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Non-Surgical Treatments for Back Pain (Non-traditional)

For this post, I want to concentrate on other non-surgical treatments for back pain. Even though most of these treatments involve a licensed professional, they are not the first thing most people think of when experiencing back pain. For that reason, I have put these in the non-traditional category.

I know when your back is hurting bad enough that it’s making even simple everyday routines very difficult or even impossible, you’re willing to do just about anything to get some relief. Some treatments I will be talking about may not bring you permanent relief, most of them have been proven to bring at least temporary relief. Trust me on this, there are times when even temporary is greatly appreciated.

Inversion Therapy

Theoretically speaking, inversion therapy involves strapping your feet and ankles in a harness then flipping upside down and hanging there. In effect, it reverses gravity. It’s purpose is to take pressure off of the spine and the discs that are in between the vertebrae. By itself, inversion therapy only bring temporary relief to back pain. It can be used in conjunction with specific exercises, therapies and/or stretches to bring more long term relief.

Many people claim temporary relief from inversion therapy but it does have it’s limitations and draw backs. It is not for everybody and can do more harm than good. Being upside down for more than a couple of minutes causes an increase in blood pressure and slowing of the heartbeat. It also dramatically increases the pressure inside your eyeballs. Because of this, it is recommended that anyone with high blood pressure, a heart condition or glaucoma not try inversion therapy. I recommend asking your doctor before trying it.

Professional Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is quickly gaining recognition by medical providers as a viable option for treatment of some lower back pain conditions. No it is not a cure all. Recent studies have recognized that massage therapy can bring at least some relief to many with lower back pain issues. When done properly, the patient exhibited an increase in range of motion. There was also and increase in serotonin and dopamine levels in the blood. An added benefit that will lower depression and anxiety along with improving sleep.

Massage therapy can only physically help if there is a soft tissue injury such as a muscle spasm. The most effective therapy is known as Neuromuscular Massage Therapy. It involves applying pressure, using the fingers, knuckles or elbows on specific trigger points in the muscles that are in spasm. This pressure, in varying degrees, will allow the muscle to relax allowing an increase in blood flow and oxygen to the muscle. This in turn promotes healing.

Again, massage therapy is not a cure all. By itself it will only bring temporary relief. It is usually used in conjunction with other treatments to bring long term relief to the patient. As usual, consult your doctor before getting massage therapy. At the very least, he or she could recommend good licensed professionals.

Chiropractic Manual Manipulation and Mobilization

Chiropractors use a “hands-on” approach to restore a body’s musculoskeletal structure back to proper alignment. This manipulation is used to allow normal mobility to joints after a soft tissue injury causing pain in muscles, tendons and/or ligaments. Specifically, it is a pain relief alternative. This manipulation is a series of high velocity arm thrust that is directed toward abnormal vertebrae in an effort to restore alignment, mobility, reduce nerve irritation and reduce pain. This in turn will restore range of motion.

Chiropractic Mobilization, on the other hand is low velocity stretching and moving of joints and muscles to restore range of motion and relieve tension in specific areas. Treatment usually involves several visits in order to be successful. Periodic “adjustments” can be performed for long term relief.

Meditation

What’s that you say? Meditation relieves lower back pain! Give me a break!

That’s how I felt. I knew that there was no way on God’s green earth that something as simple and stupid as meditation was going to do anything to help my lower back pain. Well, I guess I was wrong. Why not, I’ve been wrong before.

I started researching meditation and pain relief quite some time ago. I found quite a bit of information about meditation. The best I could find said it’s possible but I failed to find any solid proof. At that time, the best I could find was some would say yes, others no. There were no studies that could prove one way or the other. Just a lot of theory.

Then in 2016, CNN did a report on it. Check it out under the title, “Can meditation banish back pain?”. From the studies in the report, meditation rated right up there with cognitive behavioral therapy (which is the subject of a later post) in relieving lower back pain. To my surprise it actually performed better than standard pain medications like ibuprofen and other over the counter pain medications. Is it recognized as a medical form of pain relief? The jury is still out on that one, but, it is being tried in some areas where CBT is not available.

