Up to 80% of all people will suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives. It is the #1 cause of disability in the United States. While lower back pain is very common, it is not normal. Lower back pain is so common because there are many mechanical and soft tissue injuries that can result in low back pain like damage to the intervertebral discs, compression or stretching of the nerve root, improper movement of the spinal joints, not to mention our modern-day sedentary lifestyle which irritates the low back and causes it to degenerate.
Low back pain can be triggered by issues with our muscles, ligaments, spinal discs, or stress.
If our muscles are too tight, through overuse, sports injuries, repetitive exercise, postural imbalances, and excessive stress, they can pull the spine out of position. This can also cause muscles to compensate for the poor structure starting a feedback loop of pain and dysfunction.
Our ligaments hold our bones together. They can be overstretched and damaged, and if they don’t stay hydrated they can dry out, crack, and lose their integrity.
Spinal discs are criss-cross fibers that sit in between each vertebra. In the center of the disc there’s a soft gelatinous substance called a nucleus pulposus, very similar to a jelly doughnut. If there is too much pressure on the disc, due to a vertebra being out of position, the nucleus pulposus can herniate and put pressure on the spinal nerves. This can be very painful, causing weakness, muscle cramps, and numbness and tingling down into the legs. Like ligaments, spinal discs need to stay hydrated in order to be healthy and that hydration comes from movement and drinking water.
An acute issue is usually an action or injury that causes low back pain to begin. A chronic issue is a long-standing problem, something you’ve been doing repeatedly that is aggravating the area. As time goes on it’ll get worse and worse. If they’re not taken care of, acute issues can become chronic issues. That’s why it’s so important to seek chiropractic care for low back pain right away before an issue snowballs into something worse.
How We Treat Lower Back Pain in Newport Beach, CA
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
With every new patient, we’ll conduct an in-depth consultation about your low back problems where we will review your health history to understand what led up to the pain you’re experiencing and how it is affecting your life. We’ll start palpating (feeling) your spine looking for misalignments, or what we call subluxations.
We’ll take a picture of your posture and measure any discrepancies like head tilt to high shoulders or a shifted pelvis to determine the severity of your misalignments. This also allows us to do comparison studies to measure the success of your care. We will perform a series of nerve scans to see how the misalignments are affecting the way your body is functioning. An EMG, that measures electrical activity in your back muscles, will send electrical impulses through your paravertebral muscles so that we can tell how tight your muscles are and the location of the tension. A thermal scan will assess your autonomic control and tell us where the primary subluxations will be. These scans measure the heat coming off of your body and don’t use any radiation, they are non-invasive and don’t cause any discomfort. A heart rate variability test will tell us how stressed your system is in a restful state and how much reserves you have left to heal yourself. We also use digital X-rays, when necessary, to see how many misalignments you have, how long they’ve been there, and what phase of degeneration they might be in.
All of this information will paint a clear picture of what’s going on and will help us get to the root cause of your issue. Together, we’ll review our report of findings so you know what we found, if we can help you, what our best recommendations are, and the most cost-effective plans we have available to begin care.
Specific Chiropractic Care | Newport Beach, CA
Once we’ve done a thorough evaluation of your spine and nervous system, we’ll have a better idea of where you have subluxations. A subluxation is a misalignment of the spine that interferes with the nervous system, keeping the brain and body from effectively communicating with one another leading to malfunction and pain.
You live your life through the nervous system. If there is interference with that system it’s like putting garbage into your brain and your brain spitting garbage out. At Priestley Family Chiropractic, our specific chiropractic adjustments remove subluxations and relieve the pressure and interference on the nerves. Once we’ve corrected those misalignments or subluxations, the nervous system can function at 100% and eliminate pain.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
There are many assets to improving and maintaining your health. Once we correct your spinal structure and get it in a better position, it needs to be strengthened to support that new structure. Stretches, muscle strengthening, and core exercises also help to maintain your adjustments. After your initial evaluation, we’ll email you specific exercises to first stretch the tight muscles and strengthen the weak ones so that we can improve the balance in your spine and in your muscles. When you come to the office we will go through each one of the recommended exercises with you to make sure you’re doing them correctly and for your functional assessment. These exercises are intended for you to do at home to continue your care even when you’re not in the office, we will monitor your progress and ensure proper form to prevent future injury.
Common Causes of Low Back Pain in Newport Beach, CA
Bulged Lumbar Disc
One of the things we often see in Newport Beach are bulged lumbar discs. When the spine is not in its proper position it puts more pressure on one side of the disc than the other. The pressure can force the disc fibers to tear or the nucleus pulposus, the gel-like substance in the middle of the disc, to break through the outer layer.
