(Keywords: arthritis in lower back, back arthritis, lumbar spine stenosis, chiropractic help, arthritis of the back

ARTHRITIS IN LOWER BACK. Sometimes I am utterly humbled by the power of Chiropractic. When you as a practitioner are faced with a case history like this one, you absolutely know that Chiropractic Help has to do something special... it's an awesome responsibility.

Mrs P, aged 69 first consulted me two months ago with a fifty-year history of low back pain. Her mother too had a horrid back. For the last year it had been unbearable and the pain in the right buttock and both legs despite various medical treatments was disabling, and walking had become very difficult. Contrary to most backs, sitting caused no pain, and bending forwards relieved the pain. Extension, backward bending, was very painful.

It all added up a serious diagnosis: Lumbar spine stenosis. Call it back arthritis if you will, affecting the spinal nerves, and often the spinal cord itself.

There was nothing good about her case. As a smoker, I was concerned whether she would respond at all. Despite no mention on the radiologist report there are strong indications of heavy calcification of the aorta, the large artery suppling the kidneys, bowels, other organs, lower spine and legs. I need a second opinion, as I'm of the opinion there is an aneurism brewing. Only smokers and heavy drinkers get them. Many, perhaps most, Chiropractors, concerned about being sued wouldn't take on a case like this. The risks are high, the probability of a good outcome poor.

  • Chiropractic Conditions is a central page at Chiropractic Help. It provides you simply and easily with the sorts of conditions that the average chiropractor would be treating.
  • Healthy Living Tips is another vital page at Chiropractic Help. Sparkling good health is not just about having your subluxations adjusted. Our healthy living tips page gives you some insights into different foods you could and perhaps should be eating.


The first obvious abnormality was a short left leg, between 5-7mm. Sometime authorities think this not significant, but it's my fist step in a difficult case like this. She now wears a heel lift of 5mm in her left shoe. That immediately partially corrected the spinal curvature.

There were disturbing neurological findings in her left leg. Weakness of the quadriceps, change in its reflex, and numbness on the side of the leg.

The Femoral nerve stretch test was positive: pain in the upper leg.

Thirdly, her sacroiliac joint anatomy was absolutely haywire. Orthopaedic tests were positive, and the fixation I would describe as like 'concrete'. Absolutely jammed, stuck, fixated, subluxated... and badly.

No wonder the poor woman couldn't walk. All in all a tough call.


The question is where to start with a case like this. Back arthritis is challenging for the practitioner, it's widely acknowledged. There are so many problems... I chose to start with some Thompson drop treatment on the sacroiliac joints and a very gentle side-posture drop bilaterally. There were no audible releases.

I haven't needed to change the treatment, it has been so effective. It's not perfect of course, but she has little pain, plenty of stiffness but she is faithfully doing my exercises. She can walk again! With the heel lift. I now need to get to her feet to see if there are fixations, and a dropped arch.

She's had nine treatments in nine weeks, and we are now spacing them out: the next over three weeks. When a 69-year old woman starts flirting with you, then you know it's getting better. I love the spirit of so many elderly Dutch people. So many of them at 70 and 80 and even 80+ are younger than some people I could name in their twenties. It's those brewing aneurisms that are going to get her, and probably quite soon. There are more than likely others in her head and neck. I don't touch her neck! She is on blood pressure treatment. Hopefully it'll be a quick and clean stroke, not on the day of a chiropractic consultation I hope, but it's coming... whether I treat her or not. We have discussed these things. She knows the risks, but her quality of life has improved to such an extent that she presses on. And so do I. Gently! Stop smoking? Never!

A hereditary condition: ARTHRITIS IN LOWER BACK

Mrs P is doing incredibly well, and now comes in every three weeks for maintenance care ... Yesterday she told me... Her great niece, aged 17 had Harrington rods put in her spine about four years ago for the scoliosis. It was apparently reasonably successful. But last week, the lass went in for a further spinal fusion at L5-S1 - and woke up with a foot-drop. Nuff said...

Update: Mrs P continues to do well. We have now exended the maintenance treatment to every six weeks. And, the arthritis of the back is no different. Another X-ray would probably look just the same. But she's a different woman. The arthritis of the back wasn't per se the cause of her pain.

An aside...

The love of North Americans to sue their doctors at the drop of a hat, means that many patients with conditions like this go untreated, or undertreated. They must suffer; the Americans and Canadians have so intimidated their doctors that few would have the temerity to take on a case like this.

Dear Dr B, I thought I must drop you a line to let you know that all the hard work you did on my frozen shoulder before I went to the UK really paid off - my shoulder has returned to nearly 100%.  I occasionally have pain when I wake up in the morning.  Have been good about doing all my exercises and know that it is really essential to keep on exercising.  Hope I never experience this horrible condition again.
I don't feel I need any treatment at the moment, but know where you are should I need it.
Thank you for all your hard work.
Best wishes.

Enough said, nothing will change the culture of greed that characterises litigation...