In my opinion, it’s worth looking into. The type of meditation is known as “Guided Meditation” and requires a partner. Whoever is experiencing the pain is to sit in a relaxed position in a comfortable chair with their eyes closed. The partner is to calmly and softly read from a prepared script. The “patient” must concentrate on and do exactly what the reader is saying. Most of the sessions I read about take from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

The key to success is positive energy. Both people must take the experience very seriously. Like most things in life, it doesn’t work overnight. It takes practice to get it right. With enough practice, and belief, you will eventually be able to do it by yourself without a guide.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture involves inserting very thin needles at various depths into specific locations on the body by a trained practitioner. Does it work? According to the Mayo Clinic, in most studies it has shown to relieve lower back pain, temporarily at least. The studies also showed that the same relief was achieved by inserting the needles in other nonspecific locations as well.

So does this mean that acupuncture works? Maybe, the only thing that was said for sure was that more studies were needed. The American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians say that if chronic lower back pain can’t be relieve by other conventional methods, acupuncture should be considered as an alternative.

I myself am going to dig deeper into this and see what I can find out. I’ll let you know my findings in a later post.

Conclusion

There are other therapies and treatments that are out there like CBT but it is not readily available everywhere, so I’m going to do a more detailed discussion on them at a later date. I also think I’ll dig a little deeper into Meditation and Acupuncture too. This research has sparked my interest and since I still live with back pain, I’ll do what I can to find out more and bring it to you. If there is something you have heard about or something you would like me to cover, leave it in the comments below and I’ll do my best to find out more. Also any questions you may have can be left there as well or you can send me an e-mail. Thanks for reading, I hope something here will make you feel better.

 

donn@theohmyachingback.com

 

 

 

Non-Surgical Treatment for Back Pain (Traditional)

When you’re experiencing lower back pain for more than six weeks, it is considered chronic pain and it’s time to seek professional help. No home remedy is going to alleviate the pain. I’m not talking surgery here, surgery is always a last resort and the subject of a future post. The first step should always be some form of non-surgical treatment for back pain. There are some traditional treatments and some non-traditional treatments. All of which could help to eliminate the pain.

For this post. I’m going to concentrate on traditional non-surgical treatments. Depending on the intensity and cause of the pain, your medical professional may use one or a combination of the treatments discussed below.

Muscle Relaxers

While not typically used to treat chronic lower back pain, it can be prescribed if much of the pain is resulting from muscle spasms. This uncontrollable twitching or cramping can happen for various reason, but is often very painful. Muscle relaxers may also be prescribed if the patient is unable to take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.

There are times a patient may have back pain sever enough to interfere with sleep. Proper sleep is important for the healing process so your doctor may recommend muscle relaxers since they cause drowsiness.

Like many prescription drugs, muscle relaxers have side effects that you need to be aware of other than the drowsiness, Because of this, you should never drive or operate any machinery while taking muscle relaxers. They can also cause fatigue, weakness, decreased blood pressure, depression, and dizziness. You can suffer from dry mouth, but you should never drink alcohol to alleviate it. I know a cold beer may taste really good on a hot summer afternoon, but Impaired judgment and function, caused by the muscle relaxers will only get worse with alcohol.

Muscle relaxers can become addictive. After prolonged use, your body can get to the point where it needs the drug to function normally. When you get to that point, and try to quit taking it, you may suffer withdrawal symptom like a heightened anxiety, vomiting or even insomnia. Withdrawal can be serious or even dangerous. Your doctor should be notified if you begin to experience these symptoms so you can be weaned off the muscle relaxers slowly.

Narcotic Based Pain Medication

Narcotic based pain medication is often referred to as opioids. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about them in the news lately. These medications work by interfering with the pain signals that are sent to the brain. The most common one used for lower back pain is hydrocodone/acetaminophen, commonly called Vicodin. It is used primarily for short term severe pain relief.

Opioids should only be used for short periods of time, and only under a doctors care. The body can quickly develop a tolerance for the opioid and it’s pain killing effect is reduced. Because of this, it takes more and more of the medication to get the same amount of pain relief. If long term use is required, it must be closely monitored by a doctor.

Common side effects from opiod use include, inability to get a good nights sleep, dry mouth, upset stomach, constipation, and possible respiratory problems. On top of that there is also the risk of opioid dependence from the need for higher doses as well as the increased risk of and accidental overdose. Something as simple as taking opioid tablets with grapefruit juice can put too much of the medication in your system at once causing an accidental overdose. My advice is to follow your doctor’s and/or pharmacist’s directions closely and only take the pills with plain water.

Back Braces (Some Say Yes, Some say no)

Back braces have been used for back injuries for years and years. The big question is, “Do they actually work?” Nowhere was I able to find a definitive answer. Some believe in them, some think they’re a waste of money and can do more harm than good, and some say yes with limitations. I’ll weed through all these discussions and at least give you enough information to decide for yourself whether you should use a back brace.

