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3 Common Lower Back Pain Mistakes

Lower back pain is one of the most prevalent health conditions worldwide. In industrialized countries, it is estimated that 60-70% of individuals will experience low back pain severe enough to affect their work and quality of life.

What causes aches and pains in the lower back? According to the World Health Organization, “Though several risk factors have been identified (including occupational posture, depressive moods, obesity, body height and age), the causes of the onset of low back pain remain obscure and diagnosis difficult to make.”1

How people respond when back pain strikes

The most common cause of lower back pain is tissue damage such as a torn or pulled ligament or muscle. This can occur suddenly, as in lifting a heavy object, an accident, or sports injury. However, damage can also occur slowly over time due to repetitive movements or poor posture. Even when there hasn’t been what seems like a major event, the pain can be quite severe. Before seeing a doctor or chiropractor, many people self diagnose based on where the pain is and what it feels like. They may try icing or heating, and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. Sometimes this helps, but some choices can actually prolong the situation, or even make it worse.

3 common mistakes

Without seeking medical help, or having proper knowledge of our anatomy, there are 3 common mistakes that people make.

  1. Where the pain is felt is not where the injury may be. The architecture of the back is complex, and includes nerves that branch off of the spinal cord and have pathways around the back and outward to the limbs. Something called “referred pain” can be very troubling because it moves around along nerve lines. A problem in the bony spine such as a degenerated disc may be felt as pain in the lower back, hips or buttocks.
  2. At the start of lower back pain, many people think that if they exercise and strengthen their back muscles, the pain will eventually go away. So they try doing isolated back routines. This may only put more stress on muscles that are becoming damaged, leading to worse problems. Instead, strengthening the core muscles beneath the more superficial abdominal muscles that are associated with a “six-pack” will help support the spine and pelvis, and take a load off the lower back. There are exercises that can be done slowly and gently, such as pelvic tilts or cat stretches. It’s worth seeing a knowledgeable exercise trainer or physical therapist in order to learn a few simple exercises and make sure you’re doing them correctly.
  3. Some people think that they should rest their back when back pain occurs. They spend long hours or days in bed. However, this can actually increase weakness and stiffness. When they finally think they’ve “cured” the problem because the pain is diminished, not only do they resume their old habits of poor posture or repetitive strain, but their back and core muscles are compromised from lack of use.
  4. Low back pain due to injury or repetition strain is the body’s way of getting a person’s attention. It’s a cry for help, and should never be ignored if it lasts more than a few days. Not seeing a doctor at all might be the fourth biggest mistake!

    Osteoarthritis of the spine

    In addition to mechanical injury, another source of lower back pain is osteoarthritis of the spine. This means that the small cartilage pads that cushion the joints between each vertebra (backbone) have worn away. This leads to painful bone spurs, and compression on the nerves that pass through openings between vertebrae. There are many interventions such as improved posture and physical therapy that can help alleviate this pain, called facet joint pain.

    If facet joint pain becomes chronic and severe, the Sperling Medical Group offers a noninvasive, durable treatment called MRI-guided Focused Ultrasound, or MRgFUS. By aiming beams of ultrasound to target heat on the facet joints, this outpatient procedure deadens the nerves that send pain messages to the brain, without impacting normal movement and function.

    For more information, contact the Sperling Medical Group.

    1 http://www.who.int/medicines/areas/priority_medicines/Ch6_24LBP.pdf

Facet Pain