Nearly 16 million adults experience persistent back pain, a reality that can dramatically impact their quality of life. Common questions our patients ask range from how to maintain a healthy back while sitting at a computer all day, if chiropractic care is beneficial (and if it's okay for your spouse to "crack" your back for you in the meantime) to if a spine surgeon can help without surgery, and if it's true that tight calves can cause lower back pain. In short, stretching breaks make a big difference (for your calves and as a break from sitting), chiropractic care can be a useful tool when done by a professional, and spine surgeons like me offer a variety of non-surgical treatment options. Read on to learn more about each of these.
How do I care for my back/find lower back pain relief from sitting all day?
Sitting at one's desk can often lead to significant changes in your mechanics, and sometimes cause low back pain. This has been made worse most recently throughout the pandemic, with more people having to work from home and sitting at their computers to do things that they previously were able to do in meeting rooms, or by getting up and moving around at the office. Usually what I recommend is sitting at your computer or at your desk for no longer than 30 to 45 minutes at a time if you're able, and getting up and moving around as much as you can. In addition to this, engaging in some stretching, not only of your low er back, but also of your hamstrings or legs, is a very reasonable option to try and continue to maintain your low back health.
If you have persistent symptoms that seem to be causing problems resulting from sitting at your desk for prolonged periods of time, it may be worth coming to see us. Often, we can provide you further guidance with physical therapy or other options.
Can a chiropractor help with back pain?
Chiropractic care can often be a useful tool in helping neck and back issues. At times, there are symptoms that may require further intervention or treatment from a spine surgeon, such as diffuse or significant weakness going to the arms or legs. But, more often than not, chiropractic care, when appropriately utilized, can significantly help patients alleviate their low back or neck pain.
What I often recommend is a team approach, where both a physician, a chiropractor, or a combination of the two assess you and figure out exactly what treatment would work best.
Is it okay to have a friend or family member "pop" or "crack" your back?
I would traditionally recommend against having your back cracked or popped by another individual unless they're trained to do so, such as a physical therapist or a chiropractor. Usually if you're able to do some stretching or manipulation on your own, within the realm of what would be considered a normal range of motion, this is probably safe. But when another individual begins forcing you beyond your normal range of motion, this has the potential for creating an injury. I would recommend against this, particularly if you feel as though it's something you need in order to get out of pain. This would be a scenario where you may be best served by seeing an expert to assist you with pursuing a safer avenue to improve your symptoms.
Can tight calves really cause lower back pain and if so, what stretches should I be doing?
Tightness in your leg muscles can absolutely lead to a worsening of low back pain. The muscles most frequently contributing to this are your hamstring muscles, which are the muscles in the back part of your thighs. But in addition to this, issues with any of your leg muscles that are tight, including your quadriceps or even your calves, can contribute to back pain. This is usually due to a change in your gait (the way that you walk). Usually what I recommend are some hamstring stretches with toe touches, or sitting on the ground with your feet in front of you and putting a towel around your feet and pulling on it gently, to stretch both your calves and your hamstrings. If you ever have questions along these lines, our physical therapists do a wonderful job of demonstrating these stretches to you.
Do spine surgeons see patients who may not need surgery?
All of the spine providers at The Christ Hospital, myself included, are always happy to see patients who don't desire or surgery. More often than not, our patients are able to be treated without it. A spine surgeon will guide you through all of the nonsurgical treatment methods available. Often, through physical therapy or occasionally injections, patients are able to avoid surgery altogether. On occasion, surgery is necessary, and of course, we're able to take care of those patients as well.
Learn more about The Christ Hospital Joint & Spine Center or find a spine/back expert near you. Have additional questions? Email us and we'll get back to you with answers.