According to the American Chiropractic Association, at least 31 million Americans experience back pain at any given time. Back pain is the second leading cause of visits to the doctor (behind upper respiratory infections) and costs Americans at least 50 billion dollars a year in medical costs. If you visit a typical medical doctor for your back pain, it’s likely that you will be prescribed a course of drug treatment that may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, and even opioids. These drugs come with a range of risks and side effects.
- Long term use linked to a 2 to 4 fold increase in risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Increased blood pressure
- Kidney problems
- Muscle Relaxants
- Chance of addiction
- Opioid painkillers
- Highly addictive
- Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite
- Headache and dizziness
- Chance of becoming ineffective, requiring higher doses to achieve the same pain relief
So what can you do to relieve your back pain while avoiding drugs and their dangerous side effects?
First of all, visit your chiropractor. Chiropractors have extensive training in the neuromusculoskeletal system and place an emphasis on the true cause of the pain instead of just masking the symptoms. In addition to correcting misalignments of the spine to reduce back pain and prescribing exercises to strengthen weakened postural muscles, research has shown that chiropractic adjustments can actually improve the functioning of the neurological system. This means that your whole body functions better; it boosts your immune system, can help relieve digestive issues, and can even improve function at a cellular level.
Another contributing factor to chronic back pain is a sedentary lifestyle. Changing your career is probably not the best option, but implementing an exercise program can help combat the effects of hours of sitting. Even walking for half an hour a day can improve motion in the spine, helping to keep the discs healthy and hydrated. Core strengthening can also help stabilize the spine, but doing a thousand crunches a day won’t be enough. Any muscle that attaches to the pelvis is part of the core musculature, so be sure to strengthen the hamstrings, quads, and glutes, as well as the abs.
More and more research is supporting the thought that stress and poor emotional health can increase pain levels. A study published in 2004 involved a group of 100 people who reported no back pain at the beginning of the study. Each individual was given routine psychological tests and monitored for the next 4 years. When the study concluded, the data showed that the individuals that scored poorly on the psychological exams were three times more likely to experience back pain during the 4 year time span than those that scored well. Maintaining good emotional health can help lower pain levels throughout the body.