Low back pain is the second most common health complaint (after the common cold) and is the most expensive health problem, estimated at upwards of $80 billion per year in health and social costs. This is more than costs for severe health issues like cancer and AIDS.
The vast majority of low back pain is mechanical, meaning problems with the way joints and muscles are functioning (See ‘What is joint dysfunction?’) and can therefore be effectively managed with non-drug, non-surgical methods.
Chiropractic adjustments (spinal manipulation), ART, stretching, yoga, and core strengthening exercises can all be helpful. A medical study published in the prestigious medical journal SPINE, showed massage and chiropractic are found to be ‘very helpful’ by 65% and 61% of users, while conventional care (medicine and physiotherapy) is found to be ‘very helpful’ by only 27% of users.
For chronic back pain, specific rehab exercise has been found to be extremely beneficial, getting even better long term results than surgery in some studies, without the potential adverse reactions. At Alberta Back and Neck Rehab & Sports Injuries in Calgary, our chiropractors use the most effective strength testing and rehab machine for chronic low back pain – the MedX Medical Lumbar Rehab Machine. This programs is quite different from conventional physical therapy, which aims to limber up muscles, but isn’t nearly as intensive. What is needed is not just exercise, but vigorous workouts that target muscles weakened from disuse. When the back is injured, a person tends to baby the damaged area and use other muscles to compensate. The unused muscles begin to atrophy within two days, making them stiff and more vulnerable to further injury and exacerbating back pain. And the more they hurt, the less those muscles are used, which triggers a self-perpetuating cycle of de-conditioning.
To make sure the weakened muscles get a workout, the MedX Medical Lumbar Rehab Machine is able to isolate and test the strength of your spinal muscles. If indicated, your chiropractor will set up a rehab program specific for you that exercises the weak muscles with increasingly heavy weights to the point of fatigue. This process, known as progressive resistance training, builds up the muscles around the spinal column and hastens the healing of ruptured discs and damaged facet joints between the bony vertebrae.
“To get the maximum benefit, you have to use a piece of exercise equipment that will make certain muscles work and blocks out the others. Home exercises don’t isolate the muscles sufficiently. Recent studies suggest that even for people in crippling pain, an aggressive exercise regimen may be a wise alternative to surgery.
“There’s growing evidence that this boot-camp-style approach can make a real difference,” says Dr. Richard Deyo, a back-pain expert at the University of Washington in Seattle.
In 2003, for example, Norwegian researchers compared sixty-four patients with disc degeneration. Half underwent spinal-fusion surgery to stabilize damaged discs. The other half participated in an intensive exercise program. A year later, the success rate was 76% for the exercisers, compared with 70% for the surgery group, which also experienced an 18% complication rate from the surgery.
And a 1999 study suggests heavy-duty workouts could help sufferers avoid the knife altogether. Sixty patients whose doctors had recommended surgery were enrolled in an intense 10-week exercise program at the Physician’s Neck and Back Clinic in Minnesota. Of the 46 who completed the program, three ended up having surgery.
For more information, visit the MedX official website or call the chiropractors at Alberta Back and Neck Rehab & Sports Injuries Clinic today.
For chronic, severe low back pain and sciatica due to disc herniation, disc degeneration, or arthritis, Alberta Back and Neck Rehab & Sports Injuries Clinic has Western Canada’s first DRX 9000 Non-Surgical Spinal Decompression System. This technology has been found to be successful at relieving pain for 86% of sufferers. For more information visit Decompression.ca.