I’m dealing with pain and I’m wondering if I should visit a chiropractor. What kinds of issues do chiropractors specialize in?
Chiropractors are physical medicine physicians, meaning that they specialize in muscles, joints, and biomechanics. Many chiropractors are also beginning to specialize in functional medicine and movement patterns. The way that chiropractic care is trending, it is becoming the first line of treatment for back and neck conditions.
Spine conditions are the most common type of issue that leads people to the chiropractor. We offer noninvasive treatments without the use of medication or surgery. Family physicians, orthopedists, and neurosurgeons will also use these modalities, but chiropractors use a hands-on approach to diagnose the problem. From there, manipulation and adjustments will be used to treat these types of neck and low back conditions.
I woke up with significant low back pain after playing ball with my child. Can I just manage my pain at home?
It’s likely to be a sprain/strain type of injury due to overuse. Those of us who sit at a desk all day long tend to have low back pain when we perform an activity that we’re not used to. If the issue doesn’t resolve itself within two to three days, it’s probably a good idea to visit our office to see what’s wrong.
Is pain medication a good idea, or will it just mask my issue?
Some chiropractors are on the anti-medication side of the spectrum. I’m on the other side—I think there are circumstances where we stand to benefit from medications. The problem, however, with long-term use of pain medications (like opioids or narcotics) is that it makes us feel better by masking the pain. It could be counterproductive because you’re continuing to perform daily activities that are aggravating the condition and making it get even worse.
If you’ve been taking pain medication for acute low back pain for several weeks, it’s obviously not working to resolve the underlying issue. The medication should help make you mobile enough to get the issue checked out. We can develop a game plan involving the use of exercise and evidence-based treatment.
What are my options in terms of treatment?
The most important aspect of treatment is patient education. Once we determine the issue, we need to talk about the underlying cause and what can be done to prevent it from coming back. Of course, there are many times when we can’t pinpoint a single cause—it’s often more of a cumulative effect.
As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, exercise is becoming a very important aspect of treatment. Research is showing that a first line of defense for general low back pain and neck pain is exercise and stretching. This is why it’s very important that patients visit someone that recommends these activities along with manipulation or adjustments. There is good evidence showing that soft tissue techniques such as active release therapy are very effective as well.
The most typical response to something like a back injury is to get a prescription from your primary care physician. While pain medication, anti-inflammatories, or muscle relaxants are some great treatment options, research shows that combining them with manipulation, exercise, and perhaps massage can drastically reduce recovery time. The efficiency of healing is increased, and you get better quicker.
It’s also important to find a chiropractor who has a good relationship with other physicians. It may be necessary to refer the patient to a pain specialist, orthopedist, or primary care physician.
Chiropractors should continue to position themselves as a back specialists that serve as a portal of entry. If someone comes to me, my goal is to get them better. That means I need to make a good recommendation whether it’s treatment within this office or making a referral to see someone else.
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