In a landmark case a Chiropractor was successfully sued a few years ago after a patient had a stroke SEVENTEEN days after a chiropractic treatment. Mrs P could have one any day, and it would have absolutely nothing to do with chiropractic. The treatment with drops is really quite gentle.

It's said that a country gets the politicians it deserves. And certain other professions too. I'm sad.



Hyaline cartilage is the super-smoother-than-ice (literally) substance that lines the ends of bones within a joint. The friction coefficient is lower than that of ice-on-ice. It's covered with highly specialised chemicals that retain water.

This cartilage has no blood supply of its own and its nutrients and oxygen comes from the fluid within the joint. If that fluid is deficient... or isn't swishing about, ARTHRITIS of the back.

Taking anti inflammatory drugs and particularly dual antiinflammatory drugs for extended periods for arthritis in lower back is nothing but a snare and a delusion. Those arthritic joints need to start moving, that's their salvation, not drugs except perhaps in very exceptional cases.

Perfect young pig cartilage...

Obviously I have no pictures of the hyaline cartilage lining the ends of Mrs P's bones, but it certainly looks more like the next graphic than our pig's beautiful shiny smooth hyaline cartilage.

Chalk and cheese, I can hear you thinking. Prevention is the name of the game, because once that hyaline cartilage is eroded away like this, pain and disability become the norm.

Research shows that if you are significantly over weight, that losing a lot of weight is the most important treatment you can do for arthritic hips, knees and feet. So choose: a knee replacement (or two?) or lose 50 pounds. Your call, it's probably going to be one or the other.

It's true in religion, but it's true in healthcare too. Like: "You have arthritis, Mrs Jones. I'm afraid there's nothing to be done."

It's a conviction commonly held in medical circles and light years from the scientifically proven truth. Think fatty fish, think exercise, think weight loss, think strawberries, think magnesium deficiency ( FRESH SPINACH RECIPES - the richest source of magnesium.) ... think Chiropractic.

But yes, sometimes it is difficult. Always? Definitely not!

Degenerative Lumbar Disc Disease CaseFile ...

Every chiropractor could write casefile after casefile like these. This lady has severe wear and tear in her back, two total hip replacements, and yet after chiropractic help can walk again without pain. Degenerative Lumbar disc disease casefile ...


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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mrs B has had one of the nastiest of conditions; vertigo caused by a disturbance in the inner ear. Falling repeatedly and vomiting she consulted her doctor but medication didn't help. After two sessions of the Epley manoeuvres she was 50 percent better. After two weeks she was 75 percent improved; no longer vomiting or falling. She's not enjoying the Brandt Daroff home exercises.

2. Mr S, a 48 year old man, has right low back pain, groin pain and a numb feeling in his lower leg when he sports. For six months he's been off football. He too has two problems; a very treatable lumbar facet syndrome and a very serious blocked artery in the groin; it's called intermittent claudication. Smokers beware.  

3. Mr S looks like the leaning tower of Pisa; he has a slipped disc at L5 making him lean towards the opposite side. It's called the postero lateral disc hernia; we'll fix it, but he has to stop for a week or two. Antalgias are serious so take them seriously. 

4. Mrs V too has two conditions; a chronic low grade sciatica giving her an ache in the right leg, and a threatening Morton's neuroma. She's glad I'm back in Holland; chiropractic fixed it before, and we'll fix it again. 

5. Mrs W is one of the lucky ones, says her doctor. I agree. He says only 40% of patients with lumbar stenosis have a successful operation. We fixed a nasty slipped disc three years ago, but it came back two years later; the surgeon did a fine job but she has a weak ankle now giving her subtalar joint pain; it's routine stuff. 

6. I myself had an acute exacerbation of a femoral nerve lesion last year. One immediate treatment of the new strain by my colleague has fixed the pain in the lower back, but there's some residual numbness in the lower leg; no soaring tomorrow alas.

7. This lady is a 86 year old woman with a 63 scoliosis. Chronic lower back has been her lot in life but she's well pleased with chiropractic and comes for chiropractic help once a month; some conditions you can never cure.

8. She is an 78 year old woman, is doing remarkably well with a bad sciatica. But over 200 pounds she is not losing weight; in fact, gaining despite my suggestions. She's high risk for a stroke. I have referred her to a dietician to crack the whip.

9. A 61 year old man with upper cervical pain yesterday; it's not severe but also not getting better of its own accord. He's afraid it may turn very acute as when I treated him three years ago. Since then it's been fine. 

10. A 64 year old woman has had scheuermanns disease; it's left her with a spinal kyphosis and chronic middorsal pain. She responds well to chiropractic treatment provides she come every six weeks or so for maintenance treatment.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mrs D, a middle aged woman with hip pain of one year duration, despite other treatment. Xrays reveal an impingement syndrome and early hip arthritis. There's much to be done.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

Have a problem that's not getting better? Looking for a different slant on your pain? Want to pose a question?

Interesting questions from visitors

CLS writes:

Greetings, Dr B.
You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

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Knowing that up to 70% of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there's a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong! Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.

You visited this chiropractic help site no doubt because you have a problem that is not resolving and want to know more about what chiropractors do.

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