Eighty percent of people suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor's office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections. Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic, i.e., not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture, or cancer.
What Causes Back Pain?
The back is a complicated structure of bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles. You can sprain ligaments, strain muscles, rupture disks, and irritate joints, all of which can lead to back pain.
While sports injuries or accidents can cause back pain, sometimes the simplest of movements-for example, picking up a pencil from the floor-can have painful results. In addition, arthritis, poor posture, obesity, and psychological stress can cause or complicate back pain. Back pain can also directly result from disease of the internal organs, such as kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots, or bone loss.
Back injuries are a part of everyday life, and the spine is quite good at dealing with these often "pulled" muscles. These very minor injuries usually heal within 1 or 2 days. Some pain, however, continues.
What makes some pain last longer is not entirely understood, but researchers suspect that the reasons may include stress, mood changes, and the fear of further injury that may prevent patients from being active. In addition, sometimes a painful injury or disease changes the way the pain signals are sent through the body, and, even after the problem has gone away or is inactive, the pain signals still reach the brain. It is as if the pain develops a memory that keeps being replayed.
Will Back Pain Go Away on Its Own?
Until recently, researchers believed that back pain will "heal" on its own. We have learned, however, that this is not true. A recent study showed that when back pain is not treated, it may go away temporarily but will most likely return. The study demonstrated that in more than 33% of the people who experience low-back pain, the pain lasts for more than 30 days. Only 9% of the people who had low-back pain for more than 30 days were pain free 5 years later.1
Another study looked at all of the available research on the natural history of low-back pain. The results showed that when it is ignored, back pain does not go away on its own.2 Those studies demonstrate that low-back pain continues to affect people for long periods after it first begins.
What Can I Do to Prevent Long-Term Back Pain?
If your back pain is not resolving quickly, visit your doctor of chiropractic. Your pain will often result from mechanical problems that your doctor of chiropractic can address. Many chiropractic patients with relatively long-lasting or recurring back pain feel improvement shortly after starting chiropractic treatment.3 The relief they feel after a month of treatment is often greater than after seeing a family physician.4
Chiropractic spinal manipulation is a safe and effective spine pain treatment. It reduces pain, decreases medication, rapidly advances Physiotherapy, and requires very few passive forms of treatment, such as bed rest.5
How Can I Prevent Back Pain?
Don't lift by bending over. Instead, bend your hips and knees and then squat to pick up the object. Keep your back straight, and hold the object close to your body.
Don't twist your body while lifting.
Push, rather than pull, when you must move heavy objects.
If you must sit for long periods, take frequent breaks and stretch.
Wear flat shoes or shoes with low heels.
Exercise regularly. An inactive lifestyle contributes to lower-back pain.
What Should I Tell My Doctor of Chiropractic?
Before any treatment session, tell your doctor of chiropractic if you experience any of the following:
Pain goes down your leg below your knee.
Your leg, foot, groin, or rectal area feels numb.
You have fever, nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, weakness, or sweating.
You lose bowel control.
Your pain is caused by an injury.
Your pain is so intense you can't move around.
Your pain doesn't seem to be getting better quickly.
Hestbaek L, Leboeuf-Yde C, Engberg M, Lauritzen T, Bruun NH, Manniche C. The course of low-back pain in a general population. Results from a 5-year prospective study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2003 May;26(4):213-9.
Hestbaek L, Leboeuf-Yde C, Manniche C. Low-back pain: what is the long-term course? A review of studies of general patient populations. Eur Spine J 2003 Apr;12(2):149-65.
Stig LC, Nilsson O, Leboeuf-Yde C. Recovery pattern of patients treated with chiropractic spinal manipulative therapy for long-lasting or recurrent low back pain. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2001 May;24(4):288-91.
Nyiendo J, Haas M, Goodwin P. Patient characteristics, practice activities, and one-month outcomes for chronic, recurrent low-back pain treated by chiropractors and family medicine physicians: a practice-based feasibility study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2000 May;23(4):239-45.
Time to recognize value of chiropractic care? Science and patient satisfaction surveys cite usefulness of spinal manipulation. Orthopedics Today February 2003;23(2):14-15.
Back in Shape & Pain Free
Exercises to Safeguard Your Back
Stretching and an active lifestyle are often recommended to help reduce back pain and speed the recovery process following an injury. Improving exibility through stretching is also an excellent way to avoid future injuries.
Depending upon one’s individual injury and level of pain, the exercise and rehabilitation program may vary. The key is to start slowly and increase the repetitions as you feel stronger. Consult with your doctor of chiropractic prior to starting a new exercise program, especially when associated with low-back pain. He or she can help develop an individualized program and provide instruction on proper stretching technique.
Passive stretches help facilitate movement in the aected muscle or joint. Stretches should be held for 15 to 30 seconds, allowing the muscles to gradually relax and lengthen. Stretches should never cause pain nor should you feel tingling in the extremities. Stop immediately if you experience any discomfort.
Lie on your back with both legs straight. Bend one leg at the knee and extend one leg straight up in the air. Loop a towel over the arch of the lifted foot, and gently pull on the towel as you push against it with your foot; you should feel a stretch in the back of the thigh. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat 3 times per leg. This stretch may be performed several times per day.
The piriformis muscle runs through the buttock and can contribute to back and leg pain. To stretch this muscle, lie on the back and cross one leg over the other; gently pull the knee toward the chest until a stretch is felt in the buttock area. Hold 30 seconds. Relax. Repeat 3 times. This stretch may be performed several times per day.
Lie on your stomach. Use your arms to push your upper body o the oor. Hold for 30 seconds. Let your back relax and sag. Repeat. This stretch may be performed several times per day.
Active stretches facilitate movement and improve strength. Stretches should never cause pain nor should you feel tingling in the extremities. Stop immediately if you experience any discomfort.
Lie on your stomach. Tighten the musclesin one leg and raise it 1 to 2 inches from the floor. Return the raised leg to the floor. Do the same with the other leg. Repeat 20 times with each leg. This exercise may be performed several times per day.
Lie on your back with your knees flexed and your feet flat on the floor. Keep the knees together. Tighten the muscles of the lower abdomen and buttoncks; slowly raise your hips up from the floor and then lower them back to the resting position. Repeat the exercise 20 times. This exercise may be performed several times per day.
Kneel on mat on hands and knees, with palms directly under shoulders and knees hip-width apart. Slowly raise your right arm, and extend it forward parallel to floor. (Balance by contacting your abdominal muscles.) Keep right palm parallel to the floor, then lift the leg, and straighten it behind you. Hold position limbs off the ground for 30 to 60 seconds without arching your back. Switch sides. Repeat 3 to 6 times.
The Cardio Component
Most health care professionals recommend 20 to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three to four days per week to improve endurance and help lose weight. Until you’ve recovered from back pain, select low-impact activities that burn calories, but won’t place undue stress on your joints. Also, before beginning a vigorous exercise program, check with your physician to rule out any possible cardiovascular health risks.
Tips for a Healthy Spine
A healthy spine is an often overlooked and essential part of a healthy lifestyle. People who suffer from back pain, particularly if it is long-term, are generally less healthy than those who do not. In fact, back pain costs are staggering not only financially, but also in terms of lost time from work and because of psychosocial problems that arise during the healing process associated with long-term back pain.
Unfortunately, approximately 80-90% of the population suffers from spinal pain at some point. People who are overweight or obese, and who smoke, lift heavy objects, or had a previous episode of back pain, are more likely to experience back pain.
Because so many people suffer from spine pain, it’s important for you to try to keep your spine as healthy as possible. Following simple posture, lifting, and healthy lifestyle guidelines can help you keep your back in good shape.
The American Chiropractic Association recommends the following spinal health tips:
When standing, keep one foot slightly in front of the other, with your knees slightly bent. This position helps to take the pressure off your low back.
Do not stand bent forward at the waist for prolonged periods of time. The muscles in your low back become deconditioned in this position, which may lead to pain.
At all times, avoid twisting while lifting. Twisting is one of the most dangerous movements for your spine, especially while lifting.
If the item is too heavy to lift, pushing it is easier on your back than pulling it. Whenever possible, use your legs, not your back or upper body, to push the item.
If you must lift a heavy item, get someone to help you.
Keep your knees slightly higher than your hips, with your head up and back straight.
Avoid rolling your shoulders forward (slouching).
Try to maintain the natural curve in your low back.
Reaching and Bending
When reaching for something above shoulder level, stand on a stool. Straining to reach such objects may not only hurt your mid-back and neck, but it can also bring on shoulder problems.
Do NOT bend over at the waist to pick up items from the floor or a table.
Instead, kneel down on one knee, as close as possible to the item you are lifting, with the other foot flat on the floor and pick the item up.
Or bend at the knees, keep the item close to your body, and lift with your legs, not your back.
When carrying objects, particularly if they are heavy, keep them as close to your body as possible.
Carrying two small objects—one in each hand—is often easier to handle than one large one.
Healthy Diet and Exercise
While the proverbial jury is still out, we suspect that extra weight puts undue strain on your spine. Keep within 10 lbs. of your ideal weight for a healthier back.
“Beer belly” is likely the worst culprit, as it puts unwanted pressure on the muscles, ligaments and tendons in your low back.
The most efficient and effective way to reduce weight is by eating a sensible diet and exercising regularly.
Consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, particularly if you have a health condition.
Sleeping on your back puts approximately 50 pounds of pressure on your spine. Other positions may be better.
Placing a pillow under your knees while lying on your back cuts the pressure on your spine roughly in half.
Lying on your side with a pillow between your knees may also reduce the pressure on your back.
Never sleep in a position that causes a portion of your spine to hurt. Most often, your body will tell you what position is best.
Smokers have more spine pain than nonsmokers, and they also heal more slowly when they have an episode of back pain because the chemicals in tobacco smoke restrict the flow of blood to the tissues in and around your spine.
While following these instructions is no guarantee that you’ll be free from back pain for your entire life, it can certainly reduce your risk of developing it. These simple steps will help you keep your spine in good shape, making you a healthier, happier person.
Back Pain Facts & Statistics
Although chiropractors care for more than just back pain, many patients visit chiropractors looking for relief from this pervasive condition. In fact, 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time.1
A few interesting facts about back pain:
Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010.
One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.2
Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. In fact, back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections.
Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic—meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer.
Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain—and that’s just for the more easily identified costs.3
Experts estimate that as many as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in our lives.4
What Causes Back Pain?
The back is a complicated structure of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles. You can sprain ligaments, strain muscles, rupture disks, and irritate joints, all of which can lead to back pain. While sports injuries or accidents can cause back pain, sometimes the simplest of movements—for example, picking up a pencil from the floor— can have painful results. In addition, arthritis, poor posture, obesity, and psychological stress can cause or complicate back pain. Back pain can also directly result from disease of the internal organs, such as kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots, or bone loss.
Manipulation as a Treatment for Back Problems
Used primarily by Doctors of Chiropractic (DCs) for the last century, manipulation has been largely ignored by most others in the health care community until recently. Now, with today's growing emphasis on treatment and cost effectiveness, manipulation is receiving more widespread attention.
Chiropractic spinal manipulation is a safe and effective spine pain treatment. It reduces pain, decreases medication, rapidly advances Physiotherapy, and requires very few passive forms of treatment, such as bed rest.5
In fact, after an extensive study of all currently available care for low back problems, the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research—a federal government research organization—recommended that low back pain sufferers choose the most conservative care first. And it recommended spinal manipulation as the only safe and effective, drugless form of initial professional treatment for acute low back problems in adults.6
A patient information article published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association also suggested chiropractic care as an option for people suffering from low back pain--and noted that surgery is usually not needed and should only be tried if other therapies fail.7
The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) urges you to make an informed choice about your back care. To learn more about how the services of doctors of chiropractic may help you, review the results of recent research studies and contact a Doctor of Chiropractic in your area. Search our online database of ACA members to find a doctor of chiropractic near you.
Tips to Prevent Back Pain
Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
Remain active—under the supervision of your doctor of chiropractic.
Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest.
Warm up or stretch before exercising or other physical activities, such as gardening.
Maintain proper posture.
Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
Sleep on a mattress of medium firmness to minimize any curve in your spine.
Lift with your knees, keep the object close to your body, and do not twist when lifting.
Quit smoking. Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues.
Work with your doctor of chiropractic to ensure that your computer workstation is ergonomically correct.
1. Jensen M, Brant-Zawadzki M, Obuchowski N, et al. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People Without Back Pain. N Engl J Med 1994; 331: 69-116.
2. Vallfors B. Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.
3. This total represents only the more readily identifiable costs for medical care, workers compensation payments and time lost from work. It does not include costs associated with lost personal income due to acquired physical limitation resulting from a back problem and lost employer productivity due to employee medical absence. In Project Briefs: Back Pain Patient Outcomes Assessment Team (BOAT). In MEDTEP Update, Vol. 1 Issue 1, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Rockville,
4. In Vallfors B, previously cited.
5. Time to recognize value of chiropractic care? Science and patient satisfaction surveys cite usefulness of spinal manipulation. Orthopedics Today 2003 Feb; 23(2):14-15.
6. Bigos S, Bowyer O, Braen G, et al. Acute Low Back Problems in Adults. Clinical Practice Guideline No.14. AHCPR Publication No. 95-0642. Rockville, MD: Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, Public Health Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, December, 1994.
7. Goodman D, Burke A, Livingston E. Low Back Pain. JAMA. 2013; 309(16):1738.
A growing list of research studies and reviews demonstrate that the services provided by chiropractic physicians are both safe and effective. Following are excerpts and summaries from a few of the more recent studies. The evidence strongly supports the natural, whole-body and cost-effective approach of chiropractic care for a variety of conditions.
For Acute and Chronic Pain
“Many treatments are available for low back pain. Often exercises and Physiotherapy can help. Some people benefit from chiropractic therapy or acupuncture.”
--Goodman et al. (2013), Journal of the American Medical Association
“[Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy] in conjunction with [standard medical care] offers a significant advantage for decreasing pain and improving physical functioning when compared with only standard care, for men and women between 18 and 35 years of age with acute low back pain.”
--Goertz et al. (2013), Spine
In a Randomized controlled trial, 183 patients with neck pain were randomly allocated to manual therapy (spinal mobilization), physiotherapy (mainly exercise) or general practitioner care (counseling, education and drugs) in a 52-week study. The clinical outcomes measures showed that manual therapy resulted in faster recovery than physiotherapy and general practitioner care. Moreover, total costs of the manual therapy-treated patients were about one-third of the costs of physiotherapy or general practitioner care.
-- Korthals-de Bos et al (2003), British Medical Journal
“Patients with chronic low-back pain treated by chiropractors showed greater improvement and satisfaction at one month than patients treated by family physicians. Satisfaction scores were higher for chiropractic patients. A higher proportion of chiropractic patients (56 percent vs. 13 percent) reported that their low-back pain was better or much better, whereas nearly one-third of medical patients reported their low-back pain was worse or much worse.”
– Nyiendo et al (2000), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics
In Comparison to Other Treatment Alternatives
"Manual-thrust manipulation provides greater short-term reductions in self-reported disability and pain compared with usual medical care. 94% of the manual-thrust manipulation group achieved greater than 30% reduction in pain compared with 69% of usual medical care."
– Schneider et al (2015), Spine
"Reduced odds of surgery were observed for...those whose first provider was a chiropractor. 42.7% of workers [with back injuries] who first saw a surgeon had surgery, in contrast to only 1.5% of those who saw a chiropractor."
– Keeney et al (2012), Spine
“Acute and chronic chiropractic patients experienced better outcomes in pain, functional disability, and patient satisfaction; clinically important differences in pain and disability improvement were found for chronic patients.”
– Haas et al (2005), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics
“In our randomized, controlled trial, we compared the effectiveness of manual therapy, Physiotherapy, and continued care by a general practitioner in patients with nonspecific neck pain. The success rate at seven weeks was twice as high for the manual therapy group (68.3 percent) as for the continued care group (general practitioner). Manual therapy scored better than Physiotherapy on all outcome measures. Patients receiving manual therapy had fewer absences from work than patients receiving Physiotherapy or continued care, and manual therapy and Physiotherapy each resulted in statistically significant less analgesic use than continued care.”
– Hoving et al (2002), Annals of Internal Medicine
“Cervical spine manipulation was associated with significant improvement in headache outcomes in trials involving patients with neck pain and/or neck dysfunction and headache.”
-- McCrory, Penzlen, Hasselblad, Gray (2001), Duke Evidence Report
“The results of this study show that spinal manipulative therapy is an effective treatment for tension headaches. . . Four weeks after cessation of treatment . . . the patients who received spinal manipulative therapy experienced a sustained therapeutic benefit in all major outcomes in contrast to the patients that received amitriptyline therapy, who reverted to baseline values.” ‘
-- Boline et al. (1995), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics
For Neck Pain
In a study funded by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to test the effectiveness of different approaches for treating mechanical neck pain, 272 participants were divided into three groups that received either spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) from a doctor of chiropractic (DC), pain medication (over-the-counter pain relievers, narcotics and muscle relaxants) or exercise recommendations. After 12 weeks, about 57 percent of those who met with DCs and 48 percent who exercised reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, compared to 33 percent of the people in the medication group. After one year, approximately 53 percent of the drug-free groups continued to report at least a 75 percent reduction in pain; compared to just 38 percent pain reduction among those who took medication.
