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Chiropractic Care and Low Back Pain

Low back pain is one of the most common pains experienced by people across all demographics. Medical experts believe that about 80% of the population will experience low back pain in their lifetime.

Low back pain is one of the most common reasons for absenteeism at work and it is the second most common reason for hospital visits, according to the American Chiropractic Association.

Most people suffer from low back pain but many do not realize that they can prevent or treat this condition with the right chiropractic care. It is crucial to understand lower back pain in order to avoid any complications.

Understanding Low Back Pain

Low back pain is commonly seen as an acute type of pain; so, it usually lasts for a few days and resolves on its own with proper self-care. There are two types of low back pain described by experts and these include:

  • Sub-acute low back pain.
  • Chronic back pain.
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While the former is characterized with having a painful lower back between four to 12 weeks, the latter is more persistent often lasting more than 12 weeks. The magnitude of the inconvenience caused by lower back pain has grown in recent years. According to the study conducted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, low back pain jumped from the sixth to the third place of common diseases due to the rise of poor health practices.

The lower back is comprised of bones, muscles, ligaments and joints. Low back pain can be complicated. It is crucial to take note that there are different reasons why low back pain occurs. Moreover, sufferers experience different types of symptoms which woulds affect treatment strategies. It is therefore important to understand what back pain is before delving into its treatments.

The Anatomy of the Lower Back

Familiarizing the anatomy of the lower back allows you to communicate with your healthcare providers better, especially when you are suffering from lower back pain. The lower back is the five lumbar vertebrae, referred to as L1 to L5 . These are odd-shaped vertebrae. They signify the end of the typical bones of the spinal column. The L5 vertebra, connected to the sacrum, is the last bone of the lumbar vertebrae .

The lumbar vertebrae have spaces between them, connected by rubbery pads that work like shock absorbers, called inter vertebral discs. Ligaments connect muscles to the vertebrae.

The lower back deep muscles are attached to the spinous processes. Three types of muscles, including the multifidus, spinalis, and longissimus, are associated with the lumbar vertebrae. The combination of these anatomical structures make up the lower back muscles and provide an effective support system to the spine. However, it also plays other vital functions as follows:

  • Protection: The lower back vertebrae protect the spinal as well as the nerve roots so that they can relay messages to the brain. Moreover, the rigid structure of the lumbar vertebrae and the inter vertebral discs are shock absorbers whenever we move.
  • Flexibility: The lower back region allows us to twist and bend or make a variety of movements.
  • Support: The lumbar vertebra is very strong and together with the muscles and connective tissues, it helps support the upper body thereby allowing us to stand upright with ease.

Facts about Low Back Pain

Having low back pain can impact your daily life. It is one of the most common pains that people complain about. The pain can range from a dull to sharp ache that makes it hard to move. But did you know that anyone can get low back pain?

Below are some fast facts about lower back pain that you need to know about:

  • More than 1/3 of American adults claim that low back pain affected their lives in engaging different tasks.   Affected activities include exercise (38%), sleep (37%) and daily living (39%) in general.
  • Low back pain is one of the most common pains that people complain about in their daily lives.
  • Around 72% of Americans who suffer from low back pain use pain medications to relieve symptoms. However, 55% use cold or heat packs as home remedy in treating low back pain.
  • Low back pain is not only common in people who spend too much time on their feet. In fact, 54% of Americans who are sitting all the time suffer from low back pain too.
  • Men are more likely to suffer from low back pain than women. Up to 31% of men suffer from lower back pain that is painful enough to affect their ability to function at work.
  • While it is a common condition in most adult Americans, it is surprising to take note that 37% of low back pain sufferers do not seek help from their doctors.

Causes of Lower Back Pain

Most low back pain is caused by mechanical reasons. In fact, it is commonly associated with spondylosis, which is a condition that is characterized by the degeneration of the spine due to wear and tear. However, there are also reasons why low back pain occurs. Let’s take a look at the other causes of low back pain.

