FAQs of chiropractors
(see below for FAQ about back pain)
Q: What do chiropractors treat?
Chiropractors are very good at dealing with back and neck ailments as well as those problems connected with spine such as headaches, sciatica and hip pain. It is important to note that chiropractors don’t just work on bone and joints; they also treat muscle tightness and strains, ligament injuries and tendinitis.
Q: I don’t like having my back cracked? Can you do something else?
Absolutely! Manipulation (the technique that produces the cracking/popping sound) is very effective and is always done as gently as possible so as not to be painful. However, some patients prefer not to have it done. At this clinic, massage therapy and stretching techniques are used just as commonly as manipulation and produce excellent results.
It is important that the treatment is tailored to the needs and comfort of the patient.
Q: What training do chiropractors do?
Chiropractors in Australia are required to complete a five year university degree which encompasses many hours of clinical training before being allowed to register as a chiropractor. Practicing chiropractors are regulated by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
Q: What is the difference between a chiropractor and a physiotherapist?
As a general comment, the training differs. Chiropractors dedicate much of their five year degree learning to diagnose and treat spinal (back and neck) problems. Physiotherapists, on the other hand, tend to concentrate more on sports injuries.
Q: Do I need to be referred from a medical doctor? Is the treatment covered under Medicare?
You do not need a referral from a medical doctor to see a chiropractor. Simply ring and make an appointment at your convenience.
Chiropractic treatment is not covered under Medicare unless you are referred under the Medicare Enhanced Primary Care Program. This is only eligible to people with long-standing or chronic health problems and referral occurs at the discretion of your doctor. If you are to be treated by a chiropractor under this program then you do need a special referral from your doctor.
Q: Will I need to have x-rays taken?
It depends on the problem you are presenting with. As a general comment, if your back or neck pain is relatively uncomplicated and is likely to respond well to treatment then further investigations such as x-rays are probably not needed.
However, there are circumstances (trauma, pain not going away, concern about structural abnormalities) where it is important to get an x-ray. In some situations, a CT scan or MRI is the preferred exam.
Q: How many treatments will I need?
Again, this depends on the problem. On average, patients at this clinic attend for between three to five visits. Obviously, some require more than this whilst others only require one or two treatments.
FAQ’s about Back Pain
Q: What causes Back Pain?
The back is made up of five main structures:
- bones called vertebrae which come together to make joints
- muscles become tendons which attach themselves to the bones
- ligaments which help to hold the joints together
- cartilage pads between the vertebrae called discs – they act as shock absorbers
Pain usually occurs as a result of damaging one of these structures.
Most episodes of back pain come on as a result of straining muscles or ligaments. It’s a bit like when you roll your ankle playing sport. In this instance, the ankle joint gets put in an awkward position which causes the soft tissues (usually the ligaments) to be overstretched. The ligament will be damaged. This will result in inflammation, muscle tightness/spasm, stiffness at the ankle joint and pain. Similarly, a back that gets put in an awkward position can cause a muscle or ligament in the back to be overstretched. As a result, inflammation, joint stiffness, muscle tightness/spasm may occur. These things can lead to pain.
It is thought that wear and tear (degeneration) at the discs may cause back pain. This is more commonly associated with low back (lumbar) pain than pain higher up in the back.
Bulging or ruptured (also called herniated) discs are another common cause of back pain. The discs are a spongy material that acts like cushions between the vertebrae in your spine. Sometimes, this spongy stuff bulges out of place and presses on a nerve. This nerve pressure causes pain in the back and also pain running down the back of the legs (referred to as sciatica).
In the same way that our knees and fingers can be affected by osteoarthritis, our lower back can also be affected by the wear and tear associated with arthritis. As we get older, the space around the spinal cord can become narrowed due to arthritic change. This condition is known as spinal stenosis and can lead to pain.
Osteoporosis is a condition that leads to weak and brittle bones. Back pain caused by ostoeporosis is usually related to compression fractures of the vertebrae.
There also more serious conditions that can cause back pain. These conditions include cauda equine syndrome which affects the nerve roots at the bottom of your spinal cord and commonly causes weakness in the legs, numbness in the groin area and loss of bladder control, and spinal tumours. These conditions are rare.
Q: What causes it to start?
There are many activities and situations that cause back pain. These include: bending, lifting, twisting, jumping, driving, sitting for too long (at the computer or on the couch), sitting on inappropriate seating, bending to brush your teeth, sneezing (yes, sneezing!), coughing, dancing, playing sport and maintaining poor posture…and the list goes on. Most activities of our daily lives have the potential to cause back pain. Even an awkward sleeping posture can cause the onset of back pain.
Bending, lifting and twisting were listed first above for good reason. These activities are commonly linked to the onset of back pain – particularly acute, sudden-onset back pain. Bending at the back rather than the knees is especially hazardous to the back. Furthermore, when these movements are combined such as lifting and twisting or bending and twisting or (please don’t try this at home) all three together then the risk of getting back pain tends to be increased.
Sometimes people have no idea why their pain starts. Or, it will start in the process of doing a mundane action (for e.g., putting their shoes on) that they have a done million times before. Understandably, this only adds to a person’s anxiety and concern.
Back pain can also be the end result of an accumulative problem. A minor injury that, aggravated repeatedly, can eventually produce pain. That minor, seemingly insignificant twinge you felt three days ago whilst bending to put a file away may have been the origin of the pain you started feeling this morning when you got out of bed and then got worse on the train to work.
Whatever the situation may be; don’t panic. Get to your chiropractor for prompt assessment.
Q: Will I need surgery?
Despite the high prevalence of back pain only a small percentage of people end up requiring surgery. In fact, it is not common for a person experiencing uncomplicated back pain (and assuming no serious underlying condition) to require surgical intervention. Furthermore, those people who become candidates for surgery do so usually only after all avenues of conservative care are exhausted.
Q: Will this happen again?
Most people who experience non-complicated back pain that settles well in the short term and who do not have a significant history of back pain are usually no more prone to further episodes than those who have never had back pain. The issue starts to get a little more clouded when dealing with a person who has had several episodes of back pain or one major episode such as a disc prolapse. Whatever the situation, most people can do a few things for themselves that may allow them to avoid back pain.
To give your back a better chance:
- Exercise. Doing something as simple as walking regularly can benefit your back greatly. Swimming is another very helpful form of exercise for your back. Both these types of exercise are low impact and therefore will reduce strain on your back. More importantly, they help strengthen your back.
- Develop Flexibility. Stretching regularly will help keep you loose at your back and other areas (shoulders, hips). This aids the movement and alignment of spinal joints. Your practitioner will be able to suggest a stretching regimen suitable for you.
- Get Stronger. The muscles that surround your spine (the core muscles that also include your abdominal muscles) work to protect your back whilst you move. It only follows that the stronger these muscles are then more protection your back will be afforded. Strength work that you may wish to consider include: Pilates, gym work, exercises on a Swiss ball or your practitioner can give you a few simple exercises to do at home.
- Lose weight. This one is as plain as the nose on your face or the flab on your tummy. Less weight means less strain on the back particularly the low back. If you’re above the healthy weight range and you have no excuses, get cracking!
- Maintain good posture. Remain vigilant regarding the manner in which you stand and sit. Don’t slouch.