Disclaimer: The content of this article is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied upon for any diagnostic or treatment purpose. This information is intended for educational use only and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment from a registered physician or chiropractor. Please consult your health care provider if you are experiencing serious back pain or discomfort.
Have you ever dealt with back pain? Pain in the lower back is one of the most common problems in American society today. It is also one of the main reasons why individuals pay a visit to the doctor. The back is a complicated structure of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles and when injured, can cause immense pain. Reasons for injury vary, and can come in the form of strained muscles, sprained ligaments, disk ruptures, irritated joints or sports mishaps.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the causes of back pain and what you can do to help yourself become active again. As you may know, a lot of injuries occurring to the back are preventable. Let’s examine the ways we can bypass these common back aliments.
What Causes Pack Pain?
Certain types of issues with the back cannot be avoided, such as pain from an injury or accident. However, a lot of the problems people face with lower back pain can be averted. Some of the bad habits we practice daily are a major cause of back discomfort and are as follows:
- Bad Body Mechanics
- Lack Of Exercise
- Being Overweight
- Poor Posture
These are all problems within your control and shall be examined individually.
Bad Body Mechanics
The way you move your body and operate your joints and muscle is referred to as Body Mechanics. How you walk, sit, sleep and exercise are related to this system. There are actually correct methods of how to perform each one of these functions. Mike over at Danger & Play has an excellent article and podcast on the mechanics of proper walking. One thing we all perform on a daily basis is walking. Doing it correctly can only benefit you in the long run. It is vital to have good body mechanics & function. It can reduce the pain and risk of injury, and if you master it, can help redistribute the weight along your spine.
Lack of Exercise
We all know exercise is beneficial to the back. This whole site is dedicated to this ideal. Without proper exercise, the muscles which support the spinal column weaken and atrophy. This in turn leads to poor posture and bad Body Mechanics. Lack of exercise, more often than not, leads to excess weight.
Carrying excess body weight makes it harder to practice good posture. Aside from back pain, excessive weight and even morbid obesity can wreak havoc on the joints, especially the knees and ankles. Obviously, one of the ways to alleviate this pain is to lose the excess pounds. But did you also know having a strong core or abdominal area can also benefit the back?
Having a strong core supports your back and helps maintain good posture. Most people also know being overweight contributes to the development of coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. However, did you know obesity is also a contributing factor to back pain? An overweight individual can significantly contribute to symptoms associated with a variety of diseases, especially ones dealing with the lower back and lumbar regions. Individuals can encounter degenerative disc disease spinal stenosis, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis. These are just a few of the problems associated with carrying too much weight.
The spine is designed to carry the body’s weight and distribute the loads encountered during rest and activity. When the body carries excess weight, the spine is forced to carry the burden which often leads to structural compromise and damage. One of the most vulnerable areas affected by obesity is the lumbar (or lower) region of the back.
Poor flexibility and weak muscles in the back, pelvis, and thighs can cause all kinds of disruptions. This can increase the curve of the lower back, causing the pelvis to tilt too far forward(known as Lordosis). As stated earlier, this is also detrimental to proper posture and as posture weakens, other regions of the spine, as well as the neck may become very painful. So it would behoove any one carrying extra pounds around to lose the excess baggage and reclaim your health.
While injury is probably the number one cause of back problems, I actually believe poor posture cannot be far behind. Why do I make this statement? Because poor posture accounts for so many of the problems we face with our lower backs. We sit wrong. We sleep wrong. We slouch. We carry ourselves wrong when we walk or stand. We have all kinds of bad habits when it comes to the care of our lower back. We engage in these activities for long periods of time and it shows in most people’s posture and body mechanics. How many of you sit properly in your chair at work? How many of you take a train or bus to your job and slouch when you are in your seat? Do you slouch when you watch TV at home or when you are at the movies? All of these habits can be prevented! You just need to practice them.
Aside from bad posture, there are other issues which contribute to back discomfort. Tension and emotional stress worsen back problems. Family pressures, school difficulties and financial distress can all be carried into the lower lumbar region and cause us backaches. Besides all of the stresses of daily life, there is one other habit which causes serious problems for the lower back. SMOKING! Did you know smokers are more likely to encounter back pain than non-smokers? Smoking causes problems for the disks located in the spinal area and it constricts the blood flow to the vertebrae located in your spine. Over time, it can cause the bones to become brittle and prone to stress or fracture.
