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Lower back pain seems to have become an unfortunate trend of the times. With increasing stress on the spine matching the neglect for it, it is indeed a prickly situation that we have riding on us.The postural evolution of man has gone from walking on all fours to standing erect. The last step seems to be hunched over a laptop or bent over a tablet and the unavoidable repercussions of this is seen in the increasing incidence of lower back pain from a relatively young age of 30 extending right up to 60 years old.
To understand lower back pain, let begin at the origin story.
What causes pain in the Lower Back Pain:
To visualize this, bring your attention inwards and imagine the lower part of your spine. This is called the lumbar region and it contains 5 lumbar vertebrae. This is the hot spot of your spine that creates lower back pain.
The lower back pain can be caused by any kinks in the vast interconnected network of the spinal muscles, nerves, bones or tendons in the lumbar region of the spine. The pain is a result of some portion of this network getting disturbed.
- The bones, ligaments or joints may have sustained an injury
- The lower back muscles maybe strained
- The smaller nerves supplying blood to the lower back maybe irritated
- The large nerve roots in the lower back maybe disturbed
What this means is the causes of the pain maybe one or more of these and therefore the range of severity of the pain ranges vastly.
The appearance of muscle spasms in the region
- Difficulty in moving and walking and impaired movement.
- A dull but deep ache extending from the groin or sit bones down the upper thigh and towards the knee.
- Some topical pain and soreness that is felt intensely on contact.
- Leg pain may accompany back pain or maybe independent of the back.
- Tingling, numbness and weakness in the leg.
- Lower back pain and/or pain in the buttock.
Back pain caused by strain in muscles or ligament strain is one of the most common forms of lower back pain.
- Pain can range in intensity from mild discomfort to severe disabling pain depending on the intensity of the damage and the amount of strain being put on the back.
- Typically, continuous and ongoing pain.
- Maybe felt more on the leg or the buttocks as opposed to the lower back.
- Maybe accompanied by difficulty in movement and weakness.
Bad posture creates an environment of strain starting at the neck and extending downwards. Sitting hunch backed with the neck drooping downwards for long periods of time forces the neck and back muscles to compensate for the gravitational pull by straining to hold up the weight of your head.
- Back pain worsening on a few days of the week
- Pain originating at the neck and travelling downwards
- Pain that can be managed by standing in intervals and inducing movement into the routine
- Back pain that comes and goes for months
- Sudden back pain when usual back support (like a chair or car seat) gets changed
The intensity is usually determined by how long the back pain extends. 2-3 weeks can be managed with pain medication, heat and ice packs, long periods of back rest and strengthening exercises. But if the pain refuses to ebb after 4-6 a medical practitioner needs to be brought into the picture.
Other symptoms that call for evaluation by a doctor include:
- Back pain caused by a trauma incident like an accident or suffering a serious fall
- The back pain getting worse with time
- When remedies like ice and heat pack, pain relievers and bed rest have no effect
- When the pain disrupts deep sleep
- When the pain in the back is accompanied by pain in the abdomen region
- When numbness travels to inner thighs, groin or buttock regions
- When tingling sensations are felt in the legs, arms or feet
In addition to passive therapies like ice and heat treatment and ultrasounds, sessions with a licensed physiotherapist go a long way in rehabilitating the spine. This is a more active more of therapy which involves assisted exercises for pain relief, muscle strengthening and flexibility.
Exercises for strengthening Lower Back Muscles
This includes 15-20 minutes of dynamic stabilization exercises done every alternate day. These exercises work at making the core strong to be able to withstand more stress and protect the spine better. These exercises go on to minimize the injury to traumatized spine and thereby relieve the pain in the lower back.
Many back exercises can help strengthen the spinal column and the supporting muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Most of these back exercises focus not only on the back, but also the abdominal (stomach) muscles and gluteus (buttocks) and hip muscles. Taken together, these strong ‘core’ muscles can provide back pain relief because they provide strong support for the spine, keeping it in alignment and facilitating movements that extend or twist the spine.
Exercises for increasing the flexibility of lower back muscles
The role of building flexibility in the healing process cannot be overstated. Stretching exercises form an integral part of rehabilitation programs following a back injury. What happens is a muscle tear heals with scar tissue. This scar tissue tends to be functionally shorter and have more resistance to stretch than normal healthy muscle tissue. So stretching is used at an appropriate time in the healing process to assist in lengthening this contracted scar tissue and build back the lost flexibility.
Good flexibility allows the joints to improve their range of motion. This allows the joints to easily accommodate the desired joint angles without undue stress on the tissues around them. It therefore is essential for injury prevention. Think of it as a smooth panther like motion as opposed to the jagged motion by a robot panther.
Lower back pain is a real quandary that millions of people face all over the world. But with the help of healthy posture habits and a bit of exercise, it is possible to overcome it.