Back Pain: Its Causes and Effective Chiropractic Treatments

Back Pain: Its Causes and Effective Chiropractic Treatments

Back pain is a common condition which can be difficult to treat on your own. Chiropractic professionals are trained to use a technique called spinal manipulation to relieve low back pain and improve physical function (the ability to walk and move). In early 2017, The American College of Physicians stated that it now supports the use of nonpharmacologic therapies such as chiropractic and acupuncture as first-line treatments for low back pain before prescribing medication. Several studies including a 2017 review in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that chiropractic spinal manipulation reduces lower back pain.

Though back pain is a very common condition, each back pain sufferer endures it uniquely. Back pain runs the gamut of symptoms. You may be experiencing dull throbbing aches or piercing sharp pains. It may be acute back pain or chronic. You may notice that the pain intensifies when you exercise or sit for longer than a few minutes, or you may be experiencing numbness or tingling.

Back pain can stop you in your tracks, but the good news is that most cases of back pain can be resolved or at least remarkably improved within a relatively short period of time at your chiropractor’s office.

Modern chiropractors understand the wholistic relationship between the lower extremity joints and spinal function. We recognize the muscular and nervous system as intrinsically related to and reliant on each other, enabling us to perform all the intricate movements that humans make.

Generally but not always, spinal adjustment (to correct spinal joint abnormalities) is a chiropractor’s principle therapy for back pain. The chiropractic adjustment actually changes the mechanics of the joints and with repetition, helps to reestablish correct nerve, muscle and joint function, alleviating pain. At Wagner Chiropractic we support spinal adjustment with physical therapy and rehabilitation when necessary.

Research shows that a very small percentage of back pain cases actually need surgery. Independent studies comparing chiropractic to hospital outpatient treatment confirm chiropractic procedures as safe and most effective for nonsurgical back conditions.

In the 2018 Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic Annual Report(2), we learn the following key points:

Though 67% of Americans suffering from neck or back back pain would want to see a professional who treats neck or back pain using a variety of methods including medication or surgery, 79% of U. S. adults would prefer to try to address their neck or back pain using methods other than prescription medication first.

Many U. S. adults also use non-drug therapies that require a health-care professional for care, such as massage (53%), spinal adjustment (47%) and physical therapy (42%).

The report demonstrates that most people trust chiropractors more.

Among those who had seen an M.D. most often for recent neck or back pain, their top reasons for choosing a medical doctor were:

  • insurance coverage (38%),

  • trust (30%)

  • habit (26%) and

  • effectiveness (23%).

Their top reasons for choosing physical therapists were:

  • safety (50%),

  • insurance coverage (47%) and

  • effectiveness (42%).

The numbers are higher for chiropractors. Patients’ top reasons for choosing a chiropractor were:

  • safety (54%)

  • trust (53%) and

  • effectiveness (52%).

Chiropractic is beneficial for back pain.

A 2010 review of scientific evidence on manual therapies for a range of conditions concluded that spinal manipulation/mobilization may be helpful for several conditions in addition to back pain, including migraine and cervicogenic (neck-related) headaches, neck pain, upper- and lower-extremity joint conditions, and whiplash-associated disorders.
— from the article, Chiropractic In Depth, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services

Maintenance of a healthy back

Along with chiropractic spinal manipulation, exercise, massage and physical therapy, additional more conventional approaches such as applying heat and using a firm mattress may also benefit.

Today, there is little controversy regarding the importance of exercise in healthy lifestyles, longevity, quality of life, mental wellness and the management of many chronic diseases, including low back pain. In point of fact, exercise is the only meaningful way to increase functional capacity. Rather than the value of exercise in the management of back pain, there may be more of a question as to its place: alone or in combination with cognitive and/or biopsychosocial strategies.
— Thomas Dreisinger, Ph. D.

There are a number of possible causes of back pain.

Strain or sprain: Back pain can result from the tearing of muscle or tendon (muscle strain) and this occurs most often in the lower back region. It can also result by the tearing of a ligament (muscle sprain) which creates inflammation and pain and sometimes even muscle spasms. Whether the cause of back pain is strain or sprain, the pain can range from mild to acute and can radiate into other parts of the body.

Bulging and ruptured disc: Over time we experience or engage in habits or processes that affect our shock absorbing spinal cushions between the vertebrae causing them to bulge and rupture. These discs can begin to weaken with age, stress or trauma to the spine, weight gain, and even smoking.

When a bulging disc is left untreated it can eventually tear. This is known as a ruptured or herniated disc. In the lower back it causes sharp back pain that can also radiate into buttocks, groin, and/ or down one leg. In the neck it can cause pain that radiate down an arm. In addition to pain, a bulging or herniated disc can cause muscle weakness, numbness, and tingling.

Spinal osteoarthritis: Wear and tear of the cartilage between the spine's joints can cause dull, aching, or throbbing pain and joint stiffness that feels more acute when moving the body. If the cartilage wears away completely the joints begin rubbing against each other causing pain.

Besides the natural process of aging, obesity is believed to contribute to the development of spine osteoarthritis since such excess weight significantly stresses vertebral joints.

Sciatica: Here a herniated disc or bone spur may cause compression or pinching of the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the body running from the base of the spine and down both legs. For this reason, pain from sciatica can cause lower back pain radiating into the buttocks and all the way down the legs into the soles of the feet, most often on one side.

This condition can be caused by diabetes, prolonged sitting, injury or trauma to the pelvis, buttocks, or thigh, or by piriformis syndrome—when a small muscle in the buttocks spasms and irritates the sciatic nerve.

Spinal stenosis(1): As we age, the spinal canal gradually becomes constricted or narrowed. Osteoarthritis and/or a thickening of tissues in the spine are partly responsible for this condition. When the spinal canal becomes too narrow and tight, nerve roots tend to compress which also may cause weakness, numbness, and tingling.

Traumatic auto accident injuries, scoliosis and Paget's disease(1), an abnormal bone condition, can also be responsible for stenosis.

Spondylolysis: This form of back pain is caused by a stress fracture which significantly weakens the vertebrae of the spine. Children and adolescents may experience spondylolysis as a result of sports trauma and older people simply by the process of aging. Again, as for other forms of back pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness may result.

Osteoporosis: Back pain from osteoporosis is most often related to a compression fracture of the vertebra caused by weakening of the bones and is frequently felt in the lower or middle back. This pain may worsen with motion but can be eased with rest or lying down.

Scoliosis: With scoliosis the spine curves and twists—like the letters "S" or “C”—and back discomfort may develop. Scoliosis most often arises in children and adolescents.

Less Common Causes

Less often, back pain results from a systemic illness such as infection or cancer.

  1. a chronic disease of elderly people characterized by deterioration of bone tissue, especially in the spine, skull, or pelvis, sometimes causing severe pain.

  2. Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic Annual Report Managing Neck and Back Pain in America. Palmer College of Chiropractic, 2018, Gallup-Palmer College of Chiropractic Annual Report Managing Neck and Back Pain in America.



Faye, Leonard. Goodbye Back Pain: a Sufferers' Guide to Full Back Recovery. BookSurge, 2008.

Dreisinger, Thomas E. Exercise – Key to Good Health and Back Pain Management. American Back Society, 2013,

“Chiropractic: In Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 8 Nov. 2018,

“Spinal Manipulation for Low-Back Pain.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 26 Mar. 2018,