-- Bronfort et al. (2012), Annals of Internal Medicine
Low back pain initiated with a doctor of chiropractic (DC) saves 40 percent on health care costs when compared with care initiated through a medical doctor (MD), according to a study that analyzed data from 85,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) beneficiaries in Tennessee over a two-year span. The study population had open access to MDs and DCs through self-referral, and there were no limits applied to the number of MD/DC visits allowed and no differences in co-pays. Researchers estimated that allowing DC-initiated episodes of care would have led to an annual cost savings of $2.3 million for BCBS of Tennessee. They also concluded that insurance companies that restrict access to chiropractic care for low back pain treatment may inadvertently pay more for care than they would if they removed such restrictions.
– Liliedahl et al (2010), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics
“Chiropractic care appeared relatively cost-effective for the treatment of chronic low-back pain. Chiropractic and medical care performed comparably for acute patients. Practice-based clinical outcomes were consistent with systematic reviews of spinal manipulative efficacy: manipulation-based therapy is at least as good as and, in some cases, better than other therapeusis.”
– Haas et al (2005), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics
“Chiropractic patients were found to be more satisfied with their back care providers after four weeks of treatment than were medical patients. Results from observational studies suggested that back pain patients are more satisfied with chiropractic care than with medical care. Additionally, studies conclude that patients are more satisfied with chiropractic care than they were with Physiotherapy after six weeks.”
-- Hertzman-Miller et al (2002), American Journal of Public Health
Popularity of Chiropractic
“Chiropractic is the largest, most regulated, and best recognized of the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) professions. CAM patient surveys show that chiropractors are used more often than any other alternative provider group and patient satisfaction with chiropractic care is very high. There is steadily increasing patient use of chiropractic in the United States, which has tripled in the past two decades.”
– Meeker, Haldeman (2002), Annals of Internal Medicine
Sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain and numbness caused by a problem in the low back. This video illustrates the causes and symptoms of sciatica.
Sciatica describes persistent pain felt along the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back, down through the buttock, and into the lower leg. The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest nerve in the body, running from the lower back through the buttocks and down the back of each leg. It controls the muscles of the lower leg and provides sensation to the thighs, legs, and the soles of the feet.
Although sciatica is a relatively common form of low-back and leg pain, the true meaning of the term is often misunderstood. Sciatica is actually a set of symptoms—not a diagnosis for what is irritating the nerve root and causing the pain.
Sciatica occurs most frequently in people between the ages of 30 and 50 years old. Most often, it tends to develop as a result of general wear and tear on the structures of the lower spine, not as a result of injury.
What are the symptoms of sciatica?
The most common symptom associated with sciatica is pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, from the lower back and down one leg; however, symptoms can vary widely depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected. Some may experience a mild tingling, a dull ache, or even a burning sensation, typically on one side of the body.
Some patients also report:
• A pins-and-needles sensation, most often in the toes or foot
• Numbness or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot
Pain from sciatica often begins slowly, gradually intensifying over time. In addition, the pain can worsen after prolonged sitting, sneezing, coughing, bending, or other sudden movements.
How is sciatica diagnosed?
Your doctor of chiropractic will begin by taking a complete patient history. You’ll be asked to describe your pain and to explain when the pain began, and what activities lessen or intensify the pain. Forming a diagnosis will also require a physical and neurological exam, in which the doctor will pay special attention to your spine and legs. You may be asked to perform some basic activities that will test your sensory and muscle strength, as well as your reflexes. For example, you may be asked to lie on an examination table and lift your legs straight in the air, one at a time.
In some cases, your doctor of chiropractic may recommend diagnostic imaging, such as x-ray, MRI, or CT scan. Diagnostic imaging may be used to rule out a more serious condition, such as a tumor or infection, and can be used when patients with severe symptoms fail to respond to six to eight weeks of conservative treatment.
What are my treatment options?
For most people, sciatica responds very well to conservative care, including chiropractic. Keeping in mind that sciatica is a symptom and not a stand-alone medical condition, treatment plans will often vary depending on the underlying cause of the problem.
Chiropractic offers a non-invasive (non-surgical), drug-free treatment option. The goal of chiropractic care is to restore spinal movement, thereby improving function while decreasing pain and inflammation. Depending on the cause of the sciatica, a chiropractic treatment plan may cover several different treatment methods, including but not limited to spinal adjustments, ice/heat therapy, ultrasound, Laser, EMS and rehabilitative exercises.
