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This month I want to tell you the story about Sam’s experience with severe back and leg pain. This story is important because it exemplifies the common mistakes that many patients make in their choices for the treatment of back pain.

Like most individuals who experience severe back pain, Sam’s first reaction was to see his M.D. After consulting with his medical doctor, Sam was told that the pain was due to muscle spasm. The doctor prescribed medications: an anti-inflammatory and a muscle relaxant. When that didn’t help, Sam’s doctor ordered an MRI study. The MRI study showed a condition called spinal stenosis, the compression of spinal nerves caused by narrowing of the nerve channels.

Sam was now referred to a spine surgeon for evaluation. The surgeon felt that the condition was not serious enough to recommend surgical intervention. This doctor explained that back surgery increased the risk of infection, subsequent degeneration, and the possibility of eventual failure. The surgeon recommended a referral to a pain management clinic.

Sam’s pain doctor advised a series of epidural spine shots to relieve the pain. However, within a short time the back pain always returned. The pain management doctor explained that he was only treating the symptoms and told Sam to try physical therapy.

Sam’s physical therapist recommended a program that included massage, gentle stretches, and exercises. Sam continued the therapy program for four weeks with no significant benefit. The therapist eventually sent Sam on his way, suggesting that he continue with his exercises.

After three months of ineffective treatments, Sam had almost given up when one of his friends suggested that a chiropractor might be helpful. Upon arriving at our office, Sam was evaluated and x-rayed. The x-rays showed a pelvic imbalance from a short leg, a moderate lumbar spinal curvature, advanced disc degeneration at L4/5 and L5/sacrum, with a posterior slip of L5.

Sam was advised that the back and leg pain was due to the misalignment of the lower back. Spinal adjustments were recommended as the most likely treatment to relieve this chronic condition. After six spinal adjustments of the L5/sacrum area the back and leg pain miraculously disappeared.

What can one learn from Sam’s experience? The obvious lesson is this. Chiropractic care treats the cause of back pain. Spinal pain is usually related to structural or biomechanical problems that affect spinal nerves. Chiropractic care often works even after other methods have failed. However, chiropractic care is often tried only after all other methods have failed.

My recommendation: Consider chiropractic care before drugs, shots and surgery. If you are experiencing chronic back or neck pain, try the most conservative treatment first. Find a great chiropractor to be on your health team. Spinal adjustments are often the most conservative and effective way to relieve chronic back and neck pain.

Dr. Craig Brue is an author, lecturer and chiropractic provider in SaddleBrooke.