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Chiropractic Care for Back Pain

Dr. Stephen Newdell


  • What Is Chiropractic Care?
  • What Does Chiropractic Treatment for Back Pain Involve?
  • The Benefits of Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic and Massage Clinics in San Antonio Area Listed Here

My “writer’s voice” here is intended to be conversational. I’m going to explain many concerns you naturally have and add in examples to help you understand from a doctor’s point of view.

The need for spine care is nothing new. There are cave drawings found all over the world some of which appear to date back thousands of years showing people doing some sort of by hand massage and perhaps manipulation effort to restore comfort and proper mobility to “a patient.”

Among people seeking back pain relief alternatives, most choose chiropractic treatment. About 22 million Americans visit chiropractors annually. Of these, 7.7 million, or 35%, are seeking relief from back pain from various causes, including car crashes, accidents at home, a trip or minor fall, sports injuries, and muscle strains due to lifting, or some other activity.

Patients come to us complaining of headaches, eye problems, neck pain,  pain of arms, and legs and more.

What Is Chiropractic Care?

Chiropractors use hands-on spinal manipulation and other alternative treatments. The original thesis from the early 1900’s stated that proper alignment and restored balance of the body’s muscles and skeletal structure, particularly the spine, will allow a restored balance of nervous system function. Restoration of the nervous system action may lead to glands and organs working better, and muscles and related joints staying aligned. The result being the patient not only feels less pain, s/he also notices other unexpected health improvements.

I am a retired Chiropractor, living abroad now; but still caring for poor people who come to me asking for help. If you want to, you can see pictures of my credentials here.

In my own Chiropractic practice  which combined Swedish massage with gentle spinal adjusting (realignment) I did have some patients who reported blood pressure restoring to normal, clearing away of dizziness, headaches, eye pains, digestive distress, and sometimes relief from temporary asthma. Sometimes a child with a fever was “instantly cured” because the source of his/her problem was not a virus, it was a nervous system problem. 

Medical writers have some difficulty with these stories because they can’t survey a million or more people to gather a statistic proving what I have said here. I’m not a alone. Many Chiropractors have experienced similar stories.

Primarily patients came to me because of pain in the low back, shoulders, arms, hips, legs, headaches, neck and general back pain. Chiropractors still debate some of these issues but it seems these days more of us agree to focus our discussion around spine related disorders and pain. If the patient reports improvement in other conditions the doctor can point out a chart similar to this one …


…and explain how restoration of the spine to normal shape and range of motion likely caused some or all of this improvement.

What is high on the list of importance for most of us is that we approach health care issues with conservative natural healing methods first.

Medicine is a big step into more radical health-care because most often medicine is intended to cover symptoms but not actually get to the cause and “cure” anything. Of course medicine has side effects which can be dangerous, and often once started on taking medicine, the patient finds herself taking several prescriptions for years with no affected cure.

Finally, the last resort is surgery, and surgery for back pain has never shown ideal results. Generally surveys show that 98% of patients after back surgery say they were dissatisfied with the result. Such a statistic represents a lot of painful people and a lot of money spent to take a gamble that 2 out of 100 will believe the surgery was the best answer.

Many older people visit a medical doctor with hip pain which, for all the world, feels like the hip joint is in serious trouble, but x-rays show nothing wrong there. Quite often working to restore muscle balance and low back alignment will relieve the pain and prove that surgery was never needed! I hope you will remember this because I’ve studied this extensively. I’m doing my best in one paragraph to help you avoid a lot of expense and misery!

piriformis m

I’m not saying “never” to surgery. I did have one patient with pain in one of the small muscles (the piriformis) that guide the movement of the femur and sacrum.

I was able to pinpoint the cause and I told her orthopedic surgeon to take a CAT scan (type of x-ray) and exactly where to look. He was surprised and congratulated me. I was precisely right showing where a ruptured disc was pressing against a nerve root. The surgery was a very small hole into which was passed a fiber optic strand which acted like a television camera and a light. Through that incision also was passed a very slim tube with a pump attached on the outside end.

Nucleus Pulposus

The inside of the spinal disc contains a protein and water blob that works like a balance board or like a ball bearing, like a shock absorber.

balance board

The disc separates the spinal vertebra (bone) above from the one below.

When a disc “herniates” that protein and water “ball bearing” (the Nucleus Pulposus as shown here) tears through the disc and when the disc “ruptures” the Nucleus squeezes out of the disc often into the back of the spine.

Nucleus 2

That protein jell lies against the nerve root causing irritation and muscle pain and spasm or weakness or palpitations.

herniated Disc

The slim tube applied to the nucleus sucked that material away from the nerve root and the patient had immediate improvement which continue to improve until she was pain free and able to return to her employment in an office.

In theory that disc will eventually be as flat as paper and the patient when older may have other low-back discomfort, but at that time this was the best known treatment and restored her to a normal life.

Generally, spinal adjustments (also called “Manipulation” by the medical profession) restore mobility to joints restricted by muscle imbalances around the joint or tissue injury caused by a traumatic event, such as falling, or repetitive stress, or perhaps from sitting without proper back support, or sitting with terrible posture.

desk posture

However the spine can mis-align for many reasons, not only because of trauma. Many people lift without analyzing what they’re doing and strain their back. A little thinking before doing can prevent a lot of trouble.

