Low back pain is the #1 reason to take time off of work and 70% or more of people will have low back pain in their lifetime. Low back pain has been demonstrated in research to be most effectively treated by chiropractic manipulation, so the first stop is often to the chiropractor. But what happens when you don’t feel better after going to the chiropractor for a few weeks or months? Is it all a bunch of quackery? Of course not!
After the chiropractor, many people next turn to NSAIDs, physical therapy and steroid injections. Sometimes these provide relief and sometimes they do not. If those worked for you, you can stop reading here. If those or other therapies have not worked for you, then you may want to dig deeper.
So, what if none of the above has provided relief? Did you just have a bunch of bad doctors? In general I believe that isn’t the case. Are you just destined to low back pain permanently? Not very often. What I believe and have seen clinically is that we just aren’t looking deep enough to figure out the real problem.
Most of my patients that come in looking for help are those asking themselves, “What Now?” After trying all of the best doctors in town and at least a dozen internet recommendations they are still at square one. Then, the internal dialogue starts with, “Well I do have poor posture. Maybe my herniated discs will hurt forever. After all, I do have a short leg. I only workout 3 times a week, maybe I should try 7 days a week.” etc. They come in, semi-depressed and with very little hope of ever having a pain-free life. While I can’t promise to cure every painful back, I can refuse to give up because I know that there are countless mechanisms that cause low back pain that can be checked that likely haven’t been checked before.
I find that men and women have similar causes of low back pain, but there are a few things that pop-up more regularly in each gender.
Men and Low Back Pain
For men, adrenal fatigue is the most common thing I see. Whether you are the new attorney working 100 hour weeks to get ahead or you are the weekend warrior training for your next triathlon, marathon, CrossFit or obstacle race, I find that men over time end up in a fatigued state. Male fatigue often presents a little different than female fatigue in that they usually aren’t suffering from depression or altered emotions, but rather they are the opposite and are lacking pleasure in the things that they enjoy doing. Maybe training for your competition just isn’t as fun anymore or your job that was great a few years ago just feels like a dead end now. These are some of the signs of adrenal fatigue, which can lead to lower testosterone. This is just one of the reasons why you see so many men looking for a quick testosterone injection to bring them back to their prime. I find piriformis syndrome more in females, but also see it frequently in male endurance athletes.
How Does Being Tired Affect My Back?
The adrenal glands are more than just energizer bunnies. They are responsible for helping control inflammation, produce sex hormones and also to help balance electrolytes. You can then see how weekend warriors with intense training schedules can be stressing their bodies with exercise and can often put a significant tax on their adrenals. One little known fact is that the adrenals are associated with many muscles of the pelvis and legs. The hamstrings, gracilis (inner thigh), calf muscles and sartorius (used to cross your legs) all can be affected by poor functioning adrenal glands. These muscles comprise some of the major support to the lower half of the body, the lower back and the pelvis. When your adrenals are worn down, they cause these muscles to not be able to activate, contract and relax properly. In addition, underperforming adrenal glands may not put out enough cortisol to block inflammation, thus resulting in pain.
Part 2 covers common causes for female low back pain and something else that will blow your mind!