Discs are made up of crisscross fibers that go from one vertebra to the other. They’re movable and are hydrated through the movement of the spine. You will often hear us say, “movement is life and lack of movement is lack of life”. It’s so important for the body to have movement to keep these discs hydrated. That’s one of the reasons why our sedentary lifestyle and constant sitting is such a huge problem for low back pain. Without movement, the discs begin to dehydrate and the weight of gravity pushes any fluid that they might have out of the disc, which makes them brittle and weak.
Picture a spinal disc as a sponge. When it’s wet, it’s soft and supple, it can move, bend, and twist. When that sponge dries out over time, you leave it on the counter for the day and go about your business, it becomes hard and brittle. If you try to bend it, it’ll crack. If you put water back on it, it’ll soften up and be pliable, making it much more effective at its job. Chiropractic adjustments help keep discs hydrated, supple, and effective.
A disc herniation is one step past a bulge. A disc herniates when the nucleus breaks out of the outer layer of the disc. This can be excruciating and debilitating causing radiating pain, like sciatica, muscle spasms, numbness & tingling, and even muscle weakness.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative Disc Disease is another form of arthritis. Over time, through accumulative bad habits like poor posture or injury, your spine will get out of its proper position. A spine that is not in its proper position will wear down at an accelerated rate. It’s no different than the tires on your car, when they’re out of alignment the tire wears down much faster. If there’s more weight on one side of your spine than the other, with each step you take you’re adding uneven pressure, weighing down one side of the disc, dehydrating it, and causing the body to produce bone spurs instigating the arthritic process.
Obesity exacerbates degenerative disc disease. Not only does carrying extra belly fat put more pressure on the lower back, but the extra weight will also push down on the disc squeezing fluid out of it. A sedentary lifestyle also accelerates degeneration. Movement is critical to the spine as it helps hydrate the discs. The more a disc degenerates the more the spine’s movement decreases, so it is a vicious negative feedback loop. This is one of the reasons we see accelerated degenerative disc disease in older people. As they age movement does not become a priority or it becomes more difficult and that keeps them from participating in physical activity. As the discs shrink they get closer to one another leaving very little space for movement until eventually, the bones fuse together.
A shrinking disc also means less space for the nerve. Increased pressure on the nerve will cause more dysfunction throughout the body and a lower level of overall health. Over the years we have seen great health gains when our patients have been consistent with their chiropractic care. We’ve been able to increase their disc space and relieve pressure on the nerves improving the overall function of their body and its systems.
Spinal stenosis is narrowing of the spinal canal. If you’re suffering from degenerative disc disease, the body will deposit calcium inside the spinal canal to try and strengthen the bones. These calcium deposits are bone spurs which only further close off the spinal canal putting pressure on the spinal cord and interfering with information traveling from the brain to the body and the body back to the brain.
The same that happens on the inside of the spine can happen on the outside. Off of the spinal cord come spinal nerves and they exit the spinal column through a hole known as the foramen. The body will produce calcium deposits to try to fortify a weak system and that calcium can block the foramen putting pressure on the nerves and interfering with information traveling from the brain to the body and the body back to the brain.
If you have spinal stenosis, you may find that you can’t sit or stand for long periods of time because it irritates the nerves. Stenosis can cause pain, weakness, numbness, it can even affect organs like the bladder or bowel causing an overactive bladder, constipation, or diarrhea.
You can strain a muscle many different ways, through repetitive motion, quick and sudden movements, sports, household chores, or an activity that you are not used to doing and your muscles are not able to support it. A muscle strain will irritate the muscles and tear them, causing a dull, achy pain. This pain is usually aggravated by movement, especially in the low back. An acute muscle strain may happen during a workout, a household chore, or a repetitive task that they’ve been doing for years and their body could no longer hold it together.
One of the major reasons for a low back muscle strain is poor posture. If you spend all day sitting hunched over a computer or sleep on your stomach you’re just asking for a muscle strain. Ignoring the strength of your core muscles will also predispose you to straining a muscle. The muscles of the core – abs, obliques, lower back, and glutes – need to be balanced, when they’re not functioning in symmetry together it’s going to cause muscle strain.
Muscle strain usually resolves itself if left alone. Rest and ice are two ways to deal with a strain, but typically you want to address it right away to make sure that it doesn’t develop into something worse. When you have muscle strain, it weakens those muscles causing instability in the spine and nerve interference.
Many times we think we know what’s happening in our body, but a muscle strain can be an indication of a lot of other things. It could be organ or nerve-related so you want to make sure that you get to the bottom of it and fix it early so that it doesn’t develop into something more severe.
Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction (SI Joint Pain)
15% to 30% of low back pain is caused by sacroiliac joint dysfunction. The sacroiliac joint connects the hip bones to the sacrum to hold up and support the body as well as act as a shock absorber between the upper and lower parts of the body. The SI joint is involved in everyday activities like walking, sitting, and standing. When there’s a misalignment of the sacroiliac, it puts strain on the ligaments and can cause a lot of discomfort, as well as leg length discrepancy and repeated stress on the joints of the hip, knee, ankle, and foot.
If you’re involved in sports or moving a lot throughout the day you can stretch those ligaments and cause hypermobility, moving the joints beyond their regular range of motion causing back pain. If you’re sedentary you can develop hypomobility of the joints which will limit your ability to walk, bend, and twist.
SI joint dysfunction is also common among pregnant women. During the seventh month of pregnancy, the body releases a hormone called relaxin, which is supposed to relax the pelvic ligaments to create space for the baby. When these ligaments are stretched they don’t function properly. This is why chiropractic adjustments are great to help women through the dynamic changes they go through in the last couple of months of pregnancy.
Subluxations interfere with a person’s health. Most informed health professionals know that when the spine is out of position it puts dangerous stress on the spinal nerves in the spinal cord, which is the intelligence pathway for your entire body. Not only can subluxations cause neck pain and back pain but they can affect the proper functioning of the sinuses, thyroid, heart, lungs, digestion, bladder, etc. It’s not just a sore back, it’s the functioning of the entire body itself.
Three general categories could be the cause of a subluxation:
- Physical – a trauma, bad posture, or a car accident
- Emotional – stress, death in the family, sick child, divorce
- Chemical – too much coffee or alcohol, bad air, bad water, medications
All of these things cause misalignment in the spine and result in a lower state of health.
Chiropractors are the only healthcare providers that are trained to locate and correct subluxations. As a chiropractor, we first look to see if the vertebrae are in the proper position, then we look for proper movement to make sure there are no restrictions. Posture is the window to the spine, so if the posture is off that means the spine is off. Nerve studies and nerve scans indicate where there is nerve interference and will alert us to a subluxation. We also take X-rays to show us where the spine is out of position.
Chiropractors know that you can’t stretch a subluxation out, you can’t massage it out, you can’t drug it out, you can’t cut it out. The only way to correct a subluxation is a specific chiropractic adjustment by a trained chiropractor.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I be worried about low back pain?
Most people think that pain is bad, but it is a signal that your body sends to the brain when something is wrong. It’s a sign that a limit has been reached and a change needs to be made. Anytime you feel any type of pain, especially in the lower back, you should find out the root cause of that pain so that you can make the necessary correction.
What can I do to relieve my low back pain in Newport Beach?
Most pain is caused by inflammation, whether of a joint or a nerve. The best remedy to relieve inflammation, without the help of a chiropractor, is ice. Ice is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Be sure to use a protective barrier with ice, never apply it directly to your skin.
How do I know if my back pain is serious?
If you experience pain for more than two or three days, you need to find out what is causing the pain. A chiropractor specializes in pain in the low back.
What causes low back pain?
There are many different things that can cause low back pain. It can be caused by muscle strain or imbalance, a misalignment in the spine, pinched nerves, pelvic imbalances, even a sprained ankle that causes you to limp may cause compensation in other parts of the body that will cause low back pain. Those are more mechanical issues, however, there can also be issues with organs like the kidneys and lower intestines that will lead to low back pain.
How should I sleep with lower back pain?
The best position to sleep in is flat on your back with a pillow underneath your knees and no pillow underneath your head. There is no situation where you should ever sleep on your stomach.
How do I tell if lower back pain is a muscle or disc issue?
Muscles typically don’t radiate pain. A typical muscle does not cross two joints. If you’re having pain that’s going across two joints, like from your buttock to your calf, that’s a sign it’s more nerve pain. Nerve pains are directly related to disc issues. Muscle pain will usually go away in two to three days while disc issues don’t usually resolve themselves.
How does a slipped disc feel?
A slipped disc will put pressure on a nerve that will radiate pain down the legs and into the groin and testicles. A slipped disc will usually have a burning sensation, a deep ache, and will cause muscle tightness, weakness, and tension.
Why won’t my lower back pain go away?
Because you’re not addressing the true cause of the problem. If there’s interference in the nervous system, the body can’t heal itself. That’s why you should consult with a chiropractor so they can remove the interference and the body can heal itself.
Can a chiropractor in Newport Beach help with low back pain?
I’ve been in practice for over 40 years and 95% of people that I’ve cared for with lower back pain have seen dramatic improvement.
What is better for low back pain, chiropractic or massage?
Definitely chiropractic. Chiropractors are trained for 6 years to be able to discern and appropriately diagnose low back pain. Once we locate the source of the pain, then we can use the appropriate methods to relieve the pain. Massage is limited to muscle work while chiropractors work with the muscles, nerves, ligaments, and joints.
When should I see a chiropractor in Newport Beach for lower back pain?
Any type of pain should be addressed by a chiropractor immediately.
How can you tell if the spine is out of alignment?
You can’t always tell if your spine is out of alignment on your own, you need a trained chiropractor to be able to verify. Some signs that your spine might be out of alignment are poor posture, pain in the joints, pain that radiates into the legs, and decreased range of motion.