Sometimes, particularly in the low back, the problem stems from a poisoned digestive system. In that case a combination of therapy can be applied. The most conservative is to improve the eating regimen with more vegetable matter and grains that provide more fiber. The doctor may advice the patient to give up coffee and sugar and most chemical laden “foods,” and drink more water. Over a few days the patient may experience improvement. Add in several Chiropractic adjustments, stretching and muscle strengthening exercise, and the patient will likely get well quickly. (Stretching is necessary and if done right can make huge improvements!)

About 35% of the visits to Chiropractors is for back pain relief and more often now, Chiropractors focus their discussion on that area of concern.

Sometimes Chiropractors will share the case with a medical doctor and that often is seen as a more universally acceptable approach.

Chiropractic is not in competition with medical care. Medical doctors are not trained in spinal realignment techniques and generally speaking Chiropractors are not trained in use of pharmaceuticals or application of surgery. Sometimes, we work together helping patients get their normal lives back at work at home.

The initials “DC”(Doctor of Chiropractic) identify a chiropractor, whose education typically includes a 4 or even 6-year undergraduate degree plus four years of Chiropractic College.

The Chiropractic education in its foundation is very similar to medical college. It might look like the students are being groomed to become orthopedic surgeons. But then instead of studying medicine and surgery, students learn to use their hands to restore the spine to proper alignment and relieve pain while restoring normal motion and physical ability. This study is demanding, and rigorous, and includes a lot of time working on patients with a qualified instructor watching and advising.

A few years ago surveys of the results of a nationally provided test; The National Basic Science Board Exam, indicated Chiropractic students were getting more hours of study and better test scores than the medical students. Chiropractors are carefully tested and licensed in every state of the United States.

By these factors we can be confident that Chiropractors are well educated in the health care concerns and issues. There is careful reasoning for the application of techniques and treatment choices. You can be comfortable that the D.C. is giving you an honest examination and very good care.

What Does Chiropractic Treatment for Back Pain Involve?

Generally the exam is limited to the spine and related muscles, range of motion testing, muscle strength testing, probably x-ray analysis looking for misalignment and any evidence of bone disease. (Bone disease is rare.)

Some doctors ask the patient to wear an examination gown. Some work directly through a T-shirt and slacks. I have never requested or needed a patient to disrobe. At most a baring of the spinal (backbone) area is enough. I think most of us are sensitive to a patient’s desire for modesty. 

Chiropractor’s hands have been so finely trained they can feel easily what the person who is new to this cannot feel at all. I lately had a patient with pain between her shoulder blades. To my fingertips it felt like I “fell into a hole.” I asked her husband to feel it and he said he could feel nothing. But, the patient certainly felt huge relief when the adjustment was finished, and that’s what mattered to them.

A chiropractor first takes a medical history, performs a physical examination, and may use diagnostic imaging (x-ray photos most commonly) to determine what treatments should be applied to restore your spine to normal motion and comfort. 

The treatment plan may involve several visits and spinal realigning adjustments during which the doctor uses his hands to move the joint structures back to proper alignment.

Many Chiropractors will include nutritional counseling and exercise in an effort to rehabilitate the patient and bring the relief s/he seeks.

The goals of chiropractic care include the restoration of nervous system function, range of motion, normal over all body function, restoration of comfort and motion which inevitably lead to back pain relief and improved general health.

I hold the opinion based upon years in this work and literally thousands of patient visits; Medicine cannot restore a spine to proper alignment.


Botti Chiropractic & Wellness, Oak Lawn, IL.

Only a proper spinal realignment can do that. For me, the proper alignment is done by hand. There are some doctors using small instruments to help them realign a spine, but my experience has been that a combination of Swedish massage and spinal alignment done by hand has gotten gratifying results. Many Chiropractors share a case with a massage therapist.

All of this is natural, non-invasive and allows your body to restore itself to proper comfort and strength. We can’t turn 60-year-olds into 14-year-olds again but we can go a long way to restoring comfort, range of motion, and good posture. This restores the patient to a more comfortable and normal active life.

What Are the Benefits and Risks of Chiropractic Care?

chart 1a

Spinal manipulation and chiropractic care are generally considered safe, effective treatments for Spine Related Disorders from neck pain and headaches all the length of the spine to the sacrum and Coccyx and “Sacroiliac articulations,” shown here in angry red, which most will call hip pains.

sacroiliac articulation

In addition, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia may respond to the combination of massage, Chiropractic treatments, and sometimes nutritional supplementation; that being vitamin and mineral tablets). As I alluded earlier, it’s not impossible for other health issues to restore to normal after an adjustment. I have had several patients (under age 40) of both genders with reproductive system problems that restored to normal function after a few low back adjustments. For them it was miraculous. For me it was just another day of normal work and good results. There are scads of Chiropractors with similar stories. Medical doctors find this a bit difficult to accept but indeed, often patients get well naturally, with the application of Chiropractic adjustments. We don’t advertise that we can cause “spontaneous remissions” of all sorts of maladies, but it does occasionally happen.

I fully acknowledge there is a broad span of opinion and there are many packages of technique to find and treat your spinal problems. Most of us agree we need to find the source of your pain and correct it with some kind of spinal realignment technique and most of us agree that our conversational focus should be on your “back pain,” unless you ask about something more.

The statistics prove that Chiropractic care is effective for all ages from babies to elderly adults, for boys and girls and pregnant women. 

Chiropractic care restores people to normal work and their normal lives again, and the cost is reasonable.

B.J. Palmer, the man most responsible for turning his father’s first experience into a college attended by enthusiastic students would later write ‘Chiropractic restores years to life, and more life to your years.’




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