Many people have an active low back pain limiting their activities. On the streets, in the church, at work, somebody close by having a degree of low back pain that is medically called Lumbago.
In fact, according to researchers from the American Chiropractic Association, over 31 million Americans are experiencing back pain symptoms, this very minute; low back pain occupies a larger percentage of that figure. Yet most people do not a basic understanding of what causes low back pain and how they could treat it.
This is the essence of this post; we would be starting from the basics, to help you understand what low back pain is all about and what practical step is used to relieve the back pains quick and fast.
In case you need to rush off somewhere and may not be able to digest this piece now, then quickly read an excellent way of getting rid of the low back pain.
Now to the main topic… Here we go;
To begin, it is important to appreciate the normal design (anatomy) of the tissues of this area of the body
This is the region of your body that spans from the back of your neck to skin just above your buttocks – your gluteus muscle. I believe you have a mental picture of the area I have described!!!
Having said that, let me also add that your back is made up of bones (vertebrae), discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves and muscles. Your back also serves as a protective shield for some closely related organs, like your kidneys and internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen,
The Low Back
Now, it is time to narrow our discussion to the primary area of concern; the low back and pains from the low back.
Principally, the human low back is designed uniquely to serve a vital function; a function of the bony lumbar vertebrae. So like a pillar, your bony lumbar spine is designed so that vertebrae “stacked” together can provide a movable support structure while also protecting the spinal cord from injury.
You must know what the spinal cord is right? Well, in case you have forgotten;
The spinal cord is composed of nervous tissue that extends down the spinal column from the brain. Each vertebra has a spinous process, a bony prominence behind the spinal cord, which shields the cord’s nervous tissue from impact trauma.
Also, your vertebrae have a strong bony “body” (vertebral body) in front of the spinal cord to provide a platform suitable for weight-bearing of all tissues above the buttocks.
What is Low Back Pain?
Simply said –
Low Back Pain is a pain emanating from tissues and structures of the lower back.
Pain in the low back can be a result of conditions affecting the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, muscles of the low back, internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen, and the skin covering the lumbar area.
So you see, the pain you feel in your low back could be from quite a number of spots as shown above.
It is possible that the pain in your lower back presents as a dull or a sharp pain. But these are the range of pain depending on the underlying cause of the pain.
This is how people feel low back pain;
- Pain that is dull or achy, contained to the low back
- Stinging, burning pain that moves from the low back to the backs of the thighs, sometimes into the lower legs or feet; can include numbness or tingling (sciatica)
- Muscle spasms and tightness in the low back, pelvis, and hips
- Pain that worsens after prolonged sitting or standing
- Difficulty standing up straight, walking, or going from standing to sitting
Causes of low back pain
Now let us delve into some major causes of low back pain.
The single most common cause of a lower back pain is a torn or pulled muscle and/or ligament.
Muscle Strain and Ligament Sprain
A low back sprain or strain can happen suddenly or can develop slowly over time from repetitive movements. We call this an acute low back pain when it happens suddenly, and a chronic back pain when the pain develops slowly, lasting for a long period of time.
Strains occur when a muscle is stretched too far and tears, damaging the muscle itself!
Sprains happen when over-stretching and tearing affect ligaments, which connect the bones together!!
For practical purposes, it does not matter whether the muscle or ligament is damaged, as the symptoms and treatment are the same.
Common causes of sprain and strain include:
1). Lifting a heavy object, or twisting the spine while lifting
2). Sudden movements that place too much stress on the low back, such as a fall
3). Poor posture over time
4). Sports injuries, especially in sports that involve twisting or large forces of impact.
While sprains and strains do not sound serious and do not typically cause long-lasting pain, the acute pain can be quite severe.
Causes of Chronic Lower Back Pain
Pain is considered chronic once it lasts for more than three months and exceeds the body’s natural healing process. Chronic pain in the low back often involves a disc problem, a joint problem, and/or an irritated nerve root. Common causes include:
Lumbar herniated disc.
The jelly-like center of a lumbar disc can break through the tough outer layer and irritate a nearby nerve root.
The herniated portion of the disc is full of proteins that cause inflammation when they reach a nerve root, and inflammation, as well as nerve compression, cause nerve root pain.
The disc wall is also richly supplied by nerve fibers, and a tear through the wall can cause severe pain.
