Dr. O'Guin is a St. Louis chiropractor offering safe chiropractic medicine care
It’s important to understand that there are many different types of back pain. Before a therapy is applied, a correct diagnosis should be confirmed. Unfortunately this is not always the case and pain is usually lumped together into one category.

If you have back pain, a well-meaning friend may tell you what you should do based on what worked for them in a past experience. Research in studying back pain sometimes isn’t much better. Studies are done on each therapy listed below, but often without first investigating the source of pain. This is why we are left with such confusing and conflicting information. Back pain sufferers are wondering if they should get a massage, see a chiropractor, go to a yoga class, etc. Even more frustrating are the numerous companies out there that capitalize on the confusion. Shady practices of selling supplements, braces, bracelets, inserts and countless other products are all too frequent. This is why we consider education such an important part of the therapeutic process.

Each of the following back pain therapies can be extremely effective if applied to the correct condition. If one of these therapies is applied in a situation where it isn’t warranted however, it will not give much if any relief. Our office is committed to understanding each patient’s unique circumstance and ailments and applying the correct therapy.

Chiropractic Adjustment

Spinal manipulations are the form of therapy that chiropractors are most known for. Back pain that is the result of joint misalignments respond best to spinal adjusting. It can be thought of as working the kinks out of the back or neck. Most people have had moments when it just feels difficult to fully turn their neck or back in a particular direction. Spinal manipulations are used to free up tension and restrictions in joints which allows for more mobility. Because joints are located beneath the muscles, this form of therapy gets to deeper levels than a stretch or massage usually can. Also, joints and muscles share similar reflex pathways, and realigning a joint can often help to relax surrounding muscle tightness. Finally, there are known pain relieving benefits from receiving spinal manipulation. For more on safety of spinal alignments click, safety of spinal manipulation.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial release is an all-encompassing name for a group of therapies that release tension in muscles and surrounding connective tissues. Myo, meaning muscle, and fascia being the connective tissue that holds muscles and other tissues together.  Some more familiar terms are massage, trigger point therapy and active release technique (ART). With the current understanding of the importance of fascia weaving through the body and holding everything together, it makes sense to give it recognition. There are many instances where muscle pain is the primary source of pain. Even when not the primary source, muscle pain can often be a secondary source of pain. Because myofascial pain is so prominent, using techniques to release muscle tension are extremely important.


Stretching is best suited when large groups of muscles are overly tight. It is especially indicated when there is a limited range of motion that is more prominent on one side of the body. This type of muscle imbalance can create distortions in the pelvis, spine, hips or shoulders. When these asymmetries exist, people feel “off balance”, or “out of alignment”. There are many methods of stretching, ranging from very gentle to fairly aggressive. Stretching is performed to patient tolerance and we always encourage feedback on how it feels. There are also some stretch techniques that can be used to realign joints. This option is usually appealing to people who do not want to be adjusted. The most common of these is called muscle energy technique. It involves putting a part of the body in a deep stretch position and then having the patient contract muscles while maintaining the stretch. The counteractive force can allow joints to mobilize and realign without any forceful manipulations.

Spinal Decompression

Spinal decompression, sometimes called spinal traction, is used to take pressure off of a pinched nerve. Nerves can become irritated by several different mechanisms. Things like disc bulges, arthritis, spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease can all play a role in pinching and compressing nerves. Therapies such as spinal decompression can relieve nerve pain and help with healing. There are different options for spinal traction, depending on which directions of movement put pressure on the nerve. Sometimes the decompression is performed by gently elongating the spine with a specialized table. In other instances, there are table assisted stretches where the spine is moved through flexion and side bending motions. These are always performed slowly and gently, with most patients reporting significant relief from nerve pain.

Functional Rehabilitation

A lot of times, an initial episode of back or neck pain will go away on its own. However, once someone has back or neck pain, it is likely to return. Frequently, people suffer off and on episodes of back pain throughout their life. In these situations, discovering the weakest area of the body is essential. Strengthening the weakest link helps to protect the entire spine. In other instances, it may be muscle imbalances that are creating unnecessary pressures. Functional rehabilitation is a way detecting these weakness or imbalances and teaching patients how to regain strength and balance. It also emphasizes training in posture, coordination and reprograming the nervous system for better movement and body awareness. What is functional rehabilitation?


Acupuncture is an ancient practice that is just recently being recognized in the U.S. as an effective way to manage pain and promote healing. The traditional Chinese philosophy was that stimulating specific acupuncture points would help to balance the body’s energy system. Modern science is now coming to the conclusion that there might be something to acupuncture. It does seem to work, the theory on how it works is just a little different. Currently, there are several theories on what might be going on, but the exact mechanism is unclear. One ideas is that the insertion of the needles have a pain relieving effect by stimulating certain types of nerve receptors in the skin and underlying tissues. fMRI studies do show that pain centers in the brain will become less active during acupuncture sessions. The needle stimulation also helps to bring more blood flow and circulation to the areas. The body probably recognizes the needles as a foreign object and that brings about a quick surge of the body’s natural healing response. The needles are not large enough to cause pain or tissue damage, but it is enough to trick the body into naturally healing itself. Lastly, it might possibly bring the minds focus to certain areas of injury. There is a mind/body connection, and bringing body awareness to injured areas can be vital for healing. For a more detailed explanation of acupuncture click the latest Acupuncture and How it Works

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