  • Sprains and strains: A sprain is caused by overstretching the ligaments while a strain is caused by tears on the muscles and tendons. These conditions can occur by lifting a heavy item improperly or overstretching the muscles and ligaments.
  • Herniated discs: Also called ruptured discs, this condition occurs when there is compression of the intervertebral discs. Thus, creating a bulge of the disc which causes low back pain.
  • Intervertebral disc generation: This condition occurs when the rubbery discs lose their integrity due to aging. Intervertebral discs give height to each vertebra and allow you to bend and move your lower back. Once it deteriorates, they limit the movement of the vertebrae as well as lose their cushioning ability.
  • Sciatica: Sciatica is characterized by sciatic nerve compression. This nerve extends from the buttocks to the back of the leg. The compression of the sciatic nerve creates a burning sensation on the lower back, buttocks, and leg.
  • Traumatic injury: Traumatic injury such as car accidents, a fall or playing sports can injure the muscles, ligaments and tendons which will result in lower back pain. Aside from causing injury to the muscles, ligaments and tendons, traumatic injuries can also lead to spine compression, leading to intervertebral disc rupture.
  • Skeletal irregularities: Skeletal irregularities such as scoliosis or the curvature of the spine may cause pain on the lower back through time.
  • Infections: Infections, especially when they involve the vertebrae, can lead to low back pain. Spinal infection called osteomyelitis, although rare, can spread to the vertebrae of the lower spine. It is caused by bacteria like Propionibacterium.
  • Tumors: Tumors are rare but if they grow near your lumbar vertebrae, they can be very painful. Aside from painful low back, tumors can be malignant that can lead to cancer.
  • Kidney stones: Kidney stones often cause sharp pain particularly on one side of the lower back.

There are different causes for lower back pain and dismissing it as ordinary pain can be very dangerous. This is the reason why it is so important to seek a professional who can address your pain appropriately.

Chiropractic Care

While lower back pain is a very common problem for most people, it shouldn’t have to cause a lot of pain in your daily life. Think of it this way—you can still be active even if you suffer from low back pain. How? As long as you manage your low back pain. Chiropractic care for low back pain is one of the ways of treating pain without resorting to surgery. Discover Life Chiropractic in Tacoma, Washington can help you manage or cure your lower back pain.

Chiropractic Diagnosis

Reliable Tacoma chiropractors can provide a combination of treatments and exercise programs to treat your lower back pain, but they will take the complete history of your symptoms before any treatments can be made.

Your chiropractor will perform different tests such as a Surface EMG or X-ray so he/she can accurately find the cause of your problems. The chiropractor will have a clear picture on what he or she must deal with by doing these tests,. This will allow him or her to create a customized treatment program designed particularly for your own condition. The thing is that, discovering the root cause of the low back pain and creating the appropriate regimen is the main essence of good chiropractic care.

Chiropractic Treatments

Your chiropractor will determine the reason for your low back pain upon the completion of the tests, thus he or she can design the right treatment for your condition. There are different types of treatment options that are available for low back pain sufferers.

Some of the chiropractic treatments are listed below:

  • Spinal manipulation: Spinal manipulation is the safest chiropractic treatment for lower back pain. Also called spinal manipulative therapy, chiropractors use their hands to apply a controlled force to the joint of the affected spine. Chiropractors can also use a special device to aid in the manipulation of the spine. The amount of force applied largely depends on the form of manipulation used by the therapist, which includes a short arm thrust or high velocity thrust. The goal of this chiropractic treatment procedure is to improve the functionality, restore range of motions of the lower back, and reduce nerve irritability.
  • Chiropractic mobilization: Referring to low velocity manipulation, chiropractic mobilization involves moving and stretching the joints and muscles using slow movement. The goal of this treatment procedure is to increase the range of motions of the affected area.
  • Flexion distraction technique: This chiropractic technique is a gentle and non-thrusting type of spinal manipulation and is performed on a special chiropractic table.
  • Trigger point therapy: The chiropractor determines areas that are hypertonic or tight with this treatment procedure. Hypertonic areas are characterized by painful muscle points. Applying direct pressure using the fingers to relieve the tension is the best way to perform the trigger point therapy.
  • Therapeutic massage: Chiropractors can also perform therapeutic massage to improve the joint mobility and to return to the normal motion of the spine. Aside from therapeutic massage, the chiropractor will also recommend other types of therapeutic exercises.


