Let’s talk back pain. Pain in the lower back is the single leading cause of disability worldwide (Global Burden of Disease 2010). It is estimated that 80% of the population will experience back pain at some time in their lives. Back pain is the most common reason for missed work, and is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office (outnumbered only by upper respiratory infections). Most cases of back pain are mechanical, and are not a result of a serious condition (such as fracture, arthritis, cancer etc.). So, what causes back pain, and what are some preventative strategies?
What Causes Back Pain?
The back includes bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles. All of these structures can be injured- sprained ligaments, strained muscles, herniated disks, and irritated joints. Any one of these conditions can lead to back pain. While specific injuries or accidents can cause back pain, sometimes the simplest of movements—for example, picking up a pencil from the floor, or getting out of a vehicle— can have painful results. In addition, arthritis, poor posture, obesity, and psychological stress can cause or complicate back pain. It is important to be cleared by your doctor for a more serious injury if low back pain persists, before starting a program or rehabilitation.
How can I prevent low back pain?
There are some simple steps you can take to protect your back, and prevent back pain.
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
- Remain active.
- Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest.
- Warm up or stretch before exercising or physical activities, such as gardening.
- Maintain proper posture. Be aware of posture while sitting, standing, and during movement.
- Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
- Sleep on a mattress of medium firmness to minimize any curve in your spine.
- Lift with your knees, keep the object close to your body, and do not twist when lifting.
- Quit smoking. Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues.
- Strengthen your core…
Back pain and Core Muscle Strength:
A preventative strategy for back pain is to strengthen your core muscles. Your core muscles support and stabilize your spine and lower back. Weakness in your core can lead to a predisposition to back pain. The spine is the foundation of the back. The abdominal muscles and back muscles are key components of the muscular network, and provide the strength to keep the body upright and for movement. When these core muscles are in poor condition, additional stress is applied to the spine as it supports the body, and back injury or back pain is more likely. Weak and/or overly tight supporting muscles can have painful spasms and suffer injuries themselves, which then prevent them from supporting the spine as needed. Compromised muscles can also lead to problems with bone structure of the spine due to poor posture from the weak muscles, thereby creating an increased risk of back pain or back injury.
Consequently, developing combined strength in stomach muscles and back muscles can:
- Reduce the likelihood of back pain episodes
- Reduce the severity of back pain
- Protect against injury by responding efficiently to stresses
- Help avoid back surgery in some cases
- Facilitate healing from a back problem or after spine surgery
- Improve posture.
Be sure to check with your doctor or physiotherapist before starting the following exercises. These core strengthening exercises are a starting point to activating your inner core to stabilize the back. Try doing each of these exercises 3 times per week.
- Begin lying on your back with your legs bent and feet resting on the ground.
- Place your fingers just inside the bones on the front of your pelvis. Exhale, and gently pull the muscles under your fingers in. Relaxand repeat.
Make sure to draw in rather than push out your muscles. This should be a subtle movement.
- Begin lying on your front, propped up on your elbows.
- Engage your abdominal muscles and lift your hips and legs up into a plank position, keeping your elbows directly under your shoulders. Hold this position.
Make sure to keep your back straight and maintain a gentle chin tuck during the exercise.
- Begin on all fours, with your arms positioned directly under your shoulders.
- Straighten one arm and your opposite leg at the same time, until they are parallel to the floor. Hold briefly, then return to the starting position.
Make sure to keep your abdominals tight and hips level during the exercise.
Don’t let back pain get you down- be preventative!
**stay tuned for our next blog on inflammatory back conditions, and when to seek further medical care.
ALPHA Health Services