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Low Back Pain – Prevention 1

September 27, 2010

In the last post I briefly described the mechanisms behind regular low back pain.  Today I’ll go into that process a little deeper and tie it in with prevention.

First things first.  Your back and your body in general, like to be exposed to regular, normal motion.

Definition of Regular Motion:  a subjective term meaning to move periodically or throughout the day as you are able depending on your individual requirements (how’s that for specific.  Remember, you’re a person, not a machine and the amount of regular motion is different for everyone).  Regular motion comes from a combination of your activities of daily living, work, and exercise.

Definition of Normal Motion:  movement which is maintained within the physiologic boundaries of the joints/muscles/bones so as not to cause or potentially cause injury.  (Abnormal motion, then, would be either too much or too little movement.)

In other words, move your body.  Try to maintain a physically active lifestyle in which the activities you participate invigorate your body enough for you to want to keep doing them but not so much as to put you out on the sidelines.  This is the kind of regular, normal motion that the joints in your back need in order to stay healthy.  Remember that if the joint doesn’t move enough (too little motion), the fluid within it becomes stagnant and loses its properties of lubrication and nourishment and this can lead to pain and dysfunction (see Low Back Pain – The Nuts and bolts).

But what happens if the joint moves too much?  Well in the case of a sudden and major trauma, like being tackled the wrong way in rugby (is there a right way?), that causes immediate injury and pain – muscles and ligaments can tear; cartilage is crushed.

More commonly and more insidiously, however, are the micro-traumas that build up over time.  Microtraumas are small, microscopic injuries.  They are a combination of joint tissue tearing and inflammation as a result of joints going through a repetitive or sustained range of motion (too much motion).  If microtrauma happens once, it’s usually not a big deal.  Your body can heal it without any signs or symptoms.  If it happens more often, then there’s a problem.  Microtraumas, if not given enough time to heal, can build up and lead to major, symptomatic injury.  And this is where most of us get into trouble.

In today’s world much of the activity in our lives has become very specialized and can either limit or exaggerate the motions we do.  In the case of a sedentary desk job, sitting all day not only limits joint motion but also weakens the supporting musculature and ligaments of the spine making it more susceptible to injury when you move.  In the case of a physical job such as carpentry or floor laying, it is the repetitive demands of the work itself that can lead to pain and injury.  There can also be problems with exercise.  Exercises which involve repetitive forward or backward bending, twisting, or combinations of those movements can lead to microtrauma (hmmm…those movements sound like many of the “core” exercises out there:  sit-ups, back extensions, crunches and leg lifts with twists).

So what can you do to prevent the build-up of microtrauma in your back?  Well the first rule in health care is Do No Harm.  Therefore simply avoid those things which can cause microtrauma to your body.  In the case of being sedentary with too little motion, move.  Make sure you don’t spend all your time at your desk/in your car/on the couch and live an active lifestyle (often easier said than done, especially if you’re already living with back pain.  If that’s the case then see your chiropractor for treatment options to help you feel better first).

If too much motion is the problem it’s a little more involved.  Part of the answer is that when you have the choice, don’t do movements that involve repetitive or sustained forward or backward bending and twisting.  That may not always be an option given your occupation, but in the case of exercise you can certainly choose which ones to avoid.  So stop doing sit-ups, back extensions, crunches, leg lifts, trunk twists.   I know – this takes out most of the core exercises.  But that’s exactly the point.  And that’s where we’ll start next time.

For more information on exercise and back pain contact your Guelph chiropractors at Clear Path Chiropractic Health Centre.

From → Back Pain

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