Help! I think twisted my back out of alignment again after a chiropractic adjustment and they're closed for the weekend!
October 8, 2011 12:54 AM   Subscribe

Help! I think twisted my back out of alignment again after a chiropractic adjustment and they're closed for the weekend! Also, any advice about constant lower back pain?

I was having terrible lower back pain for about 3 weeks. I had to stop running, doing yoga (even child's pose was painful) and I quit drinking and going out because of the constant pain.

I found out my insurance covers chiropractic care and massage therapy. I wasn't sure what was causing the pain but my boyfriend found a huge gristly knot on the right side of my lower back.

I've been seeing the chiropractor for about a week and a half and saw a massage therapist who specialized in pressure points, kind of like accupressure. And I felt AWESOME!

On Monday after an adjustment I had a shooting pain from my lower back come up out of nowhere. It was so great I had to stand up and leave. I went back to the chiropractor and he re-adjusted me, put my on this electro machine thing to reduce swelling and iced my back. It felt better and the pain was gone by the next day.

Tonight, I was sitting on the floor stretching trying to touch my toes and my back tensed up and I got the intense pain again. It won't go away and I feel like I can only move very slowly, vertically and rigidly.

Is this normal after chiropractic adjustments? My chiropractor isn't open until Monday so I can't get readjusted. I'm icing it but it's still incredibly painful. Any suggestions?

I know that there is a lot of skepticism about chiropractors but I feel like he is actually doing a great job and aside from these two incidents my body feels better than it has in years.
posted by ad4pt to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am sorry that you're in this situation.

I am not used to this idea of having to pay attention to my body -- always I've been pretty strong and pretty fit and I just throw myself into whatever without much thought. But if/when I'd do that after this one horror-show injury, I'd throw myself right back into that injury. Totally annoying. But you'd best believe that I've learned to be pretty damn respectful of my body now, and move slowly in it, listen closely to anything it's saying to me, or even might be saying to me.

Pain is a powerful motivator, a good teacher, if not a pleasant one.

I said that to say this: It's entirely possible that you had no business being on your floor stretching tonight. And/or if you are determined to do so, maybe you'll want to listen very closely to anything your body may tell you. You need to rest your injury, seems to me; the chiro has put you back in line, might be that you'd do well to rest while the healing takes place, rather than stretch or whatever else.

Just because you're not in pain any longer doesn't mean that you're all better, perhaps it means that you can get healed if you don't push yourself.

As far as pain, alieve is good, you can augment with tylonol but be careful with that garbage, tylongol is truly bad news if you take too much of the stuff. Also: Ice. Ice is your new friend. You're going to enter into a good relationship with ice packs this weekend; I lived on them for the better part of a month. Make sure you don't put the ice packs directly on your skin, as you can sortof burn your skin against frozen stuff -- voice of experience. I used a thin towel, if I recall correctly, just use anything to protect your skin from immediate contact with the ice packs.

Email or pers msg if you want to commiserate -- I have been where you are. Sorry you're there.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 1:35 AM on October 8, 2011

I have some similar pain sometimes, but no chiropractor. Sometimes what helps with the immediate omg-can't-move is to do a very small, very controlled back bend. You can do it sitting backwards in a chair or you can do it bracing your hands on a counter (bend forwards at the hip but let your back sink while you bend, so you're actually doing a back bend). Don't force it, if it doesn't seem to help then come out and don't mess with it. If it does help, then come out and don't mess with your back again, also! This just gets you to the point where you can walk without taking tiny steps, time does the rest.

(And it's good to have someone tell you which movements are making things worse or which movements will help, but I am still extremely skeptical of the kind of chiropractor where you go back repeatedly.)
posted by anaelith at 2:29 AM on October 8, 2011

I don't think your back is "out of alignment". It sounds like a slipped disc or a torn ligament, and you don't have to be especially sceptical about chiropractors to conclude that these are conditions that they are not equipped to deal with. If anything, spinal manipulation performed by someone who doesn't know the actual cause of the pain could make things much worse (which may well have been what happened when you experienced shooting pain after an adjustment). Have you seen a doctor?
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:47 AM on October 8, 2011 [15 favorites]

I beg you not do backbends or fiddle with it. If inflammation has anything to do with this, ibuprofen and icing will make it feel better. Like get a big sized reusable ice pack from the pharmacy and lay on top of it. I would go to a doctor asap and get checked out. Back pain can be cyclical, meaning your back hurting makes your muscles tense which leads to worse back pain in a downward cycle. So holding out isn't helping you.

You may need a different treatment such as physical therapy, so just go in and see your doc.
posted by dottiechang at 3:02 AM on October 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Stop stretching your back. Consider stretching your hamstrings as this can provide some relief - I suffer from lower back pain and find this useful. To stretch your hamstrings at home lie down with your legs either side of a door, lying flat on your back, put one leg up so your heel rests against the thin end of the door and your other leg is alongside the door, flat on the floor. Oush against the door with your raised heel, pointing your toes in to your body. Hold for 30 seconds. switch to the other leg. Repeat so you have done 2 x 30 seconds on each leg.

I am not your doctor, etc, this is at your own risk.
posted by biffa at 3:16 AM on October 8, 2011

Urgent care facilities like Patient First have x-ray capabilities and physicians. I suggest your pain is awful enough that you might avail yourself of them over the weekend. Forget the chiropractor.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:17 AM on October 8, 2011

Stop stretching. ABSOLUTELY stop stretching. Stop twisting. Stop trying to make it feel better.

