Low Back Pain and Work Injuries

About 1/3 of patients with low back pain will consult a doctor of chiropractic. People who injure their low back on the job also often consult a chiropractor. One study (J Occup Environ med 2007;49:1124;Wasiak R, Kim J, Pransky GS) looked at these on-the-job injuries and how chiropractic care was used. In this report from Massachusetts, about 89% of workers initiated chiropractic care within 30 days of the injury and about half (48%) were done with their care in the same time frame.

At work and during lifting the lower spine and disks are especially vulnerable to injury. Heavy loads or simply awkward or stooped positions can be risks and should be avoided. Of interest, more people tend to injure their back in the first two hours of a work shift. This may be because the disks swell up with water during sleep and are more pressurized first thing in the morning. Or perhaps we’re not as attentive to lifting with good form, first thing in the morning.

If you’ve suffered a back injury it’s important to get checked soon so that you have the best chance for getting back on the job quickly. Bed rest and staying inactive are usually not healthy options for treating the low back. Inactivity can make back sprains worse by causing the muscles to weaken. Walking keeps pressure off of the disks and keeps the muscles engaged. If walking aggravates your pain, then it has to be avoided in the short term. Of course lifting following a back injury has to be limited. It’s important to lift with your legs and to avoid twisting motions.

Chiropractic adjustments are designed to improve the mobility of the spinal joints, improve posture and decrease tension on the delicate ligaments and nerves. In many studies chiropractic care has exceeded the results seen with conventional medical treatments such as medications or surgery.

When a back injury occurs, commonly the vertebrae move out of their normal position from the stretch of the supporting ligaments. Simply leaving the ligaments in this stretched-out position may not be healthful in the long run. Since the ligaments are injured, the vertebral joints tend to move abnormally. This is called a mechanical back problem and is one of the most common diseases of the lumbar spine.