Dr Neil Gardner, Contributor
A simple task such as bending to tie your shoelace, picking up a baby or handbag should not be a memorable event. If one day it causes crippling back pain, it will be a day you will never forget. If this happens to you, you are not alone. Back pain, medically known as lumbago, is one of the most common medical conditions affecting as many as eight out of 10 persons at some point in their lives. Back pain may come on suddenly and the pain debilitating, or it may be gradual over time and be nothing more than a dull ache or annoyance.
Getting to the root of the matter:
People experience back pain because of a traumatic injury from falls, car accidents and sports collisions. These may cause strained muscles, sprained ligaments, a bulging or ruptured disc, stenosis or narrowing of the spinal canal and may have occurred up to 10 years before.
What happens now:
Typically, following the trauma, there is temporary pain or discomfort in the back, which tends to go away over a few days to weeks, but although the pain is gone, the problem remains, slowly damaging the body. Sometimes five to 10 years later, there may be stiffness, aches or a sudden flare-up of severe pain, often from doing a seemingly simple task like bending over to pick up a towel from the floor.
When the muscles of the spine get injured, there is an alteration in their normal firing patterns changing the way it responds under contraction. The back is made up of muscles that move and those that stabilise the spine during motion. Whenever motion is about to happen, the tiny stabilising muscles are supposed to be engaged first, prior to the contraction of the larger muscles for motion. Following the injury, this normal sequence is altered resulting in the muscles for motion activating before the stabilisers have had an opportunity to maintain the bones in their proper biomechanical position. The result is abnormal motions or mal-positions of the affected joint leading to bones rubbing instead of gliding across each other as they move, causing wear and tear of the bones, joints and discs.
What happens later:
Over time, arthritis of the spine - spondylosis - ensues. The rate of degeneration of the bones depends on how severe the alteration and how much time has elapsed.
This phenomenon of altered spinal biomechanics which leads to wear and tear is what the chiropractor calls a subluxation. Medically, a subluxation is a positional error of bones that is of a degree less than a dislocation. Subluxations lead to spondylosis.
Pain killers and muscle relaxants, which are currently the standard of care for back pain following trauma, may alleviate the initial symptoms of pain, but do nothing to restore the proper firing sequence of the muscles or stop the degeneration. The fast stretch of these spinal muscles that occur during a chiropractic adjustment has been demonstrated to restore the normal firing patterns and may be your first defence against a life of spinal degeneration down the road.
Neil Gardner, DC, DACNB Diplomate, American Chiropractic Neurology Board, Chiropractic Neurologist, Gardner Chiropractic & Neurology Ltd. Website: www.gcnjamaica.com. Phone: 876-978-1050-1/ 876-622-9241/214-432-5464 (From the USA.