Skip to main content

3 Things You May Not Know About Back Pain

Written By Dr. Erwin Gemmer on January 29, 2019

Most people today know that vertebrae can get out of place and irritate nerves. But here are a few points you may not know!

Muscle relaxers generally aren't the best answer for painful muscle spasms in the back.

Muscle spasms are usually caused by one of two things:

The first possibility is that you injured yourself and the spasms are there to protect you from moving too much and therefore injuring yourself further. The muscle spasms are there to help you.

The second possibility is that the muscles opposite the ones which are spasming are not able to contract normally. They are then overpowered by the normal side, causing a spasm in the side that is still working. You see, muscles of your back work in pairs and balance each other, much like the biceps and triceps of your upper arm. So let's say the nerves to your triceps are blocked and your triceps cannot contract normally. It is your biceps that will be in pain and spasm. In fact, you wouldn't even be able to straighten your arm!

Muscle spasms don't usually need muscle relaxers. They need for the opposing muscle to be working normally and for the injuries to heal. This is easily accomplished by a doctor who knows what he or she is doing.

Back pain is often not caused by the vertebrae at the level of the pain.

The nerves in your low back run down your legs. While these low lumbar nerves can cause low back pain when choked or irritated, they are just as likely to cause leg or pelvic pains. In contrast, low back pain is just as often caused by the nerves TO the low back area, ones that actually come out of the spine about six inches higher, more like around the kidney level.

The nerves from each level of the spine go to specific areas. Example: The nerves from the 2nd lumbar level (fourth vertebra from the bottom) go to the area of your legs covered by the front pockets of your pants and also run into your abdomen. If these nerves are choked or irritated, you can have pain or malfunction in either or both areas.

An experienced doctor should be able to tell you which spinal nerves are in trouble simply by touching the spine OR by checking for tenderness at each area supplied by each level of the spine OR by testing the muscle that is run by this nerve. This is the starting point.

What's really interesting is that these problems many times would have self-corrected had the “breaker switches” in the brain been reset. In other words, the spine itself does NOT need any work. But when other actions are needed to correct the problem, what needs to be done can be determined by imaging (usually an ordinary set of X-rays does the job).

The “obvious” problem (the one detected by MRI, CT scan or X-ray) often is not the thing causing your pain.

Here's a bit of fun research for you to consider. A group of men with low back pain were rounded up. Imaging of their lower spines was done (MRI, CT scan and/or X-ray). A certain percentage were found to have herniated discs.

A second group of men with no back pain was then assembled. They had similar ages, histories and occupations to the first group but this second group didn't have spinal pain. The same images were done of this second group as were done on the first group. The second group had the very same number of herniated discs!

Other studies have proven many times over that an area which looks the worst on imaging may or may not be the area causing a person's pain. There is a surprisingly low correlation between what looks the worst and what is causing the pain.

My first experience with this phenomenon occurred just weeks after I opened my first practice many years ago. A forty year old named Ed couldn't raise his arm due to severe pain. X-rays had been taken elsewhere, and those doctors had told him he had bone spurs (which was true) and that they were causing the pain when he tried to raise his arm. Being the cocky new kid that I was, I took X-rays of his other, pain-free shoulder and found that it had also had bone spurs, ones that appeared almost identical to those on the painful side. It turned out that Ed's problem was caused by choked, irritated nerves in his neck. These were quickly corrected through spinal adjustments, and Ed could soon do chin ups, push ups and throw a football.

A trained and experienced doctor can tell you more about the cause of your pain after palpating your spine (feeling for abnormalities) than can another doctor who is relying on imaging alone. In fact, a truly experienced spinal doctor should be able to simply glide his hands over your back and stop at the bad places which are causing pain. If someone claims to be a spine, back or pain specialist but cannot do this, something is really wrong.

The post 3 Things You May Not Know About Back Pain appeared first on Gemmer Wellness.

Posted In: Health and Wellness Disease and Conditions prescription drugs Pain Pain back health muscle health