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  • Dr. Donald Littlewood

All about low back pain

Low back pain sucks. There's no other way around it. Around 80% of the population will experience low back pain, and 20-30% of people are experiencing it right now. It is the leading cause of pain and disability worldwide, presenting a major problem both socially and economically. It restricts what can be done at work/home, and is a major source of absenteeism in the workplace. What can be done about it? Let's first discuss the anatomy so we're all on the same page.



The low back is made up of 5 vertebrae; think of these as the building blocks of your spine. These vertebrae are linked by joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. The mobility of the spine comes from the facet joints, where its stability comes from supporting ligaments. The nerves that send signals to everything from the waist down exit from spaces along the edges of the spine. The intervertebral discs are the shock-absorbing structures of the spine.

So how does back pain happen? Coles Notes: most often back pain happens because the facet joints aren't moving properly. This can be due to one specific injury, or it can be a build up of things over time. The muscles then do more work than they need to and they get sore too. This is what we in the chiropractic world call mechanical low back pain. There are other ways pain can be generated, let's keep it at that for now.


So you have low back pain... now what do you do? Well my advice is to see a chiropractor, and see them soon. Research shows us that the sooner you seek care after feeling symptoms, the faster you will heal. What will the chiropractor do for you? Here is my general approach for treating low back pain. Not everyone receives all of these treatments, these are just examples of what can help relieve your pain and get you moving better.

  • Adjustments - low back pain, especially acute, responds to the traditional chiropractic adjustment extremely well. If you've never had one, don't fear. They are incredibly safe, and your chiropractor will explain the whole procedure to you.

  • Soft tissue therapy - there are a few ways this can be done, but the goal in all of them is to release the tension in the sore muscles making it easier for the adjustment to be effective.

  • Acupuncture - this will help wake up the muscles that aren't doing what they should be doing. This will make sure that all the muscles are acting on the right structures and that compensation is kept to a minimum.

  • Exercise - this is the one exception - everyone will get exercises. These are really important in low back pain. The exercises are targeted at strengthening your core, proper movement patterns, and stabilizing the spine.

This is just one example of low back pain that I treat often in my office. If you have any questions, or would like to book an appointment, please don't hesitate to reach out.


In health,

Dr. Donald Littlewood