Lower back pain can be a debilitating condition especially if not treated sooner. There are different treatment options to deal with low back pain and chiropractic care is one of the most effective and non-invasive treatments that you can rely on. If you have been treated with medication and physical therapy and are still suffering it’s about time you tried chiropractic. It’s time to try chiropractic if you have had back surgery and still have pain. At Discover Life Chiropractic we have successfully treated thousands of cases from failed back surgeries to car accidents to slips and falls with great results. Give us a call today to see if chiropractic can help you feel great again.

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Dr. David Hendrickson
Discover Life Chiropractic
5015 Tacoma Mall Blvd Ste E102
Tacoma, WA 98409
Phone#: (253) 472-4400

Chiropractic and Sciatica

Sciatica is a type of pain that is caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerve.

The compressed nerve root of the lower spine causes immense pain similar to a shooting leg cramp. Most people who suffer from this pain have difficulties walking or sitting.

Sciatica is characterized by putting pressure on the lumbar nerve and is cited as one of the most common reasons behind lower back pain.

According to the study released in the publication JAMA, more than $86 billion a year is spent in the United States for the treatment of sciatica and other lower back pain syndromes. It is also important to take note that four out of five adult Americans suffer from lower back pain during their lifetime, as reported in National Institute of Health. If you suffer from sciatica or know someone who suffers from it, it is important to learn more about this debilitating condition.

Understanding Sciatica

Sciatica is not considered as a diagnosis, but merely a description of symptoms that comprise lower back pain. It is characterized by putting pressure on the lumbar nerve roots that cause pain in all points of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the large nerve that originates from the lower back. It is located near the spine, travels through the pelvis region, deep towards the buttock area, and then through the legs. It is considered as the widest and longest nerve in the body.

The pain felt due to compressed sciatica can vary from numb tingling to a shooting burning sensation. The pain occurs mainly on one side but can radiate to the buttocks down to the legs and feet. Patients who suffer from sciatica reports that pain gets worse on certain occasions that involve standing or sitting for long periods of time, sneezing or laughing, and after bending or walking for a long time. It is important to take note that sciatica pain usually subsides within six weeks, but if you are suffering from any underlying conditions, the pain may persist or get worse. It is important to seek professional help and deal with sciatica pain.

Facts About Sciatica

Sciatica pain can either range from a minor nuisance to a debilitating condition. It is described as a set of symptoms of an underlying medical condition. This is the reason why it is also dubbed as lower back pain. Below are the facts that you need to know about sciatica.

•   The common underlying condition of sciatica varies and depends on the age of individuals. Those who are under 60, the common causes include degenerative disc disease, lumbar herniated disc, and isthmic spondylolisthesis. Patients who are more than 60 years old suffer from sciatica probably because of degenerative spondylolisthesis and lumbar stenosis.

•   Sciatica also comes in different names such as lumbar radiculopathy and lower back pain to name a few so don’t be confused if you hear the terms being used interchangeably.

•   It accounts for 3% to 4% of the population suffering from temporary disability. In fact, it is cited as one of the most common reasons behind lower back pain.

Sciatic Nerve Anatomy

The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest single nerve in the body. It is as big as the thumb, particularly at its largest point. It supplies the strength as well as sensation to the legs. It connects the spinal cord to the muscles of the lower extremities like hamstrings, thighs as well as the lower leg and feet. Thus, if this nerve is impaired, it leads to the weakening of the muscles and the tingling or numbness of the lower extremities.

Sciatica is cited as one of the most common reasons behind lower back pain.

The sciatic nerve originates from the lower spine and exits the spinal cord through the gaps in the vertebrae. It is made up of five
nerves and is formed on the left side of the lower spine by the fourth and fifth lumbar nerves as well as the first three nerves in the sacral spine.

The nerve that exits the spine between the L4 and L5 lumbar segment is dubbed as the L5 nerve root while the nerve that exits between the L5 and Sacral Segment 1 is called the S1 nerve root.

Causes of Sciatica

It is crucial to understand the underlying causes of sciatica pain to effectively treat the condition.

Below are the common causes of lower back pain that are also associated with sciatica pain.

•   Lumbar herniated disc: A herniated disc forms when the soft inner components of the disc leak out through the outer core. It is also termed as a ruptured disc, protruding disc or pinched nerve. It is the most common cause of sciatica pain because the protrusion can cause compression or pinching of the nerve.

Herniated disc chiropractor Tacoma

•   Isthmic spondylolisthesis: This condition happens when there is stress on one vertebra which results in its slipping forward and towards another vertebra. For instance, the L5 vertebra slipping forward to the S1 vertebra can cause compression of the sciatic nerve.

•   Degenerative disc disease: Disc degeneration is a natural process that is associated with aging. However, this condition causes irritation of the sciatic nerve causing compression. Bone spurs are also related to degenerative disc disease that can press against the sciatic nerve, thereby causing pain.

•   Lumbar spinal stenosis: This condition is characterized by the narrowing of the spinal canal. It commonly occurs with spinal arthritis. This condition is often associated with the aging process and is common in the older adult.

•   Piriformis syndrome: This condition happens when the piriformis muscle of the buttock pinches the nerve root, resulting in sciatic pain.

•   Subluxation dysfunction: The misalignment of the sacroiliac joint and lower lumbar spine can cause irritation of the L3-5 nerve roots and cause sciatica-like pain.

Chiropractic Care

Medicine can help, but Tacoma chiropractic care may be a better alternative.

Common treatments of sciatica include taking pain medication or undergoing surgery. However, there are other alternatives that are far more effective than these treatments. Chiropractic care for sciatica is one of the methods of treating the pain without undergoing surgery. If you happen to be in Washington, you can approach Tacoma Chiropractors to help you manage your pain.

Chiropractic Assessment

Chiropractic assessment of sciatica uses the triage concept to classify the causes of the low back pain. The reason for this assessment is to find out the root cause of sciatica so that the Tacoma chiropractors will be able to devise a way on how to treat the sciatica pain.

Your chiropractor will perform different tests in the office to determine how chiropractic can help. They will also request any appropriate medical information from other providers in order to have a clear picture of what you are really suffering from. After your evaluation the doctor will sit down with you and go over the treatment options and an expected timeline in which you should see changes.

Chiropractic Treatment

There are three types of chiropractic treatment for sciatica: Traction, Ice Therapy, and Spinal Adjustments.

Reliable Tacoma chiropractors examine the root cause of your sciatic pain. Based on the examination, the treatments used by Tacoma chiropractors are based on the notion that restriction in the spinal movement often leads to reduced function and pain. Moreover, they may perform non-invasive procedures to help heal the body from sciatica pain. Below are the chiropractic treatments available for treating sciatica pain.

•      Traction: This can involve lying on foam wedges or towels to stretch spasmed tissues and help maintain alignment after an adjustment. It can also involve motorized traction like Leander to stretch and restore motion to individual segments

•      Ice Therapy: This treatment reduces the inflammation on the affected area and is used to control and manage sciatica pain.

•      Spinal adjustments: The core of chiropractic care for sciatica and other back pain is the spinal adjustment. This method frees the restricted movement of the spine as well as corrects the misaligned vertebrae. It helps reduce the irritability of the nerve that causes pain, spasms, and other sciatica symptoms.


Sciatica can cause debilitating pain that can result in both short term and long term disability. At Discover Life Chiropractic we have seen many of both types of cases in the 25 years of treating clients.

Too often we see patients after surgery and they wish their doctor had referred them to chiropractic first because now they have daily pain since the surgery didn’t work. Don’t let that be you! Before deciding to go for surgical treatment or injections come in for a chiropractic evaluation to determine if we can help. Let’s evaluate you and sit down and talk about your options in conservative treatment. Then you can decide the best course for you.

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