Ten minutes ice, ten minutes heat. Two Advil. Then: Ten minutes ice, ten minutes heat. Drink water. Ten minutes ice, ten minutes heat. Nap. Ten minutes ice, ten minutes heat. Hot bath or shower.

Take an hour off and repeat.

I throw my lower back out regularly so that I can't walk upright for about a month at a time. I do that by like, picking up a bag of groceries. It sucks, and it's unbelievably painful. Ice/heat and a very good (and licensed) massage therapist are the only things that work.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:19 AM on October 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

My wife has lived with back pain - a herniated disk, or "slipped disk" - for a year now, and your situation sounds familiar.

First of all, it doesn't sound like a herniated disk. That's an incredibly painful condition characterized by numbness and pain extending all the way down the leg; sometimes you will experience incontinence. This is because the soft disk between one of your vertebra has ruptured and is putting pressure on a nerve. The only treatment for this is rest (for about 2 months). If you experience incontinence, you need to go to emergency immediately.

Like I said, it sounds like you do not have this condition; the pain is so bad they will give you hard core drugs to help.

The similarity with my wife is that, over the past year, she will gradually get better from back pain, and will immediately start going to the gym or doing "heavy" household chores, and will "throw out" her back again. It happened last week - she went to the gym, lifted weights, and wound up on the couch for a week.

It sounds like you have some muscle or tendon issues (not a "slipped disk"). Just take it easy for a month, with no stretching and no lifting.

The best exercise you can do is go for a walk.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:25 AM on October 8, 2011

I have to agree with the people who say to stop stretching. If the knot was a muscle that was in spasm, it is going to be tender until it repairs itself. Give it a couple of days.
posted by gjc at 7:03 AM on October 8, 2011

Please see a doctor who will take x-rays.
posted by meepmeow at 7:05 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your chiropractor should have taken x-rays before doing any adjustments to rule out anything serious like herniated discs, slipped discs etc. If they didn't you might like to consider finding another chiropractor. If you are in extreme pain then I'd suggest seeing a doctor.

If not I'd go the ibuprofen and ice method. I would actually ice it until it goes numb and then remove the ice pack, I'd avoid heat until the worst of the inflammation is gone or you'll just inflame it more. (I am not a doctor this is not medical advice, just how I treat my own back/shoulder pain).

Do not stretch or do any strenuous exercise until cleared by your doctor/chiro. If your chiropractor is any good ask him when you will be able to start doing these things, he should, when you are ready, give you exercises to help build up muscles etc to help and some idea of an end point for treatment. If they keep talking about coming back in for tune ups etc and not offering any other methods to help build up your back so it won't hurt again I'd be looking for another chiropractor. I am not anti chiropractors, just anti bad chiropractors.
posted by wwax at 8:28 AM on October 8, 2011

I have been dealing with something similar, and let me just say that under ordinary circumstances I do enjoy chiropractic. However, when things get very, very painful, as it sounds like you're experiencing, it's time to go to a physician for a close, careful look at what's going on.

My long story short: Terrible low back pain, got worse over several weeks, culminating in the worst pain I've ever experienced short of childbirth. Turns out I've got a herniated disk.

What helped me: big strength anti-inflammatories (steriods); big strength pain pills (different ones for day & night); a week of basically no physical activity, including stretching. Now I'm doing physical therapy twice a week, doing small, tiny movements to strengthen the muscles of the back & core. It's helping a lot. And though I love chiropractic under ordinary circumstances, there is no part of me that wants an adjustment right now.
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:07 AM on October 8, 2011

Koku - before the disc herniates it will bulge, which is quite painful as well. And yes, my boyfriend had a completely herniated disc some months ago and has been slooooooowly recovering (to the point where he's no longer taking vicodin, yay).

So yes, definitely go see a doctor, and hopefully a physical therapist instead of a chiropractor. A PT can suggest some exercises and stretches for you to do based on your actual injury, once you've determined what that injury is.

I am absolutely anti-chiropractic.
posted by kavasa at 10:47 AM on October 8, 2011

If you feel burning or numbness, absolutely get it checked by a doctor- those are signs of nerve impingement, which, when lucky, is just your muscles being too tight, and when unlucky, involves your spine or the discs. I'm also going to echo the advice to see a physical therapist.

Here's what you should know about stretching. Stretching, without strengthening exercises for the appropriate muscles, can destabilize joints and leave you open for injury. So, echoing the other advice above, stretching may not be the answer here.

Once you figure out what's generally going on (hopefully just muscle tension!) be sure to get some kind of exercises to strengthen your core muscles. That's the only thing that's going to help keep things from tweaking out. (Of course, if it's something like disc issues or bone spurs, that's surgery time.)
posted by yeloson at 1:43 PM on October 8, 2011

I messed up my back about 10 years ago and it bothered me off and on since then. I was in a motorcycle accident a couple of years ago and was laid up for about 5 months with a broken leg. Oddly enough, since then I hardly ever have back trouble any more. My theory is that my back _finally_ had a chance to rest and fully heal up. So give your body time to mend itself. As dancestoblue says, _listen_ to what your body is saying.

As far as chronic pain management goes, listen to what Mom always said "Sit up straight" and "stand up straight". Seriously, those two things will go a long way to minimizing pain. If you work at a desk, get yourself the best office chair with lower back support you can lay your hands on, even if you have to buy it for yourself. Always, always sit up straight with both feet on the floor. If you are sitting in an easy chair or on the sofa, use pillows to sit up straight.

Sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees, too.

And biffa is right, when the inflammation decreases, stretch your hamstrings, too. That was something I only learned recently and it really helps! Good luck and feel better.
posted by Beti at 2:51 PM on October 8, 2011

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