Let’s first look at the elastic flexible type that you can pick up for a few dollars at your local pharmacy or sports store. Some people swear by them claiming they get the additional support they needed during some strenuous activities. This may be true but do they offer sufficient support to help someone who is already experiencing lower back pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s not enough evidence to prove that they are more or less effective at helping to relieve back pain.

The recommended back brace to help alleviate lower back pain is one that is not flexible. The more rigid braces offer better support and promotes healing when used in conjunction with physical therapy. One thing everybody agrees on is the back brace is not meant as a permanent support for lower back pain. Excessive use can actually do more harm than good. Prolonged use will actually allow the core muscles that support the entire upper body to atrophy, leading to re injury or worse a more severe injury than you started with.

In my particular case, I have spinal stenosis due to osteoarthritis. I wore an adjustable rigid brace for only about four or five weeks. After my core muscles got strong enough, from therapy and exercise, to better support my upper body, I quit wearing it. I no longer needed the extra support. I will say this though, while I wore it, I became very aware of my posture. Proper posture is needed to help reduce back issues. It’s hard to slouch with a stiff brace on.

So, back brace, yes or no. My recommendation is to speak with your doctor or medical professional, you should decide together. If you do need one, only use it as long as you have to.

Physical Therapy

One of the most common treatments for many lower back issues is physical therapy. Since the spine, core muscles and related tissues support the entire upper body, it’s easy to understand why so many of us have back issues. As we age, these muscles become weaker causing the entire support structure to become vulnerable to pain and injury.

Physical therapy, often used in conjunction with other treatments, is prescribed to both alleviate the pain and strengthen the core muscles. There are actually two forms of physical therapy, Passive and Active. Many therapy sessions involve both.

Passive physical therapy, also known as Modalities, are treatments that are used while the patient is at rest. These treatments can include:

  • Heat and cold therapy – most commonly available and used to reduce inflammation and muscle spasms.
  • Intophoresis – steroid creams are applied to the skin to target specific areas, then an electrical current is used to force the steroid into the skin to receive acute pain.
  • Ultrasound – deep heating sound waves are used to penetrate into targeted soft tissues to receive and accelerate the healing process.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) – electrical pulses are introduced to the painful area to actually override the pain signals that are being sent to the brain.

Active physical therapy is a series of targeted stretches and strength building exercises. These are designed to strengthen the core muscles in order to help the spine support the upper body. Specific exercised can be used to strengthen specific muscles or muscle groups.

Epidural Steroid Injections

The spinal cord actually ends at the top of the lumbar region in the lower back. From that point on, nerve roots, that resemble a horses tail, travel down and out of the spine. Spinal stenosis occurs when a nerve root is compressed and causes pain running down through the extremities. Sciatica is similar, only it’s caused by twisting or bending or even an issue with the discs that are between the vertebra.

The dural sac surrounds the spinal cord and the nerve roots. A specialist will use live x-ray, called fluoroscopy, to guide the needle to a precise location inside the dural sac. The injected steroid solution is meant to receive inflammation and reduce acute pain. Sometimes the injection alone is enough to receive the pain, but often it brings enough relief for the patient to get additional benefits from physical therapy.

I underwent this treatment soon after I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis due to osteoarthritis. I had two injections in my lower lumbar region. It didn’t give me total relief, but it did ease the pain enough to give me better mobility and to manage physical therapy, which did help get me back to work.

Conclusion

These are all considered traditional non-surgical.treatments. Each one can be an effective treatment by itself, but normally a combination of these are prescribed by your doctor to receive lower back issues. As for me, the only thing that wasn’t done this last time around was muscle relaxers. It took a battery of all the other treatments to get me back on my feet.

The next installment will be on non-traditional treatments.

If you have any comments or questions, or want information on some other procedure or product, please leave it in the comment section below. Thanks for stopping by.

Don

donn@theohmyachingback.com

Best Home Treatment For Lower Back Pain (Part 2)

As promised, I’m back with part 2 of Best Home Treatment For Lower Back Pain. As I mentioned earlier, nearly everyone will suffer from low back pain at some point in their life. While a majority of these issues will be minor and have little effect on your daily activities, some of them will be more serious and require some form of treatment.

I’ve been asked, “How do you know when you should see a doctor?” A very good question. There are some symptoms that may signal a more serious condition that will require the expertise of a medical professional. Here is a list of symptoms to watch for.