An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure
While it’s not always possible to prevent sciatica, consider these suggestions to help protect your back and improve your spinal health.
• Maintain a healthy diet and weight
• Exercise regularly
• Maintain proper posture
• Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest
• If you smoke, seek help to quit
•Use good body mechanics when lifting
Herniated Disc Video
In most cases, if a patient’s pain is going to get better it will start to do so within about six weeks.
While waiting to see if the symptoms will abate on their own, several non-surgical treatments can help alleviate the pain and facilitate long term healing. The most common herniated disc nonsurgical treatmentsinclude:
chiropractic manipulation (manual manipulation)
Heat and/or ice therapy
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs),
Oral steroids (e.g. prednisone or methyprednisolone)
An epidural (cortisone) injection BY Pain Management specialist.
If the pain and other symptoms continue after six weeks, and if the pain is severe, it is reasonable to consider microdiscectomy surgery as an option.
A herniated disc occurs when the inner core of the disc leaks out, or herniates, and affects an adjacent nerve root.
If you or your loved ones have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you may be wondering what the disorder means for you. Fibromyalgia affects 10 million people in the United States and is more likely to occur in women, with a ratio of about 8 to 2, women over men. But diagnosing the condition can be very complex.
Fibromyalgia is typically diagnosed in patients with:
Pain and symptoms over the past week, based on the total of: Number of painful areas out of 19 parts of the body Plus level of severity of these symptoms: a. Fatigue b. Waking unrefreshed c. Cognitive (memory or thought) problems Plus number of other general physical symptoms
Symptoms lasting at least three months at a similar level
No other health problem that would explain the pain and other symptoms
Aside from widespread pain, patients may suffer with several other common symptoms, including:
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Cognitive or memory impairment
Malaise and muscle pain after exertion
Numbness and tingling sensations
Skin and chemical sensitivities
Correct Diagnosis Is Key
Correct diagnosis of fibromyalgia is very elusive, so if you are diagnosed with the disorder—or suspect that you have it—seek the opinion of more than one health care provider. Other conditions may create fibromyalgia—like pain, fatigue and other symptoms. Ruling other conditions out first is very important.
In addition to clinical evaluation that will assess possible causes of your pain, your doctor may need to order blood work to determine if you have:
Other rheumatic diseases
Allergies and nutritional deficiencies
Disorders that cause pain, fatigue, and other fibromyalgia-like symptoms.
If the tests show that you have one of these conditions, treatment will focus on addressing that problem first. If your pain is caused by a muscle or joint condition, chiropractic care may help relieve it more effectively than other therapies.
If no underlying cause for your symptoms can be identified, you may have classic fibromyalgia. The traditional allopathic approach includes a prescription of prednisone, anti-inflammatory agents, antidepressants, sleep medications, and muscle relaxants. These temporarily relieve the symptoms, but they do produce side effects. If you prefer a natural approach, the following suggestions may be helpful:
Studies have shown that a combination of 300 to 600 mg of magnesium per day, along with malic acid, may significantly reduce may significantly reduce the number of tender points and the pain felt at those that remain. B vitamins may also be helpful.
Improving the quality of sleep can help reduce fatigue. Watch your caffeine intake, especially before going to bed. Reduce TV and computer time. If you watch TV in the evening, choose relaxing, funny programs instead of programs with violent or disturbing content. Ask your doctor of chiropractic for other natural ways to help you sleep better.
Stress-managing strategies can also help address anxiety or depression issues. Cognitive therapy has been shown helpful in relieving fibromyalgia patients’ negative emotions and depression by changing their perception of themselves and attitudes toward others.
A 2011 study found that a long-term combination of aerobic exercise, strengthening and flexibility improves psychological health status and health-related quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia (e.g. Yoga, Pilates, or tai chi)
Studies have shown that acupuncture is another effective, conservative approach to treating fibromyalgia symptoms and many doctors of chiropractic offer this service right in their offices.
Your doctor of chiropractic has the knowledge, training, and expertise to help you understand your problem and, in many cases, to manage it successfully. Remember, however, that the treatment program can be successful only with your active participation. If your doctor of chiropractic feels that he or she cannot help you, you will be directed to another health care provider.
DR. GARO K. TCHAKIAN, D.C., MUAC
Industrial Disability Evaluator In Business Since 1991 & Treated Over Thousands of Patients