Did you know that 80% of the population in the United States will have low back pain during their lifetime. If not treated, it can lead to chronic low back pain which can last for months at a time.
So why do people get back pain? According to Gunnar Andersson, MD, PhD, professor and chairman emeritus of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the lower back has a lot of mechanical stress and strain put on it. The weight we have in the upper body pushes down along with gravity and puts a load on the low back.
Here are some main reasons for lower back pain:
1. Sedentary lifestyle: Our lives have changed and most of us sit for long periods of time at work and at home. Not moving and sitting in one position puts added strain to the low back and weakens the muscles connecting to the spine. It also shortens the hamstring muscles which then pull on the hip and low back muscles.
2. Weak Core: Even though someone may lift weights, do yoga, run or bike, the low back can be weak if the core is not activated during such exercises or the exercises they are doing are not promoting the core to engage. Also, if your body is not aligned properly the function of the muscles are inhibited and you will not get the most out of your workout. If the core is weak, putting any added strain on the erector spinae muscles surrounding the low back will agitate the nerves around them and inflammation will begin.
3. Twisting and lifting at the same time: Many people take the back for granted and lift their baby or an item while twisting. This puts a lot of strain on the disks that separate one vertebrae from another and keeps space for the nerves to branch out from the spinal cord. This movement can lead to herniation of the disk and actual disk tears.
4. Sleeping in the wrong position or having an old or the wrong mattress: Sleeping in a twisted position for hours pulls and strains the low back. Just imaging playing twister for 7 hours and see how it would put a strain on your body. Well, sleeping in the wrong position for long periods of time is pretty much like playing twister for hours with the muscles being pulled and strained along with other tissues and bones.
Having a mattress that is caved in or too soft with the back not getting enough support will again pull on the spine and soft tissues leading to disfunction of the spine and lead to sometimes pretty severe pain.
5. Scoliosis: Scoliosis is when there is a lateral curve in the spine. This leads to the body moving differently and tightening muscles on one side more than the other. It also causes one hip to be higher than the other and the shoulders to also be uneven. Think this leads to some back and neck pain? Sure does….
6. Osteoporosis: This is an arthritis that is caused by trauma and overuse of the joints. This means all joints which include the spine and extremities. Most of us are aware of arthritis in the hands and hips but the spine has joints too and they can get arthritis as well. This leads to disfunction of movement which can lead to fusion of the joints which restrict the nerve and cause pain or discomfort.
I often hear people come in and say “I have a pinched nerve!” A nerve being pinched is pretty rare (it does occur), but mostly what is happening is that the nerve is irritated and starts to illicit pain. The only thing in your body that gives off pain and sensation is your nerves. So getting stress off of them is key. A lot of times I hear people say they have muscle pain. Well, muscles don’t produce pain, nerves do. Muscles move, the heart does not produce pain, it is the nerves in and around the heart that do that.
So, when you have pain, it is a nerve and that nerve has been irritated. Now we have to find out why. This is the area that we are masters at. Once we help you find out the cause of why your nerves are irritated, the body will heal and you can get back to doing what you love to do and really thrive again!