The good news is you can reduce this problem if you give up smoking. It’s also easier said than done and I know the difficulties involved with quitting smoking. Quitting however, will reward you with more benefits to your overall health and well being than just those related to your back. Please see your health care provider regarding this matter or look into smoking cessation programs in your area.
Prevention of Lower Back Pain: Do’s & Don’ts
Here are some of the ways we can prevent lower lumbar pain and get our backs healthier. We will show you some methods you can practice that will help you to avoid problems in the future.
- Don’t slump or slouch.
- Don’t arch or round out your back.
- Don’t sit on a piece of furniture too high or too low.
- Do sit with your feet flat on the ground.
- Do keep your knees slightly below the level of your hips.
- Do get up and move around if you are sitting for extended periods of time.
- Don’t lift loads that are too heavy.
- Don’t lift above shoulder level.
- Don’t twist your body while lifting.
- Don’t bend over with legs straight and locked.
- Do bend your knees and not your back.
- Do lift with your legs.
- Do be very sure of your footing.
- Don’t lean forward to read the screen.
- Don’t sit in a chair too low, too high or too far from your workstation.
- Don’t slump or slouch
- Don’t sit at your desk for more than 1 hour.
- Do keep your feet flat on the floor at all times.
- Do sit firmly against the chair back.
- Do get up and stretch and take regular breaks.
- Do protect your back with lumbar support.
- Don’t sit too far back from the steering wheel.
- Don’t sit too close to the steering wheel.
- Don’t sit with your knees higher than your hips.
- Do shift weight often if it is a long trip.
- Do keep back pockets empty.
- Do sit up straight and use both hands on the steering wheel.
- Don’t sleep on your stomach.
- Don’t sleep on non-supportive or sagging mattresses.
- Don’t sleep on an uneven mattress.
- Do find your natural sleeping position.
- Do sleep on a mattress which supports the natural curves of your back.
- Do sleep on your side for most of the night.
Finding The Right Exercise Plan
A solid exercise program can help you stretch and strengthen the muscles supporting your lower back. Through proper exercise, the muscles in the back become more flexible and move more naturally. If you have back problems, it’s always best to start slow with an exercise regimen. You do not want to go all out and injure your back right from the start and then end up sidelining yourself. So start slow and build your back strength gradually.
If you are experiencing some slight pack pain and stiffness, you can download the FREE PDF for some of the back exercises. Be sure to speak with your health care provider before starting any exercise program.
Treating Back Pain By Yourself
- Always ice to reduce swelling. Place an ice pack in a thin towel or cloth in the affected area. Keep it on for 15-20 minutes. Repeat this each hour as necessary. If ice has not reduced the pain after 2 days then try heat.
- Heat is used to relax the muscles in your lower back or area of pain. Put most heat such as a towel or heating pad. Place in the area for 10-15 minutes. Warm soaking baths may also help with your pain.
- Use Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain. Use of ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen are recommended. Be mindful of the side effects of some of these medicines. Always talk to your health care provider before taking any medicine.
If You Have To See A Doctor
Finally, if you are experiencing severe back pain please make an appointment to see your physician or preferably a competent chiropractor. Your healthcare provider can learn a lot by looking at your back in different positions. They may check your posture and muscle strength and flexibility. Your reflexes and the sensation or tingling in your legs may also be tested if you are experiencing such symptoms. Depending on your problems, a more through exam may be needed to find the cause of your back pain.
- MRI’s (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) – Takes very detailed images of bone and tissue.
- X-Rays – Takes images of bones.
- CT (Computerized Tomography) – A series of special X-Rays that detail bone and soft tissue.
- EMG (Electromyogram) – Checks electrical activity in muscles.
- Myelogram – Looks at images in problem areas with an injected dye.
With proper back self-care and vigilance you can keep your back healthy for years. Start an exercise program designed to help you strengthen your core and strengthen your back. Practice good posture, body mechanics and lose excess body fat. Put all of these into action and your back will thank you for it.
Be the BEST YOU at Any Age!