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Back pain: Chiropractic care and changing times

Back pain: Chiropractic care and changing times

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While Krista BonAmour feels much better today, she remembers the force of the pain in her back.

"Pain went down my whole leg and to the bottom of my leg. I couldn't even feel my foot," said BonAmour, a 31-year-old from Davenport.

Four years ago, BonAmour suffered a back injury while at work. She had a herniated disc and two bulging discs in her back, but that injury was successfully treated.

Fast-forward to 2013: BonAmour was getting dressed one day in January when she heard her back "pop." Worried that it might be a repeat of the back pain, she sought care at the Davenport Clinic at the Palmer Academic Health Center, Davenport.

BonAmour's experience with back pain is quite common. In fact, it is estimated that lower back pain will affect most Americans at least once in a lifetime, and it is one of the most common reasons that a person seeks medical care, or misses work.

BonAmour is now a stay-at-home mother to her 9-year-old son, but she endorses the approach from the clinic. She has had a combination of physical therapy and chiropractic manipulation, and said both therapies are effective.

Four years ago, she also got help from a chiropractor and a physical therapist, but she said those two individuals did not coordinate care. This time, it is much easier as both types of practitioners are working at the Davenport Clinic.

Care evolution

This is the type of care evolution witnessed by Dr. Mickey Burt, head of the Burt Clinic of Chiropractic in Walcott. He started his practice 39 years ago, in 1974. "When I first started it was unheard of for the chiropractor and medical doctor to work together," he said.

But the practices have slowly changed, in events that included a 1987 federal court case in northern Illinois which addressed the relationship between chiropractors and medical doctors. The judge ruled for the science and practice of the chiropractic profession.

"After that, a lot (of the antipathy) went away," Burt said. He now oversees a thriving practice in Walcott that involves his wife and three sons. "It's all about the patients, and focused on successful outcomes," he added.

The transition involves chiropractic practitioners working with many other health care providers, Burt explained, such as neurologists, spine surgeons, orthopedic specialists, oncologists, family physicians and physical therapists.

Burt suggests that 80 percent of the American public will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. About 20 percent of these people will seek out chiropractic care.

BonAmour, the chiropractic patient, believes the manipulation she receives twice each week is part of her solution. She also faithfully does stretching exercises to make her back more flexible, and those were suggested by a physical therapist.

Takes health history

Patients at the Burt Clinic are first asked a thorough health history, and given introductory tests in orthopedic and neurological areas, Burt said. The chiropractors then check the integrity of a patient's joints.

After that, there is a thorough review of the patient's range of motion.

"That's where our expertise comes into play," Burt said. There are X-rays taken, and these vary from traditional medicine. Instead of lying down, a patient stands up in a weight-bearing position for the X-ray.

"We then check and mark how the spine is oriented and aligned," Burt said.

There are various steps after this. If a condition is found that should be addressed by the medical community, the clinic refers the patient for follow-up care. This happened as recently last week, when an older female patient turned up to have a compressed bone in her back.

Most often, however, there are various ways to fix a problem.

Burt recalls a recent 14-year-old patient who came in with abnormal curvature in the spine. She was outfitted with a lift in her shoe, and the pain was alleviated. She was also given special exercises to strengthen her core muscles, he added.

Chiropractic care is effective, Burt said, citing an 86 percent success rate if patients complete the recommended number of treatments.

Dr. Christine Goertz, vice chancellor for research and health policy at Palmer College of Chiropractic, elaborates: "I believe that spinal manipulation offers good benefits, and it helps with pain."

BonAmour takes vitamin supplements and works out by running, walking and doing strength exercises. She feels "98 percent" better since she first sought chiropractic care in January.

"I have found that the more active I am, the better my back feels," she said.


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