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What causes Low Back Pain?

Updated: 16 minutes ago

Low back pain is extremely common prevalent. Something like 80% of people will encounter it at some point. I promise you, having a better understanding of the underlying causes can help in managing and treating this discomfort effectively.

Nonspecific Low Back Pain:

Believe it or not, Nonspecific low back pain is the most common type.  It accounts for the majority of cases actually. This type of pain does not have a clear, identifiable cause such as a specific injury or disease. It often arises from overuse, poor posture, poor mechanics, or repetitive movements all that put extra strain on the muscles and ligaments supporting the spine.

Your back is a complex system of bones, muscles, and ligaments working together to support your body. When this system is strained by over loading or improper loading it can lead to pain and inflammation. 

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Low back Strains:

Strains refer to injuries muscular injuries. They can happen all over your body and definitely in your back.  These injuries often occur when the muscles are stretched or loaded beyond their limits, commonly during activities that involve lifting, twisting, or quick loading. Poor lifting techniques, improper posture, or sudden movements can exacerbate the risk of strains.  Lifting something heavy and quickly turning to the side with it.

Degenerative Changes:

As we age, our spines undergo natural degenerative changes called arthritis.   The discs in our spine, which act as cushions between the vertebrae, may lose elasticity and become thinner over time. This can lead to conditions such as degenerative disc disease or spinal osteoarthritis.  When this happens the discs and joints of the spine may become stiff and less able to absorb shock.

If the discs provide less shock absorption, this can lead to increased stress on the muscles, nerves, and tendons of the low back.

Lumbar Instability:

Instability in the spine refers to the loss of normal structural support and alignment. This can occur due to injuries, degenerative changes, significant weakness, and other structural changes. Instability can lead to abnormal movement patterns in the spine.  These movements change how the joints and muscles in the spine are loaded and can be painful.

Weak core muscles and back muscles, which help support and stabilize the spine, can also contribute to instability. When the core muscles are weak or imbalanced, the spine may not be adequately supported during movements, increasing the risk of instability and thus injury and pain.

Low Back Mobility Deficits:

Maintaining optimal mobility in the spine and pelvic girdle is crucial for preventing or reducing low back pain. Reduced flexibility or range of motion in the joints and muscles of the lower back can lead to compensatory movements that place additional stress on the spine.

Factors such as muscle tightness, joint stiffness, or poor posture can contribute to mobility deficits. For example, tight hip flexors or hamstrings can limit pelvic mobility and affect the way the spine is laoded, leading to increased strain on the lower back muscles and thus a potential injury.

Physical therapy plays a vital role in the management and treatment of low back pain. A skilled physical therapist can assess your specific condition and develop a personalized treatment plan to address the underlying causes of your pain.

Treatment strategies may include:

  • Hands-on techniques such as joint mobilization, soft tissue mobilization, and spinal manipulation can help improve joint mobility, reduce muscle tension, and alleviate pain.

  • A tailored exercise program focusing on strengthening the core and back muscles, improving flexibility, and correcting posture can help stabilize the spine and prevent future episodes of low back pain.

  • Learning proper lifting techniques, biomechanics, and ergonomic adjustments can reduce strain on the spine and promote healing.

  • Modalities such as dry needling, traction, and electrical stimulation may be used to help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and promote tissue healing.

  • Incorporating functional activities and movements into rehabilitation can help you regain strength, flexibility, and confidence in performing daily tasks without pain and in a more efficient manner.

  • Addressing psychosocial factors such as stress, anxiety, or fear of movement through cognitive-behavioral strategies can improve outcomes and reduce the risk of chronic pain.  Many times, having a good understanding of your issue helps more than you would think.  Moving in fear has been shown to cause more harm that good.

Low back pain is very complex.  Frankly, healthcare has had a hard time making significant progress in managing it in a long time.  It can stem from a variety of factors, ranging from muscular strains to degenerative changes in the spine. Understanding these underlying causes is essential for developing effective treatment strategies that address your specific needs and improve your quality of life - helping you move without fear again. 

If you are experiencing low back pain, don't hesitate to seek help from a expert physical therapist.  A good Physical therapist is a movement expert.  They should be able to perform a comprehensive evaluation and provide a personalized treatment, and ongoing support. Physical therapy can empower you to manage your symptoms, prevent future episodes, and get back to doing the things you love.

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