Lower back pain is a phenomenon that is reported to affect around one-third of the UK adult population each year. The large prevalence of this injury is largely applied as an umbrella term which may leave many like yourself wondering what the cause, problem, and the right way to reduce and prevent the pain from arising.
Nonetheless, lower back pain is a problematic case that entails a wide range of approaches to not only rehabilitate but to prevent. This wide approach often needs to include a but not limited to:
- Improving hip and spine mobility
- Improving hip, lower back and lower limb flexibility, strength, and co-ordination
- Understanding pain, why it occurs and how to work with it.
- Understanding that you are not weak or broken and the pain will (in most cases) disappear.
The Umbrella terms previously mentioned is a label with multiple diagnoses that can be associated with. However, each diagnosis will differ in the symptoms, location, onset, aggravations, and eases. Therefore, greater knowledge of these diagnoses and a reduction in umbrella terms in my opinion is important more than ever. In the proceeding sections, I aim to share with you two common areas that we often see within Made to Move and explain these in greater detail.
What causes lower back pain?
The cause of lower back pain is widely recognised and often over-complicated. Simply put, the structures of the lower back complex have become overloaded which stresses structures. This stress is then expressed as an ache or niggle (commonly known as) and can quickly manifest increasing amounts of pain if left unmanaged.
The structures commonly overloaded often included but not limited to:
- Soft tissue strain of the supporting the spine (muscles, tendon, ligaments)
- Compression of the disks within the lower spine (herniation, bulge, degeneration)
- Nerve compression (as it exits the spine or along its path from the lower back complex)
However, over time these overloaded structures can lead to more longer lasting aches and pains as the structures can cause overspill to the surrounding areas such as:
- Herniated disks
- Nerve entrapment (sciatic nerve, cauda equina, femoral nerve)
- Chronic muscle spasm and tightness
Symptoms of lower back pain:
Lower back pain can incorporate a wide variety of symptoms. It can be mild and merely annoying, or it can be severe and debilitating. Low back pain may start suddenly, or it could start slowly—possibly coming and going—and gradually get worse over time. The often areas associated with lower back pain is the muscles surrounding the spine (see image…) as they are often overworked and fatigued which then contribute to excessive tightness.
As you can see, the onset, characteristics of lower back pain is not singled down to one concept and as such will include a wide range of triggers and symptoms. These symptoms can include but not limited to:
- Pain that is dull or achy, contained to the lower back.
- Muscle spasms and tightness in the lower back, pelvis, and hips
- Pain that worsens after prolonged sitting or standing
- Difficulty standing up straight or going from standing to sitting.
Is lower back pain bad?
Pain is a complicated topic but in short, pain is an alarm (like that of a smoke alarm that is programmed to detect smoke to warn you there is a problem that needs attention). Similarly, the nervous system provokes pain as a protective mechanism to highlight there may be an area that needs attention to resolve an imbalance or an overloaded structure.
Unfortunately, lower back pain has a label that most people associate with having an incurable disease. This is not the case and should be treated like any other strain area around the body.
How can you reduce and prevent lower back pain?
To reduce and prevent lower back pain, there must be a multifactorial approach to improve the area to reduce the imbalance and develop these areas to promote long-term success. This section outlines areas that you can implement right away.
Flexibility can be associated as one of the main factors when it comes to diagnosing lower back pain. Due to the nature of the modern lifestyle, a large amount of the population spends excessive periods in a seated position that can lead to the shortened lower back, hip flexors and quadricep muscles. Failure to address these tight areas can be problematic both in your chosen health and fitness regime of lifting within the gym.
Strength can also be associated with the main factors when diagnosing lower back pain. The muscle groups in charge of maintaining lower back strength and stability are the gluteal and core complex and that often becomes weak during extended periods of sitting or not used primarily targeted in exercise regimes and daily work patterns.
How can this impact movement and being able to train optimally?
Lower back pain can be a contributing problem to decreased muscular function. Firstly, the muscles that are in a lengthened pre-tensioned position will be exerting energy to maintain contractile strength in the outer range. When this is then asked to lengthen or to contract further, both power output and endurance will be limited. The risk of injury therefore may increase as muscles are forcefully placed in a greater outer range past their current tolerance.
Whilst an injury may not be present at that moment in time, the future injury risk is most likely going to occur. Your ability to train without further irritation is to relieve the tight structures and strengthen the weak muscles. As your hip and core strength gradually improves, and flexibility improves over time, your tolerance to work in these outer ranges will improve.
Other ways to treat and prevent lower back pain.
- Having a regular massage or foam rolling will reduce tightness and pain associated with muscle tightness.
- Avoid doing things that provoke pain associated with lower back pain: prolonged sitting can be very irritating, so modifying your routine, taking regular breaks so you do not need to sit.
- Avoid spending extended periods being bent over or leant back from the lower back, aim to bend at the hips.
- Warm up the hip muscles before exercise, physical activity and stretch at the end of each training session.
It is apparent that to ensure that the pelvis is positioned in an optimal position for your individual needs, a comprehensive approach to understanding the cause and how to reverse these factors will be the key to the long-term success of tackling anterior pelvic tilt and the associated aches and pains as a result.
If you are struggling to progress with this injury, we have space for you within our online coaching platform in which one of our therapists will take you through an injury assessment and consultation to understand the problematic issues and work with you to build a programme that works around your lifestyle to ensure you get back to moving more, pain-free.
Simply head to the booking calendar HERE to book your consultation now.
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