  • If the pain lasts longer than six weeks, it is considered a chronic pain.
  • If the pain tends to increase after home treatments
  • If the pain interferes with your sleep.
  • If the pain is accompanied by stomach pain,
  • If you lose control of your bowels or bladder.
  • if you experience weakness, numbness or tingling in your extremities.

Any of these conditions can indicate something more serious than a simple soft tissue injury. See your doctor or medical professional. These could be the result of possible nerve issues.

For the rest of us, here are some additional treatments or tips that can be done at home to help you get over or help prevent that aching back and get back to doing what you enjoy.

Drop that controller and step away from the screen!

Are you hunched over in front of your screen surfing the net, playing that new video game or channel hopping? Well stop it! Studies have shown that more and more people are suffering back pain from doing just that. The number of children suffering from back pain due to video gaming is staggering.

What can we do about this? Simple, get up off the couch and get moving. It’s a proven fact that activity helps alleviate back pain, and no, sitting on your duff and exercising your thumbs is not activity. Put some limits on the amount of time you and your children spend on the video game. When you do play, practice good posture and take frequents breaks. A little stretching during those breaks helps a lot too.

Some of you, unfortunately, have a job where you sit at a desk and work on a computer all day. If this is the case, find a chair that fits properly. It should have good back support and be adjustable so your thighs are parallel to the floor and your feet are flat on the floor. A properly fitting chair should enhance your posture and keep you from sloughing. Even then you should stand up and walk around every so often and stretch your muscles, especially those hamstrings.

This one is for the ladies

High heals can be dangerous. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a lady fall because of those four inch stiletto heel. All t takes is a crack in the sidewalk, or a small pebble and boom, down you go. They may look great and make you look great, but are they really worth it? Even the wider heels on boots are bad for you. They may be more stable but they still create an increase in pressure on the lower spine.

I already realize, that I’m going to catch a lot of flack for that statement, but I’m sorry, sometimes the truth hurts. If you are already experiencing lower back pain, or you want to avoid that very distinct possibility, try wearing “sensible shoes” like flats, or nothing higher than one inch. Your back will thank you for it.

Shed those excess pounds

I can talk about this one from my own experience. The spine is the only structural support for the entire upper body. Simply put, the more overweight you are, the higher your risk of back injuries. In the past ten or eleven years I have dropped, and managed to keep off, over fifty-five pounds. Trust me, I know how hard that is and the older you get, the harder it becomes. As we age our metabolism slows down. If we continue to eat the way we did when we were young, the weight is going to pile on. While this may not be true for everyone, it is true for most of us, especially when we reach that “senior citizen” point in our lives.

There are more people in the United States that are overweight or obese today than ever before in our history. Back pain is also on the rise with nearly 85 percent of the population experiencing back pain at some point in their life. Are you one of those people? What are you going to do about it?

Diet and exercise is the only way to turn our weight problem around. Watch what you eat, and start getting at least some form of exercise, especially those core muscles. Core muscle are responsible for helping the spine support the upper body. If you haven’t had any back issues yet, start working on those core muscles now. There are many programs available that can do that. If your older, try the low or no impact programs or start going to the gym and working with the trainer there.

If you are already experiencing lower back pain, I have made some recommendations in an earlier post. These are virtually impact free, and I do them myself. I do, however recommend you see your doctor before starting any exercise regiment. There may be a reason he or she doesn’t want you to do those exercises. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Epsom salt

I always thought it was an old wives tale, but Epsom Salt, or Magnesium sulfate, in a warm bath actually soothes sore back muscles. Soaking in a warm bath, around 92 degrees, allows the Epsom Salt to penetrate the skin and get into the sore muscles. Don’t soak for more that 20 minutes and place a tennis ball between the sore muscle and the tub and move slowly from side to side. It’s like getting a soothing massage. The whole experience can be enhanced by burning some scented candles. Ever heard of aroma therapy? There’s no scientific proof that it will help relieve pain, but it will help you relax, and that’s what it’s all about.

Muscle massage

This is by far my favorite. Massaging the sore or stiff muscle is one of the most effective ways to relieve pain. Massage used in conjunction with medicated oils or ointments will speed your recovery and greatly reduce the amount of over the counter pain medication required.

Obviously this is something that is very difficult to do by yourself, so enlist the help of your significant other if at all possible. Massaging the affected muscle or muscles using something like Icy Hot or some of the other sports creams will loosen stiff muscles by speeding oxygen rich blood to the sore or injured area, again promoting faster healing.

