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Back to Basics

Why your back hurts

Most patients that I see with complaints of back pain have no idea what is causing their pain. The facts are that back pain is not something that comes one day and is gone forever with a few treatments. Most people with back pain can expect to have repeated episodes. To complicate the matter and frustrate patients even more is the vast majority of back pain is known as mechanical low back or non-specific low back pain (NSLBP). Up to 95% of people fall into this category while less than 5% of people exhibit true nerve root pain. True nerve root related pain such as a herniated or bulging disc (and no discs do not “slip” despite what a local yoga website may tell you) is actually much easier to clinically diagnose than the various entities that exist under NSLBP. It’s called non-specific for a reason.

The bottom line is your back hurts mainly because somewhere along the way you learned to move improperly. The pain did not become evident right away because of this movement and may in fact have take years to present. And despite one singular event such as mowing the lawn or picking up a piece of furniture causing an acute episode of back pain, that event is not to blame in the vast majority of situations. This can be frustrating for a patient, because it seems like a simple event occurred to cause the pain and a simple fix can cure it. Unfortunately it is often more complex than that and while pain relief can hopefully be achieved quickly, to truly improve your pain long term, some retraining and education is in order.

Like I said blaming back pain on one single wrong movement is inaccurate. It is the hundreds and possible thousands of times that you have done that movement (most commonly bending and twisting) that is to blame and finally your back said “enough is enough”. Until you manage to improve your quality of movement, you can be rest assured you will always be at risk of another episode of acute pain. Treating the acute pain through the use of adjustments, soft tissue techniques such as Active Release Techniques and modalities like electrical stimulation can be very helpful to increase your function and get you feeling normal again. That is not the whole solution though. A person with back pain has to remove those movements that cause the pain in the first place. They have to work within what is called their pain free functional range of motion. This is why as part of my first office visit with a patient I will get a patient to show me how they move in terms of getting out of bed, getting into and out of a chair and how they lift. This usually gives me a wealth of information to work on with a patient when I show them how these movements completed incorrectly all their lives are a direct contributor to their pain.

Education is key for the patient. As a practitioner if I can teach a patient alternative ways to move that will spare their back and still allow them to complete the activities they need or want to do, it is incredibly empowering for the patient. This takes time, patience and practice however, because often a patient is relearning new movement patterns to replace ones that they have used for most of their lives.

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About the Author

Dr. Nimchuk is one of a few full body certified Active Release Technique practitioners in the Okanagan Valley.  It has become known as the gold standard treatment for soft tissue injuries in athletics with almost every professional sports team in North America retaining the services of an ART certified Chiropractor.  Dr. Nimchuk has had the opportunity to work with many professional, Olympic and Ironman athletes.  ART is a patented, state of the art soft tissue system/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow are just a few of the many conditions that can be resolved quickly and permanently with ART.  Dr. Nimchuk employs many different chiropractic techniques including manual and instrument adjusting along with ART.

In addition to private practice, Dr. Nimchuk is a frequent speaker and consultant to business organizations on topics such as ergonomics and workplace health.  Dr. Nimchuk is also registered as a Certified Exercise Physiologist with the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology and has worked in many high performance and rehabilitation settings.

As part of his ongoing commitment to health and fitness, Dr. Nimchuk is a clinic instructor for marathon and 1/2 marathon clinics at the Kelowna Running Room and is also the Okanagan evaluator for the RCMP Physical Abilities Requirement Evaluation (PARE test).

To learn more about Dr. Nimchuk's treatments or to schedule a consultation, visit his website at or call 250-860-2212.


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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