May 09, 2013

Back Pain

Articles by Dr. Erdman are for informational purposes, and are not to be taken as specific medical advice.

It is estimated that 80% of Americans will have chronic back pain (BP) at some point in their lives. At any point in time, over 30% of the population of adults will have back pain. Then why is it that only 7 to 10% of the population goes to the chiropractor?

People struggling with BP take many different paths to find relief, many of which have been proven ineffective. Debilitating symptoms cause some to resign themselves to a lifetime of prescription pain killers, steroid shots and even multiple surgeries. All of these have been proven less effective than alternative treatments such as spinal manipulation, exercises and massage.

In days of old, osteopathic doctors actually performed some spinal manipulation with adequate results. Today, there are very few osteopaths who even choose to learn it. Most have chosen the allopathic model of conventional medicine, and couldn’t care less about the roots of their profession. They have been absorbed by medicine.

There is a push in chiropractic to become drug prescribers and “family physicians.” These are doctors who want to be accepted by medicine, instead of an alternative to medicine. They think if we do more medicine, more people will use our services. I couldn’t disagree more! Why see a chiropractor who is a medical doctor wanna be, rather than a “real” medical doctor? I choose chiropractic as an alternative to medical treatment, not to be like medical treatment. But I digress.

The question at hand is this: why choose chiropractic for back and neck pain over drugs, shots and surgery? The answer is simple. Chiropractic treatment is proven to be more effective, last longer and cost less than conventional care. A study published in the “Annals of Internal Medicine,” in January 2012, revealed that chiropractic care is often better than medication for treating musculoskeletal pain.

After following 272 neck pain patients for just 12 weeks, researchers found that those who used chiropractic and exercises were more than twice as likely to be pain free as those who took medication alone. Sixty two percent of those who exercised or had chiropractic treatment became pain free, while only 13% of those on meds were pain free.

During my five years of graduate training, we learned how to treat and manage the many musculoskeletal maladies we see in the office every day. After 20 years in practice, (why is it still practice after 20 years?) I have seen almost every scenario. The chiropractic techniques I use today evolve all the time. As new research shows superior outcomes, I incorporate the latest techniques. If you visit a conventional medic for back pain, you will likely leave with a prescription for an anti-inflammatory (NSAID) and a muscle relaxer. There is ample research showing that muscle relaxers are virtually worthless in acute low back pain situations. Besides, your heart is a muscle, do you really want to relax it?

NSAIDS significantly increase your risk of heart damage, such as a two to four time increase in the risk of heart attacks, stroke and cardiovascular death. NSAIDS are linked to GI bleeding, increased blood pressure and kidney problems. The risks aren’t limited to prescription strength NSAIDS like Celebrex, but also apply to over the counter drugs like aspirin, Advil and Motrin. NSAIDS are a leading cause of kidney failure and dialysis in the USA.

Even acetaminophen has recently been scrutinized by the FDA. They are going as far as reducing the amount allowed in prescription drugs, and have even put a warning about liver toxicity concerns. Acetaminophen is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the USA.

Better pain relief options include natural pain killers and inflammation reducers. Omega 3 fatty acids in the form of krill oil and fish oil are very effective anti-inflammatory agents. Astaxanthin, ginger, curcumin, boswellia, EFAC (esterified fatty acid complex) and valerian root all help with pain and inflammation. In my office, the EFAC, boswellia and valerian root are what I have used with many positive outcomes.

The best way to treat back pain is not to get it in the first place. I understand, injuries happen, but most back pain is lifestyle, with sitting being a huge cause of BP, along with obesity and lack of exercise. The surest way to chronic BP is to be 50lbs overweight, smoke, sit more than 6 hours a day and get no exercise. That group of bad habits is generally the key to terrible health, any way you look at it.

If you look at your circle of family and friends, you will likely see several of them dealing with back and neck pain. Do them a favor, and suggest they see a chiropractor. Not only is chiropractic care the most effective treatment, you may well change their lives forever.