What are the root causes of Lower Back Pain?
Your "lumbar spine", or low back, is comprised of five major bones laid on top of each other with a shock-absorbing disc between each segment. Your lower back is reliant on the muscles and ligaments for support. "Sprains" and "strains" are the by product of the tissues being stretched too hard or too far, much like a rope that unravels when it is stretched beyond its expected limit. The term "sprain" means that the durable ligaments that keep your bones together have been 'unraveled', while "strain" means that your muscles or tendons that move your trunk have been partially ripped.
Most people tend to experience some sort of lower back pain in their lifetime, and 70% of those patients owe their symptoms to the different types of sprain/strain injuries. Lumbar sprains and strains can result from harsh or very forceful movements like twisting, lifting, falling, pulling, pushing, a direct blow, or rapidly straightening up from a seated, crouched, or bent position. Common sprains and strains are not the result of any one event, but instead from consistent overloading. The spine can usually manage smaller isolated stressors quite well, but repetitive challenges can improve the chacnes of injury. The same way that constantly bending a piece of copper wire will cause it to break. Some examples of these stressors include: bad postures, sedentary lifestyles, poor fitting workstations, repetitive movements, improper lifting, or being overweight.
Some symptoms that can come from a sprain/strain may begin quite quickly but more likely they will develop gradually. The symptoms can range from a dull discomfort to surprisingly debilitating pain that can become worse when you move. Some rest may relieve your symptoms but it can often lead to stiffness or your lower back. The pain is generally located in the middle of your lower back but it can spread towards your hips or thighs if left untreated. Be sure to tell your doctor or chiropractor if your pain extends past your knee, or if you have weakness in your lower extremities or a fever.
Sprain/strain injuries commonly cause your normal healthy elastic tissue to become less elastic "scar tissue." This process promotes ongoing pain and can even cause arthritis. Patients who decide not to get treatment and "just deal with it" will commonly develop chronic low back pain more than 60% of the time. Looking for early and appropriate treatment like the type provided in our office is critical.
Depending on how severe your injury is, you will have to limit your activity for sometime, especially bending, twisting and lifting heavy objects or movements that could cause pain. Bed rest is not something that you should do. You should remain active within your limits and return to normal activities as your symptoms reduce. The short-term use of a lumbar support belt could provide some relief. Sitting tends to make your back temporarily more vulnerable to sprains and strains from sudden or unexpected movements. Be sure to try and take "micro breaks" from workstations for 10-15 seconds every 20 minutes for some relief. Following severe injuries, you can apply ice for 15-20 minutes each hour. A heat source may be helpful after several days or for more chronic origins of pain. Be sure to Ask your doctor or chiropractor for specific ice/heat recommendations. Some patients d report partial relief from sports creams.