If you are reading this and you live in American chances are you will have such bad lower back pain at least once in your life, you’ll visit the doctor for it. It is the 5th most common reason we seek medical help. Is there something wrong with the way our spines are designed? Or are we doing things to our back that it hasn’t evolved to withstand? Engineers marvel at the simple yet unbelievably strong and agile human spine. Due to it’s natural S curve, it can withstand more axial loads (squishing in a vertical direction) than if it were straight. Our sedentary modern life has created a malicious environment for the lumbar spine.
Here is the problem: no single injury (non-traumatic) to the lumbar disc has been unequivocally identified as a pain generator, yet theories are abound. Many people have been lead to believe lumbar herniation is the cause of their pain, however it has been discovered that significant amounts of the population have these disc issues and are pain free.(1,2) Doctors think the majority of lower back pain (99%) stems from benign musculoskeletal issues caused by a variety of conditions such as a bulging disc, scoliosis, osteoporosis or simply a soft tissue strain/sprain. (3)
Most people with lower back pain will recover completely regardless of treatments within 2-6 weeks (4)
Four of the most effective protocols to alleviate lower back pain:
1. Egoscue back exercises:
a- Static back with legs up
b- Static back pullovers
c- Pillow knee squeezes
3- Walk outside at a quick pace with your arms swinging normally at your sides and make sure you are unencumbered by any bags, pocketbooks, backpacks etc. It is important to let your arms swing naturally while walking because the torso/hip rotation will unload your spine and relive tension.
4- There is some good evidence showing heat can alleviate lower back pain (little proof cold will help unless there is inflammation like arthritic pain). Place a heating pad on your back for 15 to 20 minutes 1-3 times per day. (5)
11 things you can do to prevent lower back pain:
- Practice good posture all day long
- Don’t sit for long periods – Check out why: SitOnThis
- Use proper lifting techniques: Back and abs tight and lift with your hips and legs
- At least 10 minutes of daily outdoor walking unencumbered by bags while wearing flat shoes or going barefoot
- Exercise with weights at least once per week (strengthen your bones)
- Find out if you have a leg length discrepancy
- Try not to wear heels often (many athletic shoes also have heels, some exceeding 2 inches!)
- Strengthen your core with focus on isometric exercises i.e Planks, ball oscillations, side planks etc.
- Make sure your gluteals (butt muscles) and hamstrings are not inhibited and working properly and stretch the opposing tight muscles (but don’t overstretch!)
- Lose weight specifically around your waist: BellyFat
- Use a foam roller before your workouts: ThisIsHowIRoll
Also check out Dr. Stuart McGill’s blog. He is one of the best lumbar spine PhD researchers in the world and author of “Low back Disorders”: MyRehabExercise
1- Jensen MC, et al. “MRI imaging of the lumbar spine in people without back pain.” N Engl J Med – 1994; 331:369-373.
4- Urquhart, Donna M; Hoving, Jan L; Assendelft, Willem JJ; Roland, Martin; Van Tulder, Maurits W; Urquhart, Donna M (2008). Urquhart, Donna M. ed. “Antidepressants for non-specific low back pain”. Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) (1): CD001703.
5-French SD, et al. (2006). Superficial heat or cold for low back pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (1).