By David Groneck, DC, FASA
Back and neck pain affect millions of people everyday. It is so common that it is often accepted as a part of life. Many have sought multiple types of treatment for their pain with some to no affect and have resolved themselves to living with their pain. The focus of this article is directed towards areas of treatment that I often encounter with my patients with this type of chronic pain. Pain from fractures, infection, and cancer will not be discussed here. Although this article will focus primarily on neck and back pain, much of this article can apply to other joint pain such as elbow, shoulder, knee, etc. Although the standard medical treatment for back and neck pain can be helpful, often it is merely a band aid to the problem.
Routinely, the medical course of treatment is analgesics, muscle relaxers, cortisone injections, physical therapy, and ultimately surgery if the previous treatments do not help. Fortunately, there are many other treatments available that are very effective. But the first thing that needs to be done is find the causes of the problem. I find that it is often more than one cause that needs to be addressed before relief is possible.
Nerve compression. These can be ruled out or in by several methods including neurological tests, MRI, CT, etc. A thorough neurological evaluation can often identify where the problem lies. The most common cause of a nerve compression is due to a spinal disc bulge or herniation. The size of the herniation and its position will largely determine a course of action. Sometimes surgical intervention is the only option. However, there are many instances that a conservative approach is ideal.
Muscle weakness/dysfunction. Since muscles move bones and support the surrounding joints, it would be wise to check the neurological integrity of the muscles that stabilize the joint. When I see a new patient that has been treated by other doctors with little success, I know I will find muscles that are neurologically inhibited on examination. For instance, when examining the low back I will check the low back muscles as well as the obliques, abdominals, and hip stabilizers. I usually check about 15 muscles but it varies with the situation. It just makes sense: If the muscles of the low back and surrounding areas are not functioning properly, how can the low back be strong and healthy?
Joint misalignment. There are grades of misalignment ranging from a chiropractic subluxation which is a very small misalignment to a full blown dislocation. I am referring to the subtle misalignments of the spine here. Chiropractic adjustments can provide great relief from pain in these situations. 1, 2,3,4,5
Acupuncture meridians. Acupuncture is a very effective treatment for relieving pain. The main goal of acupuncture is to correct the subtle shifts in our body's electricity or energy. Meridian therapy has been used for thousands of years which speaks to its effectiveness, however, many recent studies have shown the effectiveness of acupuncture. 6,7,8,9
Nutritional deficiencies. There are certain nutrients that specifically support the disc, ligament, tendon, and other joint structures. If these nutrients are depleted, the disc and ligaments will weaken over time and eventually be injured. Adequate supply of nutrients in the right form is necessary not only for the health of the low back, but for every process in the human body. 10,11,12
TMJ dysfunction. Did you know that if the jaw is misaligned, problems such as low back pain (among others) could occur? The jaw plays a major role in balancing the entire body. This is often overlooked and can result in lifetime of pain and discomfort for the patient. 13,14,15
Referral pain. There are many types of referral pain patterns to the low back and neck. Pain can come from muscles, ligaments, and the viscera. For instance, prostate dysfunction such as prostate enlargement, kidney dysfunction such as a kidney infection, uterine dysfunction such as endometriosis, and an abdominal aneurysm can manifest as low back pain. 16,17,18,19
Addressing the causes of joint pain can be a complicated process. Having a knowledgeable practitioner familiar with multiple treatment options may greatly increase the possibility of minimizing or even eliminating one’s pain.
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