Visiting a chiropractor for back pain may have been viewed in the past as a last-ditch attempt to do something about back pain. Some patients will use this complementary medical practice only when all traditional options are exhausted. Turns out, you might want to see a chiropractor for back pain sooner rather than later. Chiropractic care for back pain works not only for prevention but also as a first-line treatment for many conditions.
Why you should see a chiropractor for back pain
Low back pain is a common affliction, with eight out of ten adults experiencing back pain at some point in their lives.
Visiting a chiropractor for back pain
Chiropractic care first became a treatment option in 1895. D.D. Palmer had a friend with deafness in one ear. Noticing a vertebrae out of place, Palmer adjusted his friend and restored his hearing. Palmer had also had success in treating a friend with cardiovascular issues before, noting:
“I had a case of heart trouble which was not improving. I examined the spine and found a displaced vertebra pressing against the nerves, which innervate the heart. I adjusted the vertebra and gave immediate relief — nothing ‘accidental’ or ‘crude’ about this. Then I began to reason if two diseases, so dissimilar as deafness and heart trouble, came from impingement, a pressure on nerves, were not other disease due to a similar cause? Thus the science (knowledge) and art (adjusting) of Chiropractic were formed at that time.”
D.D. Palmer’s legacy continues at a school created in his name. Palmer College of Chiropractic believes that many (if not all) conditions can be treated with chiropractic, but there are other chiropractic colleges that incorporate traditional treatments in a more holistic manner.
Finding a chiropractor near me
Finding a highly-recommended, licensed chiropractor will help ensure that you experience relief from low back pain.
To find a good chiropractor for back pain, ask your physician, physical therapist, or other medical professionals for recommendations. Alternatively, you can search an online database, like this one from the American Chiropractic Association, to find a licensed chiropractor near you. If you’re concerned about your chiropractic care being covered by insurance, call your insurance agent to get a list of local chiropractors in your insurance network.
Before going in for your first chiropractic adjustment, consider letting your physician know in advance – especially if you have any medical conditions. Remember that it’s okay to call and chat with a chiropractor about any medical conditions, concerns, or questions before going in for an adjustment. During your first visit with a chiropractor for back pain, you may be X-rayed or be given an examination. You will probably also be asked about your symptoms, medical conditions, and any medication use.
If you’re nervous, let the chiropractor know that, too. He or she should be more than willing to discuss your concerns. If a particular method of chiropractic adjustment makes you uncomfortable or causes discomfort, speak up. There are over 100 named techniques of spinal manipulation therapy, so your chiropractor should know other ways to accomplish the same goal without making you uncomfortable. Let’s take a look at what those are now.
Chiropractic adjustments for back pain
When the spine is misaligned, it can cause pain, difficultly moving, or impaired nerve function. Doctors of Chiropractic, who study chiropractic care and its application, perform chiropractic adjustments to manipulate the spine. A chiropractic adjustment can be done manually or with the help of tools. There are a number of manual chiropractic techniques used when you visit a chiropractor for back pain, that we’ll discuss in more detail below.
In addition to relieving neck and back pain, chiropractic care can relieve muscle stress around the spine, increase range of motion, and improve muscle strength. People who receive chiropractic care might also be able to decrease medication use and recover from injuries more quickly.
1. Spinal manipulation
The most common method a chiropractor for back pain uses is called spinal manipulation, also called spinal manipulative therapy or spinal adjustment. This technique helps to realign the spine and surrounding muscles without surgical intervention. Spinal manipulation therapy, which is the basis of chiropractic care, involves the application of a controlled force. This force is applied to joints that are restricted in movement by tissue injury. These tissue injuries can occur as a result of trauma, such as falling down or incorrectly lifting a heavy object, or as the result of repetitive stress, such as spending hours sitting in an awkward position at the desk.
During spinal manipulation, a chiropractor applies pressure to the spine by hand or with a special instrument. Every person’s body is different, but the chiropractor will use his or her expertise to evaluate your spine and make the necessary adjustments. By realigning vertebrae that have moved from their proper places—called subluxation—a chiropractor works to reduce pressure on any pinched nerves, giving your spine the space it needs to bend and flex with reduced pain.
The following video shows how a chiropractic adjustment is performed.
Chiropractic adjustment techniques
The specific techniques chiropractors for back pain use to achieve this can include:
- Direct thrust technique (or high velocity low amplitude thrust): When people talk about getting their back “cracked,” this technique is what they are talking about. A chiropractor uses a high-velocity force to realign a specific part of the spine, such as the neck.
- Articulatory: The chiropractor moves joints through their range of motion to increase the amount of movement. This could include circling wrists, ankles, or shoulders. This is a gentle, low-velocity technique.
- Functional technique: In this technique, the chiropractor applies pressure to a tight joint until they feel a release.
- Muscle energy: Patients participate in this technique. The chiropractor will ask the patient to resist in the opposite direction of the chiropractor. This helps increase range of motion.
- Myofascial release: Similar to acupressure, myofascial release identifies areas of tension in the fascia and uses sustained pressure to relax them. The fascia is a thin membrane that covers and connects all of the muscles of the body. When this is tense or tight, muscle tension and spinal misalignment can occur.
- Table adjustments: For a gentler way to apply direct pressure for spinal adjustments, your chiropractor may use a special table that has a drop piece. This piece releases at the same time as the chiropractor applies a direct thrust to the spine. This allows for the same type of adjustment as a toggle drop but with less force applied.
- Manipulation with anesthesia: Adjustments under light anesthesia are only indicated when a patient is unresponsive to traditional adjustments. Patients who are tense, nervo