Expert chiropractic adjustments for back pain & spinal manipulation.
Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit an emergency room. However, many types of back pain are best managed through non-drug and non-surgical interventions. Schedule an appointment today with our expert chiropractor for back pain treatment in Los Gatos, CA.
Examples of some of the many causes of lower back pain include:
- Back sprains and strains
- Herniated discs
- Degenerative joint disease
- Mechanical low back pain
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
- Osteoarthritis (aka spondylosis)
- Joint fixations
- Pulled muscles
Low Back Anatomy
The lower back is comprised of five lumbar vertebrae. The vertebrae are numbered from the top to the bottom with the letter “L” to designate them in the lumbar region of the spine (ex. L3, L4, L5). In between each lumbar vertebra is an inter-vertebral disc. These discs have an outer ligamentous structure and an interior is more jelly like. Each lumbar vertebra has two joints, called facet joints. These facet joints and the intravertebral discs allow for motion in the lower back. The lower back is also home to some very important muscles: muscles that stabilize the lumbar spine and others that help move the lumbar spine.
When people have disc bulges or herniations (aka disc rupture, slipped disc, or disc extrusion) they will most often happen at L4-L5 and L5-S1. This is because with those segments being the lowest in the spine there is more weight and loading of those lumbar discs. That is why those two lumbar levels make up the vast majority of all lumbar spinal surgeries.
Interestingly, based on the anatomy and bio mechanics of the lumbar discs almost all disc bulges and herniations happen posterior or posteriolaterally. That is a fancy way of saying that they either push into the spinal cord or the spinal nerves that exit the spinal canal. This is unfortunate because this are the two areas where space is limited and pressure from the bulging disc can impact the nerves.
The Low Back is Meant To Be Strong
The lumbar spine is made to withstand significant loading and use, when such loading is done properly. Dr. Pedersen has had the chance to work with Team USA Olympic weight lifters at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. It is not uncommon for these athletes to squat and deadlift in excess of 500 lbs without injury to their back.
But sitting day-after-day with poor posture and then randomly bending over to pick up a box at Costco can cause your back to “go out.” That is why it is crucial to learn how to properly sit, lift, and move in our everyday life to maintain fitness, but also so we don’t wear out our back. The chiropractors at Positive Motion Chiropractic make sure that in addition to getting patients out of pain fast, they also teach them easy ways to improve their posture and move in a way that promotes strength and flexibility.
Sciatica – Pain Traveling Down One Leg
The sciatic nerve runs from your lumbar spine down through your gluteal muscle and into your posterior thigh and leg. It is a common cause of nagging, deep achy pain that can travel from the lower back into the back, usually on only one side. While this condition can be caused by a herniated disc or bone spur in the spine, we find it most commonly present to our chiropractic office due to pressure on the sciatic nerve as it passes by or through the piriformis muscle.
When there are imbalances and joint fixations at the hip and sacroiliac joints (aka SI joints) the piriformis muscle, which crosses and stabilizes the SI joint can become overly tight and guarded. While the piriformis muscle doesn’t usually give the patient pain directly it does pinch down on the sciatic nerve and cause the pain in the gluteal region and into the thigh. Through a thorough examination and if appropriate chiropractic adjustments and targeted muscle work we can routinely get a patient some relief in a single visit.
Depending on how long the sciatica symptoms have persisted usually dictates how long it will take to get full and lasting pain relief. The good news is that addressing the joint fixations, postural and lifestyle habits, and correcting muscle imbalances helps keep the sciatica from returning in the future.
Many times we will see patients who have tried resting it, ice, exercise, physical therapy, and even injections without substantial and lasting relief. They are happy to find after months of limitations and discomfort that addressing the cause of their pain through personalized chiropractic care they can get back to the activities they enjoy.
Problems with the Lumbar Discs
When most people think of low back pain they stink of disc problems. Slipped discs. Herniated discs. Bulging discs. While lumbar discs can be a common cause of lower back pain the good news is that with conservative chiropractic care the majority of disc issues can be healed. The body has the ability to heal a ruptured or herniated disc.
But the pressure from the disc on the surrounding spinal nerves can cause muscle weakness and loss of sensation in the legs and feet. The problem then becomes can you facilitate the healing of the lumbar disc before pressure on the spinal nerve causes permanent change.
At Positive Motion Chiropractic we closely monitor the function of the spinal nerves during treatment of lumbar disc patients to ascertain if a referral to a spinal surgeon is warranted. However, we find that 8 out of 10 of the lumbar disc patients that present to our Los Gatos clinic are able to fully recover without the need for lumbar epidural steroid injections or spinal surgery. That is something our chiropractors and patients get extremely excited about.
Arthritis, Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), and Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)
A fact of life is that we are all getting older. It is true of the 5 year old and the 95 year old. But there is a difference between chronological age and physiological age. The first is the inevitable passing of time. But physiological age is how our body is aging. It is not uncommon to see a patient in their 50’s with the strength, stamina, flexibility, and energy of many of our 30 year old patients. How can that be? Physiological age is a combination of how well we take care of ourselves, including things like:
- Our dietary habits
- Our exercise routine (types, frequency, duration)
- Stress levels and stress reduction tools
- Accumulated injuries (and how we have corrected those)
- Genetics (less so than we previously believed)
- Inflammatory load
At Positive Motion Chiropractic in Los Gatos we tell our patients that degenerative conditions like Arthritis, Degenerative Joint Disease and Degenerative Disc Disease should be thought of like rust on the bumper of your car. Just like rust (an oxidative process) is continually going on, it doesn’t mean that a car with one year of rust (hard to even visualize) on the bumper is worn out. Indeed, you may have a thirty year old car that don’t show any signs of rust.
So it is with our joints and intervertebral discs. Your joints will develop arthritis and the discs in your spine will thin out as you age, but the speed at which that occurs is largely up to you. Just like your teeth and whether you keep them healthy into your retirement.
We also know that just because someone has x-rays or an MRI that shows degenerative changes or arthritis doesn’t mean that that person has to be in daily pain and limited in their activities. It is common for us to see patients with moderate, and sometimes even severe, degenerative changes on their x-rays and MRI who have minimal, if any, symptoms of pain or limitations in their daily lives.
Our skilled chiropractors address each patient with arthritis and degenerative changes in a personalized manner. Through a thorough history, physical exam, functional movement evaluation, and that patient’s individual goals we are able to craft a customized conservative care treatment plan to get them feeling their best.
Back Strains, Pulled Muscles, and Joint Fixations
The foremost purpose of the muscles of your body is maintaining stability at your joints. Secondary to that is the purpose of movement. Think of it this way, right now your body is mostly still and yet your muscles are maintaining your joints in a specific posture (hopefully a good one).
We can end up hurting and irritating our muscles either acutely, like with an accident, or cumulatively over time, such as with poor posture. At Positive Motion Chiropractic we see patients present with both acute muscle injuries, like muscle pulls and strains, and chronic muscle tension/strain issues.
The acute muscle injuries many times come from sporting accidents or when bending and lifting something awkwardly. The chronic muscle issues stem from postural and lifestyle habits. These chronic, cumulative micro traumas are no less real or painful than a sudden fall from a ladder. And both types of muscle injuries respond incredibly well to chiropractic adjustments, muscle work, targeted rehabilitative exercise, cold laser therapy, and Kinesio taping with Rock Tape or KT Tape.
Diagnosing Lower Back Pain
Determining the cause of a person’s lower back pain is critical to getting rapid and lasting results from treatment. While pain medication may take away the pain effectively in the short term, it is not a long term solution. Therefore, at Positive Motion Chiropractic our doctors of chiropractic spend the time to get an accurate diagnosis of the cause of the person’s low back pain. Many patients say our initial visit is the most thorough they have ever received from any medical professional.
We take a thorough history, learning exactly where your pain is, how it feels, what makes it worse, and what helps it. We discuss treatments you have previously explored and their outcomes. And we dig deep into your lifestyle habits and unique medical history including past injuries, surgical history, and details that make your body and your situation unique.
We combine this with a world-class exam where we analyze joint motion, muscle function, flexibility, and motor control. We also evaluate your orthopedic and neurologic status. Additionally, when indicated we will order and evaluate x-rays, MRIs, musculoskeletal (MSK) ultrasound, and relevant labs.
Through all of this we will arrive at a working diagnosis of what is causing your pain and present that to you in a written care plan. That care plan includes your specific goals for coming to our office (i.e. Stop having sciatica pain, get back to jogging, be able to sleep through the night without being awoken by pain) and our specific recommendations for your care.
They call it the ‘practice of medicine’ or the ‘practice of chiropractic’ because humans are unique and solutions to end a patients pain can be opaque. That is why we establish a clear written out game plan with each patient and check back in regularly to make sure we are achieving the positive results we are used to seeing.
When our treatment are not hitting the mark we re-evaluate, try a different treatment approach, and sometimes bring in other experts to consult on the case. At Positive Motion Chiropractor we strive to approach each case as if we were treating our spouse, child, or parent. We see and treat each patient as if they were our family.
Treatment Options for Lower Back Pain
There are many methods for treating lower back pain. At Positive Motion Chiropractic we believe that the most elegant solution is always the one that is simple, addresses the root cause, and is the least invasive.
Many people are given drugs, injections, and surgery to deal with lower back pain. Those come with great costs and risks. However, medications (ex: oral steroids, anti-inflammatories, pain medications), epidural steroid injections and back surgeries (ex: microdiscectomy, laminectomy, lumbar disc replacement, lumbar spinal fusions, etc) are indicated and the most appropriate treatment option in some cases. But we believe they should be utilized only after more conservative options have been utilized and failed to produce results.
At Positive Motion Chiropractic our treatment approach is built around three key pillars:
- Correct the underlying joint and/or muscle imbalances.
- Speed up tissue healing and reduce inflammation to give accelerated pain relief.
- Teach the patient how to reduce the chance of recurrence.
Utilizing this framework we provide rapid pain relief, fundamental joint and muscle changes to correct the root cause, and also help the patient avoid having to keep returning for care.
Here are some of the techniques and tools we use when we treat our professional and Olympic athlete patients. Guess what? They are the same techniques and tools we use with every one of our patients. (follow the links to learn more on each type of treatment)
There are 210 bones in the human body and in-between them are joints. Just like the hinges on a door can get rusty and stuck, the same thing can happen with your joints (no, they don’t rust). When your joints become fixated and lose proper motion they become stiff, inflamed, and painful.
A chiropractic adjustment helps to restore normal motion back to your joints. There are many different ways to perform a chiropractic adjustment, including by hand and using an instrument called an Activator. Chiropractic adjustments utilizing an instrument don’t involve “cracking sounds” or twisting of the body.
Myofascial therapy, Graston, Fascial Distortion Model (FDM)
Muscle stabilize and move the bones of your body. They are covered in a covering called fascia. This slippery covering allows muscles, tendons, nerves, and other structures in your body to effortlessly glide over and past each other. But through trauma, repetitive motion injuries, and postural stresses, these fascial layers can become stuck to each other through adhesions (think microscopic scar tissue).
Without addressing these myofascial adhesions the movement restrictions and pain come back shortly after getting a chiropractic adjustment or massage. But by working on and getting rid of these myofascial adhesions we are able to restore normal motion and help create lasting improvement in a patient’s function.
We utilize various myofascial techniques, including Graston technique (an form of instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization or IASTM), FDM (Fascial Distortion Model) and cupping (static or with motion). These soft tissue therapies when directed at the right body tissues combined with specific chiropractic adjustments are core to the results we consistently see at Positive Motion Chiropractic.
Cold laser therapy
“I’m going on a family vacation in three weeks that we have had planned for a year and I can’t go with my back feeling like this.” “My Olympic qualifier event is in six days and I have to feel my best.”
When patients need every chance to get back to 100% ASAP we have another tool at our disposal. We utilizes cold laser to help speed up metabolic rate, decrease inflammation, and help control pain levels. It is used frequently with athletes who don’t have any time to waste with their healing before the next game. It is painless, takes around fifteen minutes, and is a great adjunct to chiropractic adjustments and soft tissue therapies like Graston.
The feet are the foundation of the body. Sometimes people have imbalances at their feet and arches that can lead to issues higher up in the body. Correcting dropped arches in the feet or asymmetries can have profound impacts on pain in other areas of the body. Utilizing advanced laser technology we look closely at the feet and arches in all patient cases to determine if they could be contributing to pain and limitations.
Targeted Rehab Exercises
A specific single muscle can be weak leading to imbalance and pain. It is rarely a large muscle group that we would think of working out at the gym (ex: quadriceps or biceps). Rather it is usually a stabilizing or balance muscle which is often overlooked. But weakness in a vital muscle can have devastating effects on posture, joint function, and balance.
At Positive Motion Chiropractic we don’t give our patients a page of generalized lower back exercises. Who has the time for 30-60 minutes of home exercises per day? Instead, through our detailed and personalized assessment we determine if the patient has a specific muscle weakness and design a customized, targeted rehabilitation program for those individual weaknesses. Translation: tangible decrease in pain and physical limitations with minimal investment of time and effort.
Most people have seen a professional athlete sporting some colorful tape over a body part. Kinesio Tape or Rock Tape have been used for years in professional sports and in the last few years have caught on with non-athletes.
Kinesio Tape has three main functions:
- Decreases localized inflammation
- Helps reduce pain
- Aids in the correction of motion patterns
What you do regularly has a very real impact on how your body functions and feels. If you regularly slouch and collapse into poor postures over time your body will lose function and hurt.
We all know good posture is important, but most people have been told two myths about correcting posture:
- You need to think about your posture ALWAYS.
- You need to strengthen your postural muscles – if they are stronger you will have better posture.
At Positive Motion Chiropractic we have travelled the world to learn from the greatest experts how to teach people to have beautiful, effortless, and functional posture. We do this through group classes and individual instruction. And the results are phenomenal.
Most people spend the majority of their day at a workstation. If that workspace is not set up for you to win then your body will lose. You will lose flexibility, range of motion, and over time strength. And your body will start to hurt. First felt as nagging tension and soreness.
To provide lasting positive changes for our patients we look at their ergonomic setup and make simple, but effective, recommendations to maximize the comfort and function of their workspace.
If you got this far reading about causes and treatment options for lower back pain you deserve to take the next step and get a world-class evaluation by an expert chiropractor at Positive Motion Chiropractic in Los Gatos. Schedule your appointment now using our real-time online schedule.