LOW BACK PAIN

Low back pain affects roughly 40% of people in their lifetime. In the UK that would be 26.4 million people with today's estimated population. Of those 5.2 million will suffer for longer than 3 months in a row. Which would put them into the chronic pain bracket which requires a more long term plan to recover form.

Low back pain affects work life, causing 3.4 million people in the UK to take longer than a month off work. It causes those affected to stop playing the sports they love because of the pain and to prevent the problem from worsening. Lastly it affects their everyday lives, things that would normally be easy like going for a walk become painful and in some cases stopped all together.

Who does it effect?

Low back pain can affect anyone of any age, but some are more likely to suffer with the problem than others. Females are more likely to have low back pain than males and people 40 years old or older are at a greater risk than those aged younger than 40.

What causes it?

Low back pain can be caused by numerous problems. some of which are discussed in more detail here.

The causes range from tight muscles to 'slipped disks' and bony growths within the spinal column. Tight muscles may simply mean you are doing a lot more than is usual, this tends to be a posture problem such as working long hours or difficulty sleeping.


Slipped disks are explained in more detail in a blog post but this phrase is slightly misleading. A slipped disk is  a problem with one of your "intervertebral disks" which is the cushion that sits between your vertebrae (spine segments) and stops the bones grinding together, sort of like cartilage. Over time due to wear and tear they can become damaged. Whatever the damage looks like they will typically put extra pressure on your nerves that pass nearby and can give you tingly, burning pins and needles sensations.

Low back pain can also be caused by 'Spondy' conditions, spondylolysis, spondylolisthesis... all complicated names. The common problem is a fracture in a specific part of the vertebrae that allows the bone to move more than normal. This, like the slipped disk problems puts extra pressure on your nerves again causing you pain and tingly sensations.

Then there is 'non-specific low back pain' which makes up the bulk of problems where nothing specific seems to be the cause. Although this may sound vague, you may have at some point just had back pain for no real reason. You may fit into this category, and although frustrating sometimes our bodies just need some TLC and this may be one way of letting us know.

So what can be done?

With all of these problems, even for bony growths (some cases may need surgery to fix), exercise, specifically core strengthening, control and stability exercises will help rid this back pain. It works through reeducating the body how to move the spine in a controlled and therefore safe way.


Exercise is the number 1 way of reducing back pain, but it has to be structured and purposeful. Core strengthening can prevent the spondy conditions from worsening. Given enough time, and the correct rehab, spondy conditions and intervertebral disks can heal! Surgery is an option but should always be a last resort.

Often problems with the spine originate from poor stability of vertebrae which increases initial chance of injury through a change in the way they absorb the forces from everyday activity.

Complimentary therapies such as sports massage are second best to exercise but do provide great results. Sports massage and other complimentary therapies help with low back pain however should always be an accompaniment to corrective exercises.

References

Hoy, D. , Bain, C. , Williams, G. , March, L. , Brooks, P. , Blyth, F. , Woolf, A. , Vos, T. and Buchbinder, R. (2012), A systematic review of the global prevalence of low back pain. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 64: 2028-2037. doi:10.1002/art.34347

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