About 80% of Canadians suffer debilitating low back pain at some point in their life. This fact is staggering, yet it doesn’t have to be this common. The key to staying out of this group of low back pain sufferers comes down to one word: Prevention. If I had to choose one common problem amongst most low back pain sufferers, it would be bad low back position during common activities such as brushing your teeth, bending over, picking up a small child, exercising and sitting.
The lumbar spine, which is the lower part of the spine, is meant to have a natural curve to it that displaces the forces of gravity, weight, etc. evenly and minimally. When this natural curve is straightened or reduced, the forces on the discs, muscles, and ligaments of the low back are significantly increased. For example, sitting without maintaining the natural curve increases the forces on those structures by 30-40%!
There are many conditions that can be covered under the umbrella of low back pain, but in the next few posts, we will cover the following conditions The keys to prevention of low back pain are as follows:
• Understand your symptoms and risk factors
• Body Preparation and Positioning
• Proper Activities of Daily Living
• Corrective Exercises
• Treatment Considerations
A lumbar strain is when an injury occurs to the muscles of the low back. A sprain, on the other hand, is an injury to the ligaments or joints; both, however, have similar pain and symptom patterns. When these muscles or ligaments become injured, it can lead to dysfunctional movements, and cause instability in the spine. Patients suffering from this diagnosis often have pain when attempting to walk, sit, exercise and can even occur during sleep. This is a broad category of low back pain and is probably one of the most common diagnosis. Most commonly this type of back pain (sometimes called mechanical low back pain, or non-specific low back pain) is a result of injuries to the joints as opposed to a true injury to the muscles.
• Poor movement mechanics
• Poor posture
• Heavy lifting
However, with proper education, you can protect yourself from many of these causes. The primary sufferers of this condition often have weak stabilizing muscles. Occupations like desk jobs that involves sitting for most of the day can be responsible for muscle imbalances that put you at increased risk of common mechanical low back pain.
This type of patient may have poor sitting posture, which can lead to a weakening of your spinal muscles. When these muscles become weak or fatigued, they can no longer protect your spine during movement or posture, and this puts the ligaments and joints in jeopardy of becoming injured. The importance of a strong core and training your spinal muscles cannot be overstated.
In cases where the injury stems from a problem related to overuse, poor posture or improper exercise, there are steps that can be taken to help avoid these injuries from happening. Proper instruction about your postural habits can reduce the damaging effects of sitting on the spine, as well as education about correct lifting form can reduce these episodes of low back pain and help you build a healthy spine.
In the office, this is one of the most common types of low back pain that we help people with. Like many condition treatment involves initially controlling pain and swelling and making sure your spine is moving and functioning correctly. Treatments like physical modalities or acupuncture can be used in the early stages to help control pain, and swelling and chiropractic adjustments are used to make sure your spine is moving and functioning properly. Also it is critical that you have a good understanding of what is causing your low back pain and that the outcome with this type of low back pain is very favourable. I am fond of telling my patients with this type of back pain that ‘you don’t have a bad back; you have a normal back that is sore right now.’
Check back here for information about other causes of low back pain.