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Chronic Lower back Pain – Tim's Story.

Lower back pain is one of the most common ailments affecting modern man.  It is also one of the most poorly understood health problems out there.  When we consider that 75-80% of the population will develop significant lower back pain in their lifetime, and over half of those people will go on to experience either recurrent episodes or develop a chronic life-long problem, it becomes clear that we are dealing with an epidemic of sorts; one that greatly affects our productivity, our quality of life, and our general well-being.

I want to share with you the story of one of my patients.  To protect his anonymity, we will call him Tim.  A 67 year-old retired public servant, Tim came in to my office last year hoping I could help with his very severe lower back problem.  He had been suffering with recurrent episodes of lower back pain for over 30 years.  In the last 10 years his pain had become chronic and unremitting, and progressively more severe, and he was now experiencing very frequent episodes, weekly to fortnightly, where his lower back would just give way under his weight resulting in sudden, sharp and severe pain that would disable him for a number of days.  He could not stand nor sit for longer than 5-10 minutes without his pain increasing, and he could do no amount of light physical work, exercise, or activity without his back either giving way or becoming so painful that he was crippled for days.

For over 30 years, Tim had never sought treatment of any sort.  His GP had told him it was ‘arthritis’ and that he would just have to live with it.  He was prescribed anti-inflammatories when his pain was severe, was told to rest, and was discouraged by his GP from seeking any form of treatment (or even a 2nd opinion) warning that it might make him worse.  Tim believed he was a lost cause, with no options and no hope.

Tim came to me for his consultation believing that no one could help him.  He was afraid to move and was terrified to even allow me examine his back.  We wore a lower back support belt, which he feared removing, and he moved with very stiff robotic motions guarding his lower back for fear it would give way.  With even the slightest touch to his back, Tim would tighten up in spasm and twist in discomfort.  Although it took twice as long to examine him, we were able to assess him thoroughly enough to determine that his back pain was structural (ie. related improper joint function) and not pathological (ie. related to disease or illness).

Tim’s x-rays did show moderate-severe degenerative (wear and tear) changes, however we know now from research that degenerative change on an x-ray does not equal arthritis unless it is allowed to progress to a very severe state.  We explained to Tim that degenerative change at a joint is simply the by-product of a long-standing mechanical problem caused by restricted or improper joint motion and/or faulty joint alignment.  This mechanical problem, often referred to as the Vertebral Subluxation Complex, is extremely common (meaning it is present in most of us) and, thankfully, is generally correctable.  If you correct the mechanical problem, restoring proper position and motion to spinal segments, a person can usually regain normal pain-free function.

The key to correction of mechanical lower back pain is always early intervention.  This is why Chiropractors, much like Dentists, encourage regular check-ups to help people correct problems as they develop and to maintain good spinal function for optimum health.  For patients like Tim however, when we are well past the possibility of early intervention, we talk more in terms of ‘spinal rehabilitation’.  A 30-year problem for example will never disappear in a few weeks.  Anybody who tells you different is misleading you.  While symptoms can often improve quite quickly through the process of corrective treatment, full resolution is another matter altogether.  Reality dictates (and research confirms) that chronic and longstanding back problems will generally respond in a reliable and steady manner over a period of many months.  If treatment recommendations and lifestyle modifications are adhered to with some degree of consistency and diligence, most people will find joy and a positive result at the end of a well targeted program of back or spinal rehabilitation.

Just ask Tim, who took a leap of faith when he started his lower back rehabilitation, and has been suitably rewarded for his courage.  Tim improved nicely from month to month through his Chiropractic treatment noticing steady improvements in his condition.  The sharp, severe, sudden episodes decreased steadily, and then disappeared after his 3rd month of care.  His more chronic, achy, and unremitting pain also improved.  At first he would only see a few hours of relief, but eventually a few hours became a few days, and more recently he can now claim a few weeks of pain-free function.  He can sit and stand normally now, and has gone back to regular walking with no problems.  He mentioned recently that he washed the car with no pain for the first time in over 30 years!  You should’ve seen the smile on his face.

We are now 7 months into his program of care and I anticipate Tim will require another 3-4 months of work to eliminate his pain, optimise his back function, and ensure the best possible long-term outcome.  However, Tim’s story is one of extremes.  Thankfully for most of us, we encounter less severe, less frequent, and less debilitating forms of back and neck pain, and usually a shorter course of corrective treatment is required.  Early intervention is always the key, as the amount of work required to fix a neck or lower back problem is generally proportional to the amount of time the person has had the problem (and not necessarily related to the severity of one’s pain).  Keeping this in mind, there is never a bad time to address a back or neck problem, or even to arrange a spinal check-up with your local Chiropractor.

Through his lower back trials and tribulations, Tim has learned valuable lessons:  You will get out of your body what you invest into it!  And never lose hope or the will to get better.

Chiropractors are highly trained Doctors specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders affecting the spine and extremities.  There is an emphasis on correction and rehabilitation in addition to basic pain relief.  Chiropractors specialize in the administration of various manual therapies, including forms of spinal and extremity manipulation, to address and often correct the underlying cause of pain and dysfunction.  Chiropractic treatment is safe and effective for persons of all ages, including children and the elderly.  If you or a loved one are suffering from any form of physical pain or injury, it is very likely that a Chiropractor can help you.  Contact your local Chiropractor to book a consultation and take your first step toward recovery.

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