Did you know that 85% of the population will experience low back pain at some time in their life? Did you also know that 85% of these episodes of low back pain will get better on their own? But…pain is not always a great indication of how serious your condition is. Knowing what structure is causing your symptoms and whether you need professional help is where the magic happens.
In this week’s blog:
- I will tell you about my first experience with low back pain and sciatica
- I will give you 3 simple at home tests to help you determine the cause of your back pain.
- Finally, I’ll give you three warning signs that tell you it’s time to seek professional help.
Hold onto your hats people! Here we go!
In high school, before surfing and golf took over as my main obsessions, I played a ton of indoor volleyball. I was on the high school varsity team every year and I played morning noon and night. However, when I went to college, my focus drifted to other places. And no, I’m not talking about studying😎.
My first year of college I wasn’t quite as active. Despite surfing a lot, I wasn’t working out with the team anymore and doing the normal routines I would with volleyball, such as lifting weights and stretching.
One day I was invited to play on an intramural volleyball team at SDSU. I was a little rusty but jumped right back in pretty quick. Everything was great until the next morning when I woke up and couldn’t get out of bed. I had severe low back pain with radiating leg pain down to my calf. I thought to myself this will pass, I’m 19, this is no big deal. But to my dismay it worsened.
I didn’t know what to do so I drove back up to LA and saw our family orthopedist who I had already seen multiple times for various injuries. His response was the opposite of what I was looking to hear. He told me I couldn’t golf, surf, or play volleyball for 6 months and I would most likely have a spinal fusion within the next five years. He handed me a paper with three ridiculous stretches and a prescription for a handful of painkillers and anti-inflammatories that he wanted me to take basically…forever.
Upon returning to San Diego, I was mildly depressed. Tired of watching me sit on the couch drowning my sorrows in cheap beer and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, my roommate introduced me to a chiropractor here in San Diego. This doctor educated me on my condition, and I felt 50% better when I left. Both physically and mentally.
What really intrigued me was how easily he could reproduce the pain as well as help me find positions to get out of pain.
Now after 20 years of practice I have seen my exact same situation in hundreds of patients. Many of my patients are often confused when it comes to low back pain and sciatica. The two questions I often get asked are:
- What is causing my low back pain and/or sciatica?
- When should I seek professional help?
The first question can be answered with these 3 basic tests you can do at home.
- The Sitting Root or Slump test.
- Kemp’s test.
- Prone press-up
Some warning signs that indicate it is time to seek professional help when it comes to low back pain are:
- Pain does not change over 48-72 hours.
- Severe low back or leg pain that keeps you up at night.
- Severe weakness in the leg, loss of bowel or bladder control or complete numbness of both buttocks- (This one is an emergency situation. Go to the ER. Not your favorite chiropractor!)
In conclusion, low back pain and sciatica are very common conditions that many people will experience at some point in their lives. While 85% of these instances of low back pain can improve on their own, pain is not always a great indication of how serious your condition is. Knowing what structure is causing your symptoms and whether or not you need professional help is crucial.
If you need help with your low back pain or if you need guidance on which professional to seek help from, click one of the links below.