Stiff back?, Spasms in your spine, Pain going down your leg? Low back pain is in the top three causes of disability in the world. An acute low back pain episode will affect about 80% of us sometime in our lives and is one of the top reasons of time loss at work. According to the Canadian Chiropractic Association, it is estimated that the medical costs in Canada related to low back pain ranges between 6 and 12 billion dollars annually!
Causes of Low Back Pain
Low back pain is a complicated, multi factorial problem that often involves a trauma or long term additive stressors. There is a strong correlation between sedentary lifestyle and increased risk of low back pain. Most people are sitting over 7 hours a day and this leads to deconditioning of the muscles of the spine. Sitting is the new smoking according to some health experts. Our abdominal and hip flexors shorten and weaken with prolonged sitting and our back muscles stretch with the loss of the lumbar curve. With this and the weakening of the legs and core due to not using them, you will end up with a back injury.
Sedentary lifestyles lead to obesity and this also has a strong correlation with low back pain risk.
Thirdly, heavy or repetitive physical labor increases your risk of back injury. Years of performing repetitive physical tasks cause strengthening of some muscle groups and eventually an imbalance on joints.
Lumbar instability can also be a common cause of back pain and can occur after injury, repetitive micro-traumas, pregnancy, or due to arthritic changes in the spine.
Treatment of Low Back Pain
Acute and Sub Acute Low Back Pain
The most important thing to do when you have back pain is not to ignore it! Your spine is giving you a signal that something isn't moving properly. Would you keep driving your car when the "Service Engine Soon" light comes on? The longer you leave it the more your body compensates and the harder it is for your body to heal itself. Chiropractors are trained as spinal care practitioners that can perform a thorough examination and diagnose and treat your problem.
Low back pain treatment guidelines are developed from the best clinical research evidence available and they all show it is important to:
1. Ice and/or heat your back
2. Use pain medications to lessen pain
3. Spinal adjustments or mobilizations
4. Keep active with your normal daily activities, including work, and use the level of pain as your guide to your limitations.
5. Other therapies can help including, massage, spinal exercises, stretching, and acupuncture
Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back pain is described as pain lasting more than 3 months. Research shows that multi-modal care including different treatments, and the patient being active, is the most effective treatment. Clinical guidelines are similar to that of acute low back pain but also include the following:
2. Regular exercise to tolerance
3.Spinal strengthening exercises
4. massage and acupuncture
5. Chiropractic care (2 times a week for 4 weeks)
6. non-steroidal medications, spinal injections, and muscle relaxants in some cases
Prevention of Back Pain
The only well researched treatment to prevent the re-occurrence of back pain is exercises. It is important to have a professional examine your spine and determine if there is any imbalance or weakness in your spine or extremities that could lead to pain. Exercises should start with stretching and a warm up and then lead into working the core area of the back. The intensity of your exercises should depend on your strength level. A progression should occur over time with this including the addition of an unstable platform, by using a gym ball or half gym ball. Then the addition of weights should be the next progression. Six common key low back exercises include:
1. Planking (front and side)
2. Pelvic Tilts
3. Back Bridges
4. Superman's (Back Extensions)
5. Wall Squats
6. Cross Crawls
Back pain will affect almost all of us at some point in our lives. Visit our office and get a thorough exam of your spine and learn what you can do to eliminate and prevent your back pain. Our Chiropractic and Massage therapy teams are trained to evaluate and treat low back pain conditions.
Activity Fact: Just getting up for a few minutes every hour from your desk can greatly decrease the negative effects of sitting and help prevent back and neck pain!