Research has shown that 80% of adults living in North America suffer from lower back pain at some point in their life. In fact, low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to Global Burden of Disease 2010. It is a common ailment, but the degree of severity, pain, limitation and chronicity varies. Lower back pain can be caused by strained muscles, herniated discs, displaced vertebrae, pulled tendons or irritated joints. There are many causes for lower back pain, such as activity, posture, obesity, disease, previous injury, and improper lifting. In some circumstances, vital organs may refer pain to the lower back (mostly the kidney), but this is a medical condition and should be attended to by a doctor. In the following pages, treatment options, exercises, products and information about lower back pain will be discussed. But first, understanding the basics and the structure of the lower back is necessary.
To really understand back pain, and ways to help alleviate the pain, we must first start with the basic anatomy of the lower back.
Your spine runs from the base of your skull down to your tailbone. Your spine is comprised of 33 vertebrae, which are stacked on top of each other. Your spinal cord is protected by this vertebral column, and the nerves that serve your body exit between the vertebrae. The lower part of your spine (called your lumbar and sacral spine) along with your pelvis compose what we refer to as the ‘lower back’. Where the spine articulates with the pelvis is referred to as the sacroiliac joint. This is the basic framework for the lower back. Soft tissue, including muscles, ligaments and tendons also compose the lower back, and can be involved when discussing lower back pain. There are many muscles, which stabilize and support the spine, and ensure proper alignment of the spine and pelvis. Weakness, muscle imbalance, tone or a strain to these muscles can cause discomfort in the lower back.
Back pain is something that can often be managed by lifestyle changes and exercises, and if that doesn’t bring relief seeing a professional, such as a physiotherapist or chiropractor can help further. There is no reason to suffer from lower back pain- there are options, exercises, professionals and advice to help you take control of your lower back and be pain free, which are discussed in the following pages.
Charlotte Anderson, MSc. PT, PhD
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