It should not come as any surprise that lower back pain is one of the most common disorders that chiropractors treat. As many as one-third of people in developed countries will report lower back pain on any given day, yet only one in four will actually seek treatment from either a primary care provider or a chiropractor. Worse, only about a quarter of those who seek treatment will completely recover from disability, and as many as 60 percent will have a recurrence of symptoms.
As disheartening as these numbers may seem, they can be even worse for certain segments of the population, such as those in the military.
Despite the image of tough and rugged soldiers, years of doing duty in difficult conditions, along with backpacks that can weight as much as 135 pounds, will lead to musculoskeletal injuries, degenerative disc disease, and stress fractures.
Can chiropractic help veterans suffering from degenerative disc disease?
A case report of a 74 year old veteran suffering from degenerative disc disease was written up in the December 2012 issue of the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. His symptoms included lower back pain on the right side and numbness in both legs for the past three months. The back pain had gotten progressively worse over the past week, without any known reason.
He had difficulty walking, so could only do so with the aid of a walker. Sitting appeared to relieve the pain from standing and/or walking. He rated the pain as 10 out of 10 on a numeric pain scale. His Revised Oswestry Low Back Pain score was 44 out of 100, and his Health Status Questionnaire was 52 out of 100. Diagnostic imaging found that the patient had degenerative disc disease at L2L5.
He also suffered from facet arthropathy in the lower lumbar region. He was recommended for instrument-assisted spinal manipulation therapy, including Activator Methods protocol. The patient started spinal manipulation treatment two times per week for six weeks.
After four treatments, the patient reported that he had not had lower back pain for the past week and could use a cane, rather than a walker. At a followup visit seven weeks later, the patient reported zero out of 10 on the numeric pain scale, a Revised Oswestry score of 13.3 out of 100, and a Health Status Questionnaire score of 77 out of 100.
Further followup at 21 months after release from treatment showed a Revised Oswetry score of 10 out of 100 and a Health Status Questionnaire score of 67 out of 100, which was above average for his age.
These results seem to indicate a clear benefit for chiropractic treatment, particularly for patients with long-term lower back pain resulting from ongoing stress and strain upon the spine and surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons.