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Low Back Pain 101

Tiger Woods is one of the greatest golfers of all time. But one thing prevented him from further greatness, a history of low back pain. L.B.P. affects so many of us and its symptoms can be severe.

Learn what L.B.P. is and how to manage it.

What Is Low Back Pain?
It is pain at the lumbar spine, which is the area of the back sandwiched between the thoracic spine, pelvis, and sacrum. Think about those dimple bones near the buttock. The low back is where our body weight is most supported, and protects the portion of our spinal cord responsible for important organs and function of the legs, as well as the generalized movement of our trunk (like bending forward and back).

Pain here is incredibly debilitating, making the most mundane body movements near impossible. In severe situations, it can affect the spinal nerves, bringing pain down the hip and leg.

Of all the conditions and physical pains we face in life, L.B.P. has a high likelihood of impacting our lives at some point. In fact, nearly 80% of people will experience low back pain at least once in their lifetime. Here are some insane statistics concerning low back pain:

  • 80% of people experience L.B.P. at least once in their lifetime
  • 25% of people have experienced L.B.P. in the last 3 months
  • It is the most common cause of job disability
  • It is the #1 health issue amongst Americans – over 100 billion dollars annually through insurance and lost productivity

    Low back pain can be acute or chronic. Acute L.B.P. is when your pain comes on suddenly – maybe through a lift or movement that stresses the tissue of the lower back. Acute low back pain usually lasts for a few days to a few weeks. Chronic low back pain is pain that lasts for 3 months or more. People with chronic L.B.P., unfortunately, manage it for a longer period of time. Both acute and chronic L.B.P. is best addressed with a healthcare professional.

    Though this pain afflicts nearly all of us, it typically resolves on its own. But identifying the cause, getting the right treatment, and having a plan can drastically reduce its effects on you.

    low back pain

    What Causes It?
    The most common cause of L.B.P. is mechanical. This involves stress to the low back’s ligaments and muscles. Overloading these tissues can lead to strains of the muscles and sprains of the ligaments, resulting in pain and movement impairment. You’re definitely at risk of this if you’ve: lifted too heavy at the low back; weak musculature at the low back and hips; twisting with load, especially at work or playing a sport; poor posture; overweight.

    Other causes of L.B.P. include muscle weakness over time, degenerative disc disease, disc herniations, joint dysfunctions (facet joint dysfunction or sacroiliac dysfunction), osteoarthritis, trauma (e.g. compression fracture), scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, and spinal stenosis.

    There are numerous causes to low back pain, and all are best verified through a healthcare professional. You especially need to see a healthcare professional if you experience bowel or bladder problems, numbness or tingling down the feet, and weakness through your legs and feet corresponding with your low back pain.

    treatment for pain in the low back

    Who Gets It?
    This type of pain is seen as early as our 20s, and progressively increases in prevalence as we age – the longer we live, the more likely we are to experience it. It’s safe to say that L.B.P. affects every age group. Unfortunately, women are more likely to experience low back pain, particularly during menstruation, after pregnancy, and menopause – all influenced by hormonal levels in the body.

    You’re more likely to experience back pain with sedentary lifestyles. This includes sitting too long, not getting enough movement and exercise, and gaining weight over time. On the other side of the spectrum, if you have a job that requires bending, twisting, and lifting, you’re also at risk for low back pain.

    Finally, though exercise is encouraged, certain types of physical activity will put you at risk if your form is not reviewed. Everything from a golf swing to running, to a deadlift requires the appropriate form to minimize the risk of low back injury.

    Risk Factors
  • Age: progressively vulnerable after your 30s
  • Occupation: movements with repetitive high levels of bending, twisting, and lifting
  • Lack of movement: sedentary lifestyles and sitting all-day
  • Lack of exercise: weakness at the hips, legs, and core
  • Smoking

    What Can You Do
    Most L.B.P. will resolve on its own, but it’s important to know your options for treatment to get you back to yourself as quickly and safely as possible.

    Knowledge is power when it comes to managing your symptoms. Knowing what to do, and what not to do, is key to getting better. Your therapist will guide you through movements that are safe for you, regardless of the cause of your low back pain. Movement strategies do’s and don’ts, and pain management can provide immediate clarity and peace of mind.

    The thought of movement while dealing with L.B.P. can be scary, but exercise is truly the best medicine. Guided movements and exercise help both acute and chronic patients. Your therapist can guide you through movements that strengthen your core, pelvic floor, glute muscles, and general compound movements. Check out some of the preventative exercises below!

    Hands-On Therapy
    Last but not least, the use of hands-on therapy can work well for reducing muscular and joint pain, as well as aiding with movement and exercise. Used in conjunction with movement, joint mobilizations, myofascial release, massage, dry needling, cupping, and thrust manipulations can all help re-establish movement and manage pain.

    Exercises To Prevent Low Back Pain
    Make sure you try these exercises to help with your low back pain.

    1. Core activation + 4-Point Plank

    See video here

    2. Core activation + glute bridge

    See video here

    3. Core activation + Good morning

    See video here

    4. CARs for hips

    See video here

    5. Lateral hip openers

    See video here

    6. 3D Hip Flexor

    See video here

    Want to start managing your low back pain?
    Book a session with one of our expert therapists! They will assess your movements and set you up on a FutureProof plan to increase your mobility, reduce pain and prevent injury.

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