Low Back Joint Pain Scottsdale AZ
Low Back Joint Pain
Low back pain is one of the most common conditions in America, and insurance companies have identified low back pain as one of their most expensive conditions. Insurance company research has also shown that inefficient and ineffective treatments often prolong recovery and increase overall costs. These same studies have also identified chiropractic treatments as one of the best and most effective treatments for low back joint pain, especially when people seek treatment within a few days of the injury.
Some people experience mild back stiffness and tightness, others may experience excruciating, sharp pain that confines them to their couch for a week. There are multiple causes of low back pain, which can include injuries to back muscles, tendons, ligaments, discs, and joints. Each injured tissue requires different treatments to speed the healing and recovery process.
Complications To Recovery
Every person has a different history of trauma, “wear and tear” damage, arthritis, and compensating injuries that can affect their low back. Some people’s work can place excessive stress on their back joints, while others injure their back with home or recreational activities. Age, conditioning, diabetes, and other diseases can slow healing.
Low Back Joint Sprains
Sprains to the low back joint are very common with bending, turning, twisting, and lifting activities. The lumbar spine supports all the body weight above it. The joints structurally absorb these forces by balancing support and stability with movement. If our spine was solid bone it would be very supportive, but our flexibility would resemble a bug’s. Our joints allow for full range of motion but are not as structurally stable; which is why they are easily injured.
It is very common to have excessive movement across the joint, thereby creating sprains and strains to the joint ligament capsule. Many people have experienced sharp, stabbing pain after bending over and lifting up a heavier item, or with prolonged bending such as gardening or cleaning the bathtub. You can also feel that sharp, stabbing pain when twisting to the side or straining to reach above your head.
What Are Facet Joints And Why Are They Often Injured
The lumbar spine is composed of three joints at each vertebral segment. The spinal disc and vertebral bodies form the front joint that supports a significant amount of body weight. The spinal disc also aids in rotating, twisting, turning, and tipping movements. There are two facet joints in the back of the vertebrae that resemble columns. The joints of one vertebrae line up with the joints above or below. They are basically “stacked” on top of each other to provide support from the head to the pelvis. They create a very stable structure. The facet joints are breaks in the columns that allow for bending, twisting, and turning motions, even while supporting the body weight. Excessive movements across the facet joints damage the joint ligament capsule and can create mild to debilitating back pain.
Low back joint pain commonly starts as stiffness and tightness, then can progress to mild, dull pain after sitting, standing, or laying too long. If the injury is severe enough people describe constant, dull pain with sharp, stabbing twinges caused by movement, especially tipping backwards or twisting to the side. Every time body weight compresses the joint it causes pain. Curling up in the fetal position on one’s side often relieves the stress and back pain.
Treatment For Low back pain
Home treatment for back pain includes ice, rest, and light movement. Ice the low back for 15 minutes then remove the ice pack for another 15 minutes, allowing the area to warm up. Ice can be applied a couple times an hour, especially for the first 48 hours, to decrease pain and inflammation. During this time light range of motion exercises and light stretching can help reduce dull and sharp back pain. These light movements stop the body’s protective muscle spasms by signalling to the body that the injury is not severe.
Office treatment goals are to decrease pain and muscle spasms while increasing joint range of motion as quickly as possible. Creating joint motion helps decrease overall recovery times and limits missed days of work. Several studies have shown that the quicker a person can receive chiropractic manipulation, the faster they recover and can get back to work. Chiropractic treatments in the office can utilize several modalities to help accomplish the short-term goals. Treatments can include heat, ice, electric, traction, massage therapy, flexion distraction therapy, Activator Technique, Thompson Drop Technique, and manual manipulation.
Heat, ice, electric, ultrasound, cold laser treatments, and low back exercises help reduce immediate pain and muscle spasms. Chiropractors can then utilize a traction or intersegmental traction table to “gently rock” the joints to increase pain-free motion. The traction table’s slow rocking motion helps break up the protective muscle spasm reflex that is causing excessive pain and complicating recovery.
Why Movement And Chiropractic Helps
Low back joints contain pressure and pain receptors. Whenever the body experiences an injury to the facet joint ligaments, cartilage, or bone the pain receptors send signals to the brain, causing the brain to spasm all the muscles that cross the joint. This is a protective mechanism. The body believes if it does not let the joint move it cannot continue to get hurt. This protective mechanism is great for some injuries but often causes excessive pain and limitation in low back sprains.
The joints also have movement receptors inside them that let the brain know the joints are okay. When the joints are moving they send a signal to the brain letting it know that the joints are safe and this movement is comfortable. The brain then responds by decreasing muscle spasms across the low back. This allows better movement through the joints, which sends more movement signals up to the brain further decreasing the spasms. The traction table gently rocks the low back and utilizes this feedback system to improve low back joint range of motion, decrease pain, and reduce muscle spasms.
You have felt this feedback system when waking up in the morning. The first step out of bed causes a sharp, stabbing pain as you sit and try to stand straight up. After walking a short distance the pain begins to decrease. Eventually the walking helps the pain subside; however, if you sit or stand for too long the pain returns. I personally describe this phenomenon to patients as my “Rusty Door Hinge Theory”. If you have ever had a rusty door hinge it can be difficult to move at first. But when you get it moving and keep it rocking the hinge moves without restriction or limitation. However when you let it sit for too long again the hinge requires a little rocking before its freedom of movement returns.
Chiropractic Restores Joint Motion
This concept also helps explain why chiropractic is so effective at decreasing pain. Chiropractic adjustments help increase joint range of motion and stop the protective muscle spasms. Activator technique, Thompson Drop Technique, manual manipulation, diversified technique, and flexion distraction all help increase joint range of motion and the movement feedback systems to the brain to reduce muscle spasms.
Without treatment people often experience more intense back pain that takes longer to resolve, which is why bed rest is no longer recommended for back pain. Delaying treatment inadvertently causes more pain, more limitation, and more missed days of work. Chiropractic is a safe and effective treatment that restores joint motion and decreases low back pain. There are different treatment options depending on the injured low back joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments and your chiropractor can discuss options with you. Often people wait too long before coming in for treatment, thinking the pain will go away. If you are experiencing chronic low back pain, pain that persists for more than a couple days, or worsening pain, it’s better to seek treatment rather than waiting to see if it gets better.