Imagine spending a great deal of time sitting at a work desk. The aches and stiffness come and go, but most of your colleagues complain intermittently, too. Then one day, as you rise from your chair, pain grips your lower back — sharp, throbbing, or shooting pain that takes your attention away from life and onto your back! This time you need to see an expert, and pronto.
With so many therapists claiming expertise is the back-pain realm, who should you see first? A chiropractor, osteopath, acupuncturist, maybe a massage therapist or even an orthopedic surgeon?
This guide will help you to choose an appropriate back doctor.
Visit a chiropractor to treat your back pain by aligning your spine
Our spine is made up of 24 cervical, thoracic, and lumbar vertebrae, plus our sacrum and coccyx. Add an 8-pound head that is beautifully balanced up top and our stabilizing pelvis connected down below. It’s no wonder things can go wrong. Each bone connects to the next via a joint that allows a certain amount of finely controlled movement. As we flex and bend, the movement helps to keep our joints healthy.
Many jobs, however, require us to sit for hours every day. That, in essence, goes against our natural design.
This stagnancy causes imbalances through the spinal column, leads to muscular strain and reduces function. Often joint dysfunction will manifest as pain exacerbated by movement, a locked sensation, inflammation and tenderness that can be felt directly over the affected joint. This type of minor pain can be relieved by the application of ice. In addition, a chiropractor can help you restore your alignment.
Chiropractors aim to promote healthy joint function and improve nervous system function: to improve how the nerves “talk” to the body. This is often done through small applications of direct, controlled force. Research shows that chiropractic treatment “is a valuable conservative treatment modality associated with clinically relevant improvement [in] chronic LBP [low back pain].”
For minor, short term pain, chiropractic care can also deliver improvements in pain and function.
Add an osteopath to your back pain treatment regimen for a holistic approach to your care
Osteopaths are medical doctors who focus on a holistic approach to wellbeing. As the Doctors That DO website says, osteopaths see “an interrelated unity in all systems of the body.” This equips these health experts to assess whether pain is strictly related to the back or caused by other environmental and lifestyle factors.
There are some potential technique similarities between chiropractors and osteopaths. These professions both focus on restoring the movement of “stuck” joints through the use of appropriate force. Both may use soft tissue techniques including massage, however, Chiropractors deliver adjustments while osteopaths offer high velocity, low amplitude manipulations.
Research shows that osteopathic manipulations “clearly demonstrate a statistically significant reduction in low back pain.”
Get physical therapy when you need to restore your range of motion, strength, and flexibility
If your pain is making it hard for you to complete your daily activities, like washing your dishes or sitting in a chair at your desk job, and its lasted 2-6 weeks; you may benefit from physical therapy. Physical therapy is particularly popular after series injuries or surgeries, however those with herniated or bulging discs can also benefit from the therapy.
In some ways, you can call physical therapy the yoga of medicine without the spirituality. In essence, you can learn appropriate postures, how to sit and stand appropriately in your daily life or line of work, and exercises that you can do to strengthen the muscles that hold your body together.
The physical therapist commonly offers active techniques including:
- Back stretching exercises like hamstring stretches like trying to touch your toes calf exercises like lunges.
- Strength exercises to offer the spine more support building muscle in your core (stomach area) and back.
- Low impact aerobic sports such as swimming, walking, or cycling—nothing that jars the spine like running
Once you learn the techniques in session, you are encouraged to work on the exercises at home.
Additionally, a physical therapist may offer passive techniques for serious pain such as:
- Ice/heat packs to reduce swelling or numb the pain.
- Ultrasound therapy with heat waves that are sent to the muscles and joints, to increase blood flow to the area of pain (much how camphor and menthol work, the active pharmaceutical ingredients in many pain relief topicals like CBDMEDIC™’s pain relief products).
- Trancutaneous electronerve stimulators (TENS) to stimulate the sensory nerves with a tingling sensation that can reduce the feeling of pain.
- Iontophoresis, a method of delivering medicine through the skin through via small electrical currents.
The passive techniques are more appropriate for serious injuries or conditions, while the active techniques will benefit any mobile person without major limitations to movement. If muscles and joint soreness is an issue, you can also use a pain relief cream with menthol and camphor in it to ease the pain before, during, or after your routine, like CBDMEDIC’s Back & Neck Pain Relief Ointment. Many consider this to be our best back pain cream.
