Back Pain

Be ready to provide your medical history, which will be essential for preparing a course of treatment for you. Medical records, such as diagnostic test results, or imaging results, such as X-rays and MRIs, also will provide important information about your condition.

Certain things in your health history are particularly vital to a chiropractor. This information could provide important clues that will allow your chiropractor to properly diagnose your problem. Such clues include whether you have or have had:

Bone disorders, such as osteoporosis
Circulatory problems (poor circulation could be a sign that you have a subluxation, for example)
Dizziness or blurred vision
Heart conditions such as hypertension or high blood pressure
Infections, especially those affecting your spine
Injuries, such as bone fractures, muscle sprains, or disc injuries
Joint disorders such as arthritis
Sleep apnea
Be prepared to answer such questions as:

Did the onset of your pain immediately follow an injury?
Is there anything you do that improves or worsens the pain?
When and how did your pain start?
Where is the pain centered?
The physical exam
Here's what to expect:

The first order of business is checking your vital signs, reflexes, and blood pressure.

Sometimes measurements will be taken to determine arm and leg length. Next, you will be asked to do a series of simple and easy activities or exercises. These exercises will provide information about your motor skills, balance, and gait, among others. These tests also help determine your range of motion, muscle tone and strength, and integrity of your nervous system. Any abnormalities could provide clues about a condition. You may be asked to:

Bend forward, sideways, or backwards - Misaligned spinal vertebrae can sometimes be detected during this exercise.
Flex and extend your leg - This is a test for signs of sprain and helps determine the integrity of your joints (also called the "Yeoman's Test").
Grip something such as a rubber ball - Your grip strength is vital for showing signs of muscular or nerve damage.
Lie down and raise one leg - This is often referred to as the "Thomas Test," in which the chiropractor gently pushes on your raised leg to check for hip joint mobility.
Stand and raise one leg - This test can sometimes show whether you have sciatica, a nerve disorder in your lower back. Another test may involve pushing on your raised leg to determine whether you have pain, inflammation, or imbalance in the joints between your spinal vertebrae. (This is also called the "Psoas Muscle Test.")
Stand or sit - Posture can sometimes show whether you have misalignments in your spine.
Walk a straight line - This test measures your gait, and helps to determine if you have a normal walking pattern.
Walk in Place - Abnormalities in the way your pelvis and spine coordinate can be seen during this test.
Next, a short physical exam by the chiropractor will involve palpation, or use of the hands, to explore the alignment of your spine and other structures, as well as provide information on any stimuli that may cause pain. Depending on your condition, a series of diagnostic tests may follow. These tests may include MRIs, CT scans, X-rays, blood work, and other laboratory tests.

The chiropractor may also consult with you about making important lifestyle changes, such as exercise, nutrition, and smoking cessation to improve your chances of healing faster or preventing further injury.

Eighty percent of Americans experience one form of back pain or another during the course of their lives. More men over the age of 45 are disabled by back pain than any other condition. It is the third most common reason for surgeries. Because of this, people complaining of back pain cannot be easily diagnosed. This is because the spine is such an incredibly complex structure of bones, muscles, nerves, joints, tendons, and ligaments. Injury or disease affecting any one or more of these structures can often trigger an episode of pain.

Lower back pain is often caused by a muscle strain. The erector spinae, or large paired muscles in the lower back that help keep your spine erect, can become inflamed and spasm. In more serious cases, the pain may be caused by a degenerative condition, such as arthritis, disc disease, or disc herniation.

A degenerative disc condition can sometimes cause a chain reaction of other events in your spine. When a disc is not in its proper place, or is malformed from disease or some other condition, it can allow additional undue pressure on other healthy structures, such as neighboring discs, nerves, muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons.

Rest, ice or heat therapy, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine, such as aspirin, are often the first course of treatment for mild lower back pain. This allows your muscles to return to their normal position and begin to heal.

Because the thoracic spine is the sturdiest part of the spine, it is less prone to injury. That said, upper back pain, while less common than lower back pain, is often caused by irritation of the muscles or a problem with a joint. Other less common causes of upper back pain include herniated or degenerative discs.

However, rest for a sore back should be kept to no more than two weeks. Otherwise, the muscles in the lower back begin to atrophy and can become significantly weak, leaving you open to further undue pain and injury.