One additional benefit, it feels really good.

Conclusion

There may be other home remedies or therapies that work. If you have one please let me know in the comment section below. Please remember, I am not a doctor, and I am not capable of diagnosing your condition. I am simply presenting you with the information I have found either through research or actual experience. What you do with it is entirely up to you. I believe that the more you know about lower back pain the better equipped you are to make an educated decision. I will continue to bring you what information I can find.

If you have any questions or comments please leave them below. If there is something you would like me to cover, leave it in the comments and I will do my best to bring you what information I can.

Don

donn@theohmyachingback.com

Best Home Treatment For Lower Back Pain (Part 1)

Spine Closeup 2

Before I begin, let me say again, I am not now nor have I ever been a medical professional of any kind. I am just an everyday Joe with a history of lower back pain. I have had a multitude of soft tissue injuries going all the way back to high school sports. I had a bout with sciatica several years ago. I presently suffer from spinal stenosis due to osteoarthritis. Needless to say, over the years, I have researched lower back pain in depth and in detail. I have had many discussions with doctors, therapists and various other medical professionals. What I write about is everything I have been able to learn. I try to put it into layman terms so it is easier to understand.

Nearly 85% of all people will experience lower back pain at some point in their life and the older you get the more likely you are to experience lower back pain. Back injuries can occur when you’re doing just about anything from waking across a parking lot to sitting at your computer. No one is immune to the dreaded lower back pain. For this installment of “Oh My Aching Back”, We are going to begin discussing the best home treatment for lower back pain.

Most of the lower back issues are soft tissue injuries. Normally these don’t put a major crimp in your lifestyle, but they are painful but don’t require a doctor or emergency room to treat. With the high cost of medical treatments and higher deductibles on health insurance. There are things you can do at home to treat these minor aches and pains. So, without further a due, lets get started.

Ice or HeatHeating PadIce Pack

I have had many discussions with people from all walks of life about what is best for lower back pain. Some people say it is best to use ice for an injury. Others swear that heat is the best thing to ease the pain. Which one is right? As it turns out, both may be right depending on the circumstances.

If you experience inflammation and/or swelling of the injured area. The best thing to use is ice for the first 24 to 48 hours after the initial injury. Ice helps to reduce swelling and inflammation. Never put Ice or ice packs directly on the skin. Protect the skin by wrapping the ice or ice pack in a towel. Only leave the ice on for 20 minutes, then give the skin a rest for at least 20 minutes. Heat used during this period only adds to the inflammation.

Heat can be used if there is no inflammation or after the first 24 to 48 hours of ice. Heat often feels good because the heat helps to hide the pain and helps to relax the muscles. Heat has the added benefit of improving blood flow bringing nutrients and oxygen to the injured area promoting healing. As with ice, never put the heat directly on the injury, place a towel or blanket between the heat source and the skin to protect it. Heat must also be removed after 20 minutes to give the skin a rest. Then after 20 minutes, it can be replied.

When returning to activity, it is helpful to alternate between heat and ice. Applying heat before the activity will help to relax and loosen the muscles. After the activity, ice will help prevent swelling and inflammation.

To rest or not to rest, that is the question.Bed Rest

Years ago, it was common for doctors to recommend plenty of rest to aid in recovery of lower back pain. They believed any activity could lead to more damage or at the very least, reinjury. Modern medicine believes just the opposite. Too much rest actually makes healing more difficult and lengthy. What is recommended now is a shorter rest period, usually not more than a day or two, followed by periods of moderate activity. You will have to be the judge of just how moderate the activity should be. Use common sense. Like the old joke when the patient says, “Doc, it hurts when I do that.” and the doctor says, “Then don’t do that.” If it hurts, don’t do it.

Once you start feeling better, you should start doing some low impact aerobic exercises like walking, bicycling or even swimming. Again just don’t over do it. Work your way back to health a little at a time. Your back will love you for it.

Nonprescription pain relievers

The first line of defense for treating lower back pain at home is usually aspirin or the NSAID pain relievers,(nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug). such as ibuprofen such as Motrin, or naproxen sodium such as Aleve. Acetaminophen, such as Tylenol is also popular.Pain Releivers

Aspirin and NSAID pain relievers as well as naproxen sodium work by relieving inflammation on swollen muscles and nerves. Acetaminophen works by interfering with the pain signals on their way to the brain.
My personal preference is acetaminophen arthritis. I already take a prescription strength NASID pain reliever, Voltaren, for my osteoarthritis. My doctor recommended that I stick with acetaminophen because too much of the same thing can be harmful. I did try naproxen sodium for a short time. It did work pretty well but my blood pressure went up about 20 points. When I stopped taking it, my blood pressure returned to normal.

