Three out of every four Americans will experience low back pain at some time in their lives. Most back injuries are the result of repetitive trauma to the spine after years of bending, twisting and lifting improperly. Even though your back may go out when you reach down to pick up a pencil, it’s not that one activity that caused the problem. It’s usually the straw that broke the camel’s back!
Your spine consists of vertebrae stacked on top of each other, separated by discs which act as shock absorbers. Think of your discs as jelly donuts, with a gel-like substance inside that cushions the shock of pounding, running and bending. People most commonly experience back pain when they strain the low back muscles or ligaments. Sometimes small tears occur in the discs or the gel substance leaks out and puts pressure on surrounding nerves. You may also experience back pain from a variety of other causes. Your doctor will diagnose the source of your pain to decide upon the most effective strategies for healing.
Your spine is not straight. It has three natural curves that actually make it ten times stronger! One of the most important things you can do to treat and prevent back pain is to maintain the natural curves of your back while standing, sitting and working. This is called good posture and body mechanics. Certain elements of fitness also play an important role in back health.
Often when your back is hurting, you are forced into good posture and body mechanics because it’s the only way you feel comfortable. Be good to your back! Keep up the healthy habits and exercises taught to you by your doctor or therapist.
What if my pain doesn’t go away?
If you are getting weaker, if your pain is increasing, if you feel numbness and tingling in your legs or buttocks, if pain radiates into your hip or leg, you should definitely see your doctor. There are a number of treatments that your doctor may suggest including medications, bracing, physical therapy, epidural injections, facet injections, trigger point injections or surgery.
Sleeping or Resting:
Improve your Flexibility.Tightness in the following muscles can put a lot of extra strain on your low back: hamstrings (back of thigh), quadriceps (front of thigh) and hip flexors (front of thigh). Performing regular stretching exercises for these and other muscles can reduce pressure on your spine and help eliminate back pain.
Improve your Strength: Strong muscles surrounding your spine can protect your back from injury. A physical therapist can teach you how to strengthen your stomach, lower and upper back muscles, as well as improve your leg, buttocks and arm strength so you don’t need to "muscle" things with your back.
Improve your Endurance: Overall stamina and muscle endurance promote back health. Cardiovascular exercise can increase the flow of blood and other nutrients to your back. Follow your doctor’s advice about which activities are best for you. You may want to avoid high impact activities such as jogging or aerobics while you’re healing from your injury.
Maintain a healthy weight: Too much fat weight, particularly around your stomach, can put extra stress on your back. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can get you back on track.
Reviewed: 10/2/2009 Published: 8/3/2004