Degenerative disc disease.
At birth, intervertebral discs are full of water and at their healthiest. As people age over time, discs lose hydration and wear down.
As the disc loses hydration, it cannot resist forces as well and transfers force to the disc wall that may develop tears and cause pain or weakening that can lead to a herniation.
The disc can also collapse and contribute to stenosis.
Facet joint dysfunction.
There are two facet joints behind each disc at each motion segment in the lumbar spine.
These joints have cartilage between the bones and are surrounded by a capsular ligament, which is richly innervated by nerves.
These joints can be painful by themselves, or in conjunction with disc pain.
Sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
The sacroiliac joint connects the sacrum at the bottom of the spine to each side of the pelvis.
It is a strong, low-motion joint that primarily absorbs shock and tension between the upper body and the lower body.
The sacroiliac joint can become painful if it becomes inflamed (sacroiliitis) or if there is too much or too little motion of the joint.
This condition causes pain through the narrowing of the spinal canal where the nerve roots are located.
The narrowing can be central, forminal, or both, and can be at a single level or multiple levels in the lower back.
This condition occurs when one vertebra slips over the adjacent one.
There are 5 types of spondylolisthesis but the most common is secondary to a defect or fracture of the pars (between the facet joints) or mechanical instability of the facet joints (degenerative).
The pain can be caused by instability (back) or compression of the nerves (leg).
This condition results from wear and tear of the disc and facet joints.
It causes pain, inflammation, instability, and stenosis to a variable degree, and can occur at a single level or multiple levels of the lower spine.
Spinal osteoarthritis is associated with aging and is slowly progressive.
It is also referred to as spondylosis or degenerative joint disease.
The curvature of the spine can include scoliosis or kyphosis. The deformity may be associated with lower back pain if it leads to the breakdown of the discs, facet joints, sacroiliac joints or stenosis.
Acute fractures or dislocations of the spine can lead to pain. Lower back pain that develops after a trauma, such as a motor vehicle accident or a fall, should be medically evaluated.
A fracture that occurs in the cylindrical vertebra, in which the bone essentially caves in on itself, can cause sudden pain.
This type of fracture is most common due to weak bones, such as from osteoporosis, and is more common in older people.
Treatment and Management of Low Back Pain:
I have to say this;
“Most back pain is due to a poor lifestyle, from our day-to-day activities of sitting, sleeping, eating, walking, playing etc”
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I encourage you to check out why this therapy for low back pain is working out. READ HERE
Now, let me ask you;
What is your best daily sitting positions?
It may seem like a flimsy question, but this is so important!
As much as your chair is a basic component of your living room or office place, it contributes a great deal to any low back pain you may have.
So what kind of chair is the best to prevent low back pain?
I will devote another post for “Low Back Pain – Your chair may be causing it”.
Now to the most practical and most effective home remedies for your low back pain.
Cold and heat therapies;
In reality, most homes use this therapies quite a lot. Let me explain what each concept mean.
A cold compress involves the use of an ice pack, not heat, immediately following a back injury. This can alleviate pain by numbing the area and prevent or reduce swelling.
For heat therapies, applying heating pads or a hot-water bottle to your back may be helpful. The warmth soothes and relaxes aching muscles and increases blood flow, which helps the healing process.
Keep in mind that heat therapy is only helpful for the first week.
Limited bed rest.
Once the mainstay of treatment for back pain, bed rest has fallen out of favor.
Doctors now know it’s better to keep moving (in a less vigorous pattern) so that your muscles don’t become stiff.
Bed rest can still be useful relief from low back pain, particularly if your pain is so severe that it hurts to sit or stand. But try to limit it to a few hours at a time and for no more than one or two days.
Exercise helps build strong, flexible muscles that will be less prone to injury.
It can also help the healing process for an aching back, prevent problems in the future, and improve function. Your doctor should be able to develop an exercise program or seek a referral to another health professional who can. I must stress that you would have to own this process for success to be recorded.
A good program typically includes the three major forms of exercise: aerobic activity, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
Several types of complementary therapy may be helpful for relief from low back pain. These include:
- Therapeutic massage to relax aching muscles
- Movement therapies, such as yoga and tai chi, which can help stretch and strengthen back muscles.
In the next series, I will show you some chairs that worsen your back pain, and why it is the cause of the back pain.