such as arthritis and tuberculosis account for less than 5 percent of back symptoms.
What Chiropractic Care can Offer
One thing is clear; there is no room for self-diagnosis of low back problems. Mild low back symptoms may be ignored or lightly dismissed for years, but it shouldn’t be. The more sensible reaction to even mild symptoms should be a visit to the doctor of chiropractic, who is a health care specialist for problems relating to the spine and nerves.
Your chiropractor will make a thorough examination, including the use of x-rays and clinical laboratory tests. Evaluation of the cause precedes the necessary spinal adjustments to relieve the diagnosed problem. Realigning vertebrae may allow discs to return to normal and relieve pressure on spinal nerves. By removing the obstruction to nerve distribution, normal nerve function may be restored.
Spinal checkups by a doctor of chiropractic and early detection of problems help assure maintenance of the delicate balance of the spinal column. Care of the susceptible lower back safeguards overall health. A simple understanding of chiropractic principles contributes to a relaxed and confident attitude toward adjustment, greatly enhancing its success.
Beyond providing specific treatment, the chiropractor can help you in health maintenance by teaching you to be more aware of your role in preventing spinal problems through proper exercise and diet, and learning techniques to relieve tension and stress. For your own good health, plan to visit your chiropractor regularly. You should also tell others about the benefits of a thorough chiropractic checkup.