Larger doses of these medications, while they do help with the pain, do have some adverse side effects. Acetaminophen, when taken in larger doses over a long period of time may damage the liver. NSAID pain relievers can cause gastrointestinal problem, ulcers or possibly even kidney damage.

Do you wake up with a back ache?

How many times have you gotten up in the morning with lower back pain? There may be more than one reason for that. Look at the tag on your mattress. If your mattress is more than 8 to 10 years old, there is a good possibility it’s worn out. Yes believe it or not a mattress will wear out. The springs get weak and the padding becomes compressed. This results in lack of proper support for the spine. The spine needs to stay in a neutral position during sleep to prevent back aches and possible injury. When you replace your old mattress, a firmer one is recommended over a softer one. I sleep on a memory foam mattress with a replaceable foam pad on top. It seems to support my entire body just fine.Sleep

How you sleep is just as important as what you sleep on. If you sleep on your back, you can place a pillow under your knees to relieve the pressure on your hips and lower spine. If you’re a side sleeper, place a small pillow under your head and neck for support. Place another pillow in between your legs and pull your knees up a little. The pillows will keep your spine in a neutral position and keep your legs together to help alleviate twisting of the spine.

Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended, It forces you to twist your head to the side and keeps the spine from getting in the neutral position. ###marker1######marker1###If you must sleep on your stomach, it is recommended that you place a pillow under your stomach to help support the spine.

Watch your wallet

Men, this one’s for you, and I speak from experience. I used to carry my wallet in my left hip pocket. A vast majority carry their wallet in one hip pocket or the other. Believe it or not, this can adversely affect spine health. I used to keep everything in my wallet, cash, credit cards, business cards, receipts, notes I had taken, insurance cards, fishing license and anything else that was small enough to fit. One day it caught up with me. I rolled over on my left hip and felt this sharp stabbing pain go down the back of my leg. I got up and walked around until it felt better. I didn’t think anything about it until the next day. For some strange reason I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes without pain in the back of my left leg. It continued to get worse over the next few days. I had no idea what it was.Wallet

My boss made me see a doctor. An MRI showed that I had a pinched sciatic nerve. It took several weeks of therapy and several hours on the bicycle before I was able to stand without pain. Lesson learned. Now I carry my wallet in my left front pocket just to keep from sitting on it.

For you gentlemen who still insist on carrying your wallet in your hip pocket, take all the junk out of it. All you need in your wallet is the bare necessities. We have smart phones now. Keep the rest of the junk stored on your smart phone. The flatter the wallet, the better.

Conclusion

I’m going to end this blog here. There is far too much information to include in one post. The next post will pick up where this on left off.

In the mean time, I would like to leave you with something to think about. How much time do you spend sitting in front of a screen? It doesn’t matter whether it’s a TV screen, computer or tablet screen, smart phone or a video game, Keep track of how much time each day you’re sitting in front of a screen. In part two we’ll look at how it can affect your back.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. If there is something in particular you would like me to cover, let me know and I will gladly add a post about it.
Don

donn@theohmyachingback.com

 

 

 

Core Exercises For Lower Back Pain

Hooray!!! My doctor finally released me to go back to work! That’s a good thing, I guess. Few people out there love their 9 to 5 jobs, but believe me, sitting around with nothing to do all day gets pretty boring, not to mention those temporary disability checks leave a big hole in the wallet. I guess it’s better than no money at all, but not much. I can manage to find things to keep me busy, but I’ve always been and active person. The types of hobbies I enjoy require me to be more mobile. For the past month or so, the only real activity I get is when I do my daily workout that was given to me by my therapist.

Please remember, I am not a medical professiona of any kind and this website is for informational purposes only.  For this post, I’ve decided to show you what my therapists have me do to get me back to work. The pictures you will see are actually me doing these exercises. The therapists have told me that I have spinal stenosis due to osteoarthritis and the best way to improve my condition is to develop strong core muscles to help the spine support the upper body. Here are the core exercises for lower back pain that I was told would help me cope with my condition.

Exercise Ball

Pelvic Tilt – Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Keeping your head and shoulders straight and still, tilt your pelvis to the left then back to the right while holding your abs in. Perform 1 repetition every 4 seconds. Do 1 set of 20 once a day