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Is your chronic back pain cause mental or physical?

Posted Aug 12 2010 12:00am

San Francisco Chiropractor Comments:

Chronic back pain treatment San Francisco
We have been practicing chiropractic in the San Francisco Financial District for almost 20 years now. During this time our chiropractors have delivered over 100,000 chiropractic adjustments. 

We have pretty much seen it all as far as chronic back pain is concerned. And we have seen enough chronic back pain (and chronic neck pain) patients to know that the cause of chronic back pain (CBP) is not always physical. In fact, often times the problem is mostly psychological. 

I came across an article recently on Anne Asher's excellent Back & Neck Pain Blog entitled Bad Luck May Be Good Omen for a Bad Back . This article describes recent research that suggests the psychological component of chronic back pain may be more than we think. Here is an excerpt from the article:

If you've endured some difficulties in your life before you got a chronic back condition you may be in luck as far as your prognosis goes. The key here is some - as in falling between no life adversity and a lot of it. A new study, to be published in the September issue of Pain surveyed 396 adult chronic back pain sufferers. They found that people who have met with some life challenge prior to a back problem reported better function and less use of the health care system for their back pain than the others.

So what constitutes some adversity? Study participants said they had dealt with illness, violence, death of a loved one or friend, relationship and social stress or disaster.

I'm convinced that the link is psychological and/or social.  It seems the researchers for this study agree. Dr. Mark Seery, investigator and assistant professor of psychology at University of Buffalo says, "the data suggest that adversity-exposure also may protect against psychiatric disturbances that occur with CBP."

My Take: As chiropractors who deal primarily with physical causes (and solutions) of back pain, we need to be alert to psychological, social, and family disturbances that may be at the root cause of a patients chronic back pain. In reality, this is business as usual for a seasoned chiropractor. Because it doesn't take much time in the field to realize that there is more to back pain than the pain itself.

Dr. Eben Davis is clinic director of Executive Express Chiropractic in San Francisco.

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