Health & Wellness

Chiropractors tackle back pain at the source

Painkillers merely mask the symptoms
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From office workers sitting at their desk for long periods, to construction workers lifting heavy loads, and gardeners bending over to pick up weeds, back pain will strike most of us at some point in our lives. The good news is that we don’t have to rely on painkillers to deal with it.

A chiropractor can not only ease your agony but, through rehabilitation and restructuring, aims to fix the problem at its source so that you can get on with life, pain free.

“People’s driving force to visit us is pain,” said Dr Craig Rowat, of Spine & Sport on Church Street, Hamilton. “We are going to help with the pain in the short term – but we get to the root cause, so they don’t have to keep coming back. Painkillers are just pain management. We see ourselves as taking that a whole step further.”

Recent studies have shown eight out of ten people suffer back pain at some point in their lives. Doctors at Spine & Sport examine, diagnose and treat patients with a range of injuries to muscles, joints, bones and nerves, including chronic long-term issues and short-term acute pain.

Their methods include:

• Mobilisation: pressure is applied through the joints to improve their movement;

• Adjustments: the chiropractor applies a controlled, sudden force to the spinal joint;

• Soft tissue work: pressure is applied to a sore muscle to create a temporary attachment point, so that the patient can stretch more easily;

• Acupuncture: needles are inserted into trigger points to correct imbalances within the body;

• Rehabilitation work at home: the patient does exercise such as stretching, to build strength.

Dr Ben Gibbs, a practitioner at Spine & Sport, said: “We use different methods from patient to patient.

We are always going to break down a full plan of action. We let them know what’s going to happen, how long it will take and keep the family doctor in the loop. Everybody is going to get some level of work to help themselves at home as well.

“Patients are going to see some form of improvement fairly quickly. Within a few sessions we will see some form of improvement, although it may take longer to get to 100 per cent.”

The first step is to assess how the injury has happened so that the problem can be cut off at the source, if possible. “People often don’t realise there’s other variables in their life causing it,” Dr Gibbs said.

Many patients at Spine & Sport are office workers whose back pain stems from their posture at their desk. Complaints increased during lockdown as many people resorted to using their laptops while sitting on the couch.

Others suffer because of manual jobs that require repetition or lifting heavy objects. Dr Kyle Steineman, another practitioner, said: “A lot of times, those people are quite strong. But doing the same movement, over and over again, eventually tissues can break down. You might feel it gets better on its own, but with repetition it doesn’t.”

Why do many people prefer to reach for the medicine cabinet instead of booking an appointment with a chiropractor?

“It’s easier to take painkillers. It’s all passive, with no active component,” Dr Steineman said. “When we do it, you need to do exercise at home too. But the right thing to do would be to fix the problem at the source.”

Dr Rowat said: “We don’t work with drugs or medicine, but we fully understand those have a place in healthcare. We have patients come here who wake up in the morning and take Advil or stronger medication, and that’s how they start their day. It doesn’t have to be like that.”

Chiropractic began as a profession in the 19th Century, but was generally viewed with suspicion by the medical field. Dr Rowat said: “Fifty-plus years ago, chiropractic was a fringe form of medicine. It was alternative. In the past 15 years, it’s become much more a science and evidence-based practice. It’s becoming more accepted.

“There’s still skepticism among patients and the medical community, but at this practice we pride ourselves that we have formed good relationships with medical doctors and specialists. We are not claiming to fix anybody’s cancer. We know our role in the medical community and we don’t do anything beyond that. We work very hard at maintaining very ethical practices.”

One such skeptic was Tony Kapsimalis, a 35-year-old sports fanatic who visited Spine & Sport after suffering a lower back injury while lifting a dumbbell at the gym in April. Mr Kapsimalis said: “It was a really debilitating pain in the lower right side of my back. It was painful every position I was in. I had never been to a chiropractor before. My initial perspective was that I had a little bit of fear in terms of the adjustment process – I was putting my body in their hands.

“I just thought, I drank the Kool- Aid, I’m going to a chiropractor.”

Mr Kapsimalis recalled lying on his side while Dr Rowat lifted his right leg in the air and applied pressure in certain spots: “It was wild. Instant pain relief. I got up and I was, ‘wow!’ I could stand straight. I went from a 9 pain to a 2.”

Within three days, Mr Kapsimalis felt completely better and a few months later is continuing to play hockey, golf and tennis with no pain.

If you suffer back pain, your first step should be to contact a chiropractor.

Dr Gibbs said: “The first signs are aches and pains. You might wake up with a stiff back and then it goes away. But when that happens, it’s usually going to come back.”

Dr Rowat said: “As soon as you start to get something, don’t put it off. Evaluate it, see if it needs to be addressed. Come straight to Spine & Sport. No referral required. All private medical insurers do have some form of chiropractic coverage as well. We work with everybody here. We don’t turn anybody away.”

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