Non-specific low back pain is one of the most common – and costly – healthcare problems in this country. This type of back pain typically recurs and has a huge impact on individual sufferers through time off work, poor sleep, reduced physical activity, increased use of pain medication, and on society as a whole through lost work days, GP appointments and so on.
Chiropractors generally treat low back pain with gentle spinal manipulation and mobilisation techniques, backed up with the use of exercises. Many studies show that, for many people, this is the most effective approach.
However, non-specific low back pain is a complex, multi-faceted problem, which encompasses social, behavioural and psychological factors, and there is little evidence about how best to prevent the pain from returning.
Many chiropractors use one of two strategies once a patient has recovered from their low back pain: to finish treatment and possibly continue with exercises, and only have further treatment when the pain returns (this is known as symptom-guided treatment) or to go on to a maintenance care programme. This involves regular treatment sessions at three, four or even six-monthly intervals to remove any areas of spinal dysfunction as they are found and before they become symptomatic. This is a common approach used by chiropractors and one which, anecdotally, seems to work for many people, although there has been no quality research on it until now.
A recent Swedish study looked at a group of over 300 patients with non-specific low back pain who responded well to chiropractic care. They were then either left to return for treatment if and when their pain returned, or they were put on a maintenance care programme with scheduled check-ups with the chiropractor before their back pain returned. Results showed that those receiving maintenance treatments suffered on average thirteen fewer days of bothersome low back pain than the group on symptom-guided treatment.
Ultimately it is a personal choice for patients as to whether they opt for maintenance care or not, but the evidence would suggest that many would benefit from a combination of keeping active and having regular checks to take care of minor spinal problems before they develop into an acute episode of debilitating pain.
At The Iveson Clinic we can offer patients check-up appointments, in the same way that your dentist would regularly check your teeth, to maintain spinal health and spot potential issues at an early stage. Call us on 01787 374964 to find out more about how we can help you keep active and pain-free.