If your lower back pain is so uncomfortable that you’re thinking about seeking treatment, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 85% of back pain sufferers find they require some sort of outside intervention to get relief.
Unfortunately, doctors can’t agree on how to treat lower back pain, primarily because it’s so difficult to identify the source of it. That’s why physicians often recommend a variety of approaches, including rest, heat, exercise, pain medication, stretching, and chiropractic care.
Can Chiropractors Help Relieve Lower Back Pain?
When back pain occurs, it can feel excruciating. Whether it happens frequently or it’s your first experience with back pain, chiropractors can help by using a technique called spinal manipulation. Practitioners use their hands to apply a sudden - yet controlled - force to a specific joint of your spine.
It might sound a little scary, but a licensed, experienced chiropractor is trained to use this technique in the most gentle and effective way.
How do they know where to apply this force? By using their hands to find trouble spots on your back, chiropractors are able to test a patient’s response to pressure. But they also rely on diagnostic tools like thermography to determine where a patient needs to be adjusted.
But can a chiropractor really help with lower back pain? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has published these results from recent studies:
- Adults with recent-onset acute lower back pain found greater short-term relief after spinal manipulation versus standard medical care. (2015 NCCIH)
- In an analysis that included 1,700 participants and 15 randomized controlled trials, researchers determined that spinal manipulation can modestly improve pain and increased function in those suffering from acute lower back pain. (2017 NIH)
- In 2017, guidelines published by The American College of Physicians (ACP) suggest that spinal manipulation is one of many therapeutic treatments that may help those with acute or chronic lower back pain.
- A 2018 study involving 750 active duty military personnel with lower back pain found that those who received chiropractic care in addition to standard medical care reported the following after six weeks:
- Less pain intensity
- Improvement in function and less disability
- Higher satisfaction with their treatment
- Less need for pain medication
Should I See a Chiropractor or Massage Therapist for Lower Back Pain?
How can you decide whether you should see a chiropractor or massage therapist for your lower back pain? Well, it may help to see both practitioners, as you’ll learn a few paragraphs down. However, it’s important to describe the ways in which the two professions differ.
Chiropractors focus on spine health, as the spine is a vitally important extension of the central nervous system. Because the spine is their specialty, chiropractors must be extremely knowledgeable about it, and they use a number of techniques - such as X-rays or lab tests - to determine the correct area to manipulate. And a chiropractor doesn’t work in a bubble. He or she often consults with other physicians and specialists during treatment.
If you’re wondering what it feels like to receive spinal manipulation, here’s the honest truth. At your visit with a chiropractor, popping back noises may alarm you, but most people say it feels good.
While there are different theories as to why it helps - either releasing gases or moving fluid around - it’s safe to hear popping and cracking noises. But you may feel soreness, stiffness, or have some inflammation after a treatment session, and that’s where massage therapy can be beneficial as an add-on treatment.
How are massage therapists different from chiropractors? Licensed massage therapists focus on stimulating muscles, and their techniques are not directly related to pain associated with the spine, joints, or tendons. Massage can help decrease the inflammation and discomfort you may experience after chiropractic treatment, but it can also help to improve mood, increase energy, and aid relaxation. There are plenty of reasons why you would want to schedule an appointment with a massage therapist after a chiropractic session.
When Should I See a Chiropractor for Lower Back Pain?
If you’re experiencing a sudden onset of acute lower back pain, you should visit your regular physician to rule out any other sources of the pain that may be more serious. But if your doctor too quickly suggests that you should take pain medication, injections, or consider surgery, you may want to first see if chiropractic treatment can help.
Chiropractors aim to use non-surgical and drug-free approaches as a starting point, and much of the time, lower back pain can be resolved with these kinds of conservative treatments.
Chiropractor for Lower Back Pain Austin
Do you currently need lower back pain relief? Austin’s First Wellness Family Chiropractic may be able to help. Whether you experienced a recent injury or have a lower back pulled muscle, Austin residents and those in the surrounding area should feel confident that First Wellness can design a customized course of treatment that’s best for you.
We provide full transparency in helping you to choose treatment options, and that’s why after a thorough examination, we’ll discuss our findings, and explain exactly what they mean. Contact us to learn more about our practice and to understand how spine health can impact the quality of your life.