Dealing with lower back pain
Most healthcare professionals would agree that back pain is a complicated issue. While up to 80% of Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, there are so many causes of back pain that it’s often difficult to pinpoint the exact reason, making it hard to treat and relieve such pain. Sources can include arthritis, spinal injury and nerve compression, but Jason Wilder, a physical therapist and the owner of Apex Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member in Tennessee), says there are three main causes of lower back pain.
- Poor sitting posture.
Many of us have jobs that require us to sit at a computer for hours at a time, staring at a small screen and perhaps involuntarily hunching over our keyboard. Jason notes that this can lead to problems with the intervertebral discs, making it difficult to not only sit, but also stand up and sit down in chairs.
If you have a job that requires sitting for any length of time, paying attention to your posture could help you avoid back pain. Remember to sit with your back straight, but retain the natural curves in your back; if you need support, you can put a lumbar roll or even a rolled up towel in your chair behind the small of your back to help. And keep in mind that you should move throughout the day, to help keep your muscles loose.
- Poor lifting techniques.
How many times have you sat through a training video that reminds employees to lift with the legs, not with the back? Incorrect lifting posture can create a lower back injury quickly. Always make sure that your knees are bent and your back is straight. Never jerk heavy objects up; move slowly and carefully instead. And if the object is heavier than 30 pounds, get help, either from another person or some machinery.
Don’t forget that this applies to small objects as well as large ones. Bending down many times to pick up toys can put just as much strain on your back as one lift of a heavy box.
- Lack of lumbar extension.
Lower back pain can often be a sign that your lumbar muscles are too tight. Jason recommends trying some lumbar extension exercises to relax and stretch the muscles. For example, the prone press up demonstrated below can help to stretch the back after a day of sitting at the computer.
Jason says that a few adjustments to your daily routine are a good guard against back pain. “Maintain correct sitting posture, consistently utilize proper body mechanics and do daily extension exercise,” he advises. “While this is not a guarantee against all lower back pain, it does significantly reduce its likelihood.”
Wayne Seeto, a Lead Instructor Trainer and Rehab Specialist for STOTT PILATES®, one of Physiquality’s partner programs, notes that postural retraining and stability training can help to reduce back pain. And the core work so key to Pilates exercises also strengthens the back, helping to minimize the possibility of pain.
In addition, consulting with a physical therapist is a good way to prevent and reduce back pain. Jason recommends seeing a physical therapist for a thorough evaluation, as does Al Visnick, a physical therapist and the Director of Treatment at Orthopaedics Plus, a Physiquality network clinic in Massachusetts. Al reminds readers that, due to the variety of causes of back pain, seeking treatment with a physical therapist or healthcare professional is key when pain does not subside or becomes sharp. Al explains that one of the most important things a PT can do for you is help you learn to avoid the factors that aggravate your symptoms, so your body can do what it is capable of, when given the opportunity: heal.
“Simply stated, if we are able to teach a patient how to avoid the factors that make their pain worse throughout their day, our treatment plan gets exponentially more successful,” he says. “This common-sense philosophy is a key component to a successful outcome when paired with the appropriate therapy and training.”
Keep in mind that if any of the above exercises or modifications cause pain, you should seek treatment immediately. The sooner the cause of pain is established, the sooner it can be treated, and the more likely it can be reduced.
||Wayne Seeto, OT, MSPT, is a Lead Instructor Trainer and Rehab Specialist for STOTT PILATES®, one of Physiquality’s partner programs. He is certified to teach the STOTT PILATES Rehab program and is sought-after internationally for private and professional instruction.
||Al Visnick, PT, FAAOMPT, is a physical therapist and the Director of Treatment at Orthopaedics Plus, a Physiquality network clinic with locations in Burlington and Beverly, Massachusetts. Al has not only completed a fellowship in orthopedic manual physical therapy, but is also the Associate Program Director at the Institute of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy.
||Jason Wilder, PT, Dip. MDT, is a physical therapist and the owner of Apex Physical Therapy, a Physiquality member in Morristown, Tennessee. Jason has also completed a post-doctoral diploma in Mechanical Diagnosis and Treatment from the McKenzie Institute International, a therapeutic approach for treating neck and back pain.
For further information, look through our selection of articles on back health, in addition to the below links:
Ravn, Karen. Back pain is a complicated issue. Los Angeles Times, April 4, 2011.
Prone press up. Excel Physical Therapy.
STOTT PILATES Channel on YouTube.com.
Posture for a healthy back. Cleveland Clinic, October 24, 2008.
Lumbar extension exercises. Orthopaedic Specialists of North Carolina.