Common causes of lower back pain and what you can do about it
Lower back pain can be a real pain in the backside, right? Funnily enough, it can be just that. Some of the common causes of lower back pain actually stem from your buttock muscles, known as the gluteal muscle group.
It is widely known that lower back pain is one of the most common forms of chronic pain and it is definitely one of the most common presenting complaints we see here at OOC. Acute or chronic lower back pain affects 80-85% of people at some stage in their lives and is a leading cause of people missing work. (Buchbinder, et al., 2011, Froud, et al., 2014).
The lower back is anatomically known as the lumbar spine and consists of 5 vertebrae and a vast array of muscular and ligamentous attachments. As mentioned earlier, one of those groups of muscles are known as the gluteals, or you may have heard them be called “glutes”. Whilst these muscles primarily work to move and stabilize the hips, they are commonly weakened and/or injured with lower back injuries. The other common connection they have is with the sciatic nerve, as it passes down deeply through the buttock and past the gluteals to supply the lower limb. Many people present to us here at the clinic with “sciatica” or sciatic nerve related pain in association with their lower back injuries.
Lower back pain affects 80-85% of people at some stage in their lives
There are many more injuries that may come under the banner of lower back pain, including, but not limited to the following:
- Lumbar herniated disc – nuclear material from within the disc space may protrude the harder outer case of the disc, compromising or irritating the spinal nerve in the area
- Degenerative joint and/or disc disease – often referred to as Spondylosis, which describes age-related wear and tear of the spinal joints and/or discs
- Facet joint dysfunction or sprain – injury to one of the small spinal joints in the lower back, usually due to damage to the surrounding ligaments or cartilage from excessive force
- Sacroiliac joint (SIJ) dysfunction – improper movement of the joints at the base of the spine which connects the sacrum to the pelvis
- Osteoarthritis – degenerative arthritis of the lumbar vertebrae that causes pain, stiffness and inflammation between the joints
- Spondylolisthesis – slipping forward or backward of one lumbar vertebrae on another
- Compression or trauma-related fracture(s) – usually predisposed by having osteoporosis and therefore weakened bone structure
- Spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spaces within your spine (eg: spinal canal), which causes compression of the spinal nerves in the lower back
Common causes of Lower Back Pain
The following activities can lead to lower back pain.
- Heavy lifting or poor lifting technique
- Incorrect gym technique
- Muscle weakness
- Poor sleeping posture
- Insufficient flexibility
- Prolonged sitting, standing or lying
- Twisting or bending forward
- Menstrual pain
- Sports injuries, especially in sports that involve twisting or large forces of impact
- Dysfunction in the thorax (mid back), lower limbs and pelvis
- More serious causes of Lower Back Pain
- Disc injury
How to help ease your lower back pain
The following activities can help ease your lower back pain.
- Get out of bed and move despite the presence of pain. Prolonged bed rest can prolong recovery (Borenstein, & Calin, 2012), and movement will aid in fluid exchange in your body to help promote healing.
- Low impact exercises such as gentle 10-minute walks (2-3 times daily) and 20 minutes of gentle swimming or even gentle walking in a swimming pool to begin with
- Increase your water uptake to further improve fluid exchange in the body
- Limit sitting or standing in any one position to 20 minutes before getting up and moving
- See your Osteopath, remedial massage therapist or myotherapist at OOC and they can help tailor a treatment and management program (including stretching and strengthening exercises) for you and your pain
- When sleeping, either sleep on your back with a pillow under your knees or on your side with a small pillow in between your knees
- Check your ergonomic set up at your workplace station and/or your car, use a lower back support (such as a lumbar support cushion), raise the height of your chair so your thighs are on a downward angle to the floor and position the top of your computer screen approximately 5cm above seated eye level. Click here for more information on the correct ergonomic setup for your workplace station
- Ensure correct lifting procedures: keep the object close to your body, keep your back straight and bend your knees. Avoid lifting heavy objects whilst in acute pain
- Ensure you have a supportive mattress and pillow. Speak to one of the OOC practitioners today for more help
- Use heat to help reduce pain levels (normally 20 minutes twice daily)
- Ensure good quality footwear. Ladies: no high heels!
If you are interested in seeing one of our Practitioners for assessment and treatment of your lower back pain, our friendly Practitioners will be happy to meet with you to discuss your healthcare goals. Simply book online or call (03) 9836 3688 to make an appointment today.Book Online Today!
This article is for information purposes only. Please consult your Osteopath or primary healthcare professional for further information.
Borenstein, D., & Calin, A., (2012). Fast Facts : Low Back Pain (2nd Ed.). Oxford, GBR: Health Press Limited, 2012. ProQuest ebrary. Web.
Buchbinder, R., Batterham, R., Elsworth, G., Dionne, C., Irvin, E. and Osborne, R. (2011). A validity-driven approach to the understanding of the personal and societal burden of low back pain: development of a conceptual and measurement model. Arthritis Research & Therapy, 13(5), p.R152.
Malanga, G.A., & Dunn,K.,R. ( 2010). Low back pain management: Approaches to treatment. The Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine 27.8: 305-309,314-315.
McKenzie, R. (2011). Treat your own back. Raumati Beach, N.Z.: Spinal Publications New Zealand.