BY EOIN EVERARD
It’s gotten a bit confusing how we sometimes look at our health. When pain strikes the low back we usually think we just got a new problem or injury. But why then was coughing, shaving, or doing the laundry, so different this time? These are things we do every day. Rarely is a new episode of low back pain brought on by a well-defined injury or trauma. Trauma in most cases is usually quite trivial. We confuse pain as a signal for something that is physically changing each time.
So what is the problem? The problem is joint sprain or subluxation. This is a ligament problem and occurs with small micro traumas over many years, or sometimes with acute events such as car accidents or falls. Over time the ligaments stretch, causing the joints and vertebrae to displace, irritating the delicate nerve fibres. But over a few days or weeks, the pain that accompanies this injury gradually lessens, and in many cases goes away all on its own. But has the problem also gone away? Likely not, because when ligaments are traumatized, the repair mechanism involves scar tissue, which is less elastic than the original, and makes the joint vulnerable to re-injury and sometimes impairs the free and symmetrical motion of the spine. Physiotherapists examine for this type of joint sprain using palpation for tenderness and oedema, and a G.P can also help confirm this by x-rays to see the directions the vertebrae have moved towards. These specific analyses can tell us the vulnerable directions and how the vertebrae need to be repositioned to promote good alignment and good posture.
The adjustment is designed to reduce this misalignment, and induce more symmetric motion. When movements are asymmetrical in the spine, they can lead to premature degeneration of the spine and arthritis. This may be why a simple task such as lifting a laundry basket can flare up the back so easily. You may be lifting with good form and posture but with an asymmetrical spine, the loading is very off balance. Sometimes the disks are so damaged that a simple sneeze is enough to cause excruciating pain. So when these trivial events seem to trip you up, it means there is an underlying problem that is not getting corrected.
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