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How Backs Heal

Gregg C. Anderson, D.C.

    When it comes to dealing with chronic back pain, there are many solutions available.  They range from a little dab of Ben Gay to orthopedic surgery.  What is the best option? 

    The answer to that question depends on many factors including proper diagnosis and what type of solution the individual is willing to pursue. 

    In my experience, most people today are looking for the fastest and easiest solution.  Probably the easiest is popping an over-the-counter Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drug or other NSAID pill.  These can and do relieve pain fast.  I just watched a commercial during the Pro Bowl and learned that two Advil can stop the pain all day!  Never knew that?  Hmmm

    When NSAIDs inevitably stop working, for many, the next step is to more powerful prescription drugs.  These can relieve pain very well.   When combined with a muscle relaxant and maybe a Budweiser or two, you can certainly as they say, be feeling no pain.  Before you know it however, you may wake up in a daze on the "Vicodin-land" Ferris Wheel, or perhaps not wake up at all! 

    There is a proven, well-researched alternative that may be found in the office of your modern chiropractor.  A study published in the mid 1980's demonstrated the lasting effectiveness of an approach that definitely required getting off the couch for two to three weeks. 

    As reported in a study by Kirkaldy-Willis and Cassidy, A "two-to-three-week regimen of daily spinal manipulations by an experienced chiropractor" brought significant improvement in 81 percent of totally disabled patients with chronic low back and referred leg pain.*

    There were 238 subjects in this study.  They were from a university back pain clinic for patients who had failed to respond to previous conservative or surgical treatment.

    These well-respected researchers stated,  "In our experience, anything less than two weeks of daily manipulation is inadequate for chronic back pain patients".*

    With chronic low back pain, there is often a great deal of immobility of the sacro-iliac and lumbar vertebral joints.  Some of the surrounding muscles get very tight and others, including the core muscles can get very weak.  This makes it difficult to move gracefully and feel good doing it.  This can be complicated by poorly adapted scar tissue, osteoarthritis and intervertebral disc degeneration as well.   

    Specific chiropractic adjustments have been demonstrated to reduce this immobility and allow the joints to move more easily and begin to heal in a favorable way.  This happens for several reasons:  The pressure is reduced on the articular cartilage on the bones, allowing it to heal and lubricate the joints.  The reduced pressure also allows the disc to re-hydrate and better exchange nutrients and waste products.   As a bonus, with improved joint movement, the core stabilizing back muscles can start getting strong again
as well. 

    In my office, I add a very effective strategy, based on the well-researched flexion-distraction technique.  It is called the Vertebral Distraction Pump (VDP).  It can gently separate and decompress the vertebra at ay any spinal level, and can reduce disc herniations and relieve facet joint syndrome pain.

    You can read more about it on my website; or on the product website:  After over eight years of success with the VDP in my practice, I now serve on the board of Bray International, Inc., that owns and markets this instrument and technique to doctors all over the world.   This has been very rewarding.

    The next two things that help bad backs heal are; rehabilitation exercises that emphasize core muscles and muscular control, and structural supports.  Supports may include custom foot orthotics, heel lifts, custom pillows and supportive beds.  Have a great month!
*Kirkaldy-Willis WH, Cassidy JD. Spinal manipulation in the treatment of low back pain. Can Fam Phys 1985;31:528-40.


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