Consider acupuncture treatment to relieve back pain without pressure
The ancient healing modality of acupuncture dates back millennia. Its knowledge has been honed over time and is particularly well accepted within Asia, however its benefits are controversial in the West. This Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) technique aims to restore the energy (qi, pronounced chi) back into balance by inserting tiny needles into the patient’s body.
While TCM explains that the needle accesses 350 points in the body to allow the qi to flow through meridians or pathways, Western medicine points to stimulation points for the promotion of blood flow in muscles, nerves, and connective tissue (again, much how menthol and camphor has been shown to work).
If you have a needle phobia, this therapeutic art and science may not be for you. However, if your back is too tender to treat with manual manipulation or massage, acupuncture could be a viable option.
If you have brittle bones — for example, osteoporosis or bone cancer, if you experience exacerbation of pain on physical pressure, or you simply prefer a lighter touch, consider consulting with an acupuncturist.
Research indicates this approach provides short-term pain relief and delivers improved function for those with chronic low back pain and its associated disability. While the use of needles may illicit fear, one study noted that, “The benefit of pain reduction… appeared to outweigh self-rated bothersome reactions to treatment.”
Visit a massage therapist for minor back pain to relieve muscle tension
Our muscles can become tight, hard, and tender and produce pain locally and in distant regions. When we sit constantly, the muscles that connect our lower spine to our upper legs often shorten and those that should support optimal posture fatigue and weaken. This can lead to what’s called myofascial pain syndromes (MPS): discomfort caused by a muscle or muscles and their accompanying trigger points.
MPS are super common. Some estimates suggest they form part of the clinical picture for up to 95% of back pain sufferers who consult at general and pain clinics. It often feels persistent, is described as a tightness or an ache, can limit normal range of motion, and can vary from mild to severe.
The usual treatment includes massage. There are many different types including
- deep tissue, a deep pressure massage with deep, long strokes used to treat musculoskeletal issues, sports injuries, muscle strains, and really sore muscles (a massage that is not recommended for people who are sensitive to strong pressure, but a favorite for people who love the added pressure)
- trigger point therapy, a technique that utilizes rubbing and pressure on specific trigger points that target the pain.
- Shiatsu, a Japanese finger pressure massage
- Tui Na, a Chinese Medicine massage technique that aims to restore the body’s energy balance with pressure techniques
- many others
These therapeutic approaches may work on two levels: muscle and mental relaxation.
Massage therapy has been shown to be effective for the relief of long term back pain. These beneficial results may last for many months, however you may need a few sessions to relieve those tired, achy muscles.
You can ask your massage therapist to use a massage oil with camphor and menthol to ease the pain with natural analgesics — or you can bring your CBDMEDIC Massage Therapy Pain Relief Oil with you to session. The camphor and menthol will offer a heat and cold sensation to soothe your aching muscles and joints while the aromatherapy benefits of frankincense and myrrh can soothe you through your olfactory system.
Consult an orthopedic surgeon for back pain when your symptoms are severe, chronic, or health-related
We’ve left orthopedic surgeon until last because, as the name suggests, the treatments are often more invasive in nature. While conservative approaches work best for most people, there are red flags that indicate an orthopedic opinion is important.
If your pain has been caused by sudden trauma like a heavy fall, a significant sporting injury or a motor vehicle accident, you may need this expert’s opinion.
You should seek the opinion of a medical expert like an orthopedic surgeon if you experience
- leg weakness
- urinary or fecal incontinence
- numbness around your saddle area
- if you have a history of cancer and acute back pain
- if you experience an accompanying fever
- have a history of weakened bones
Treatment options may include spinal injections or surgery.
For some therapies, there are technique similarities. Particular professionals may be trained in a number of overlapping approaches. And some — like massage and chiropractic care — complement each other. Finding the right expert to help your back pain may take a little trial and error. This article should help short cut your journey to the right health professional to ease your back pain. There are also ways to relieve pain naturally at home.
Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only. It has not been approved by the FDA to diagnose, treat, prevent, cure, or mitigate any diseases or conditions. We use CBD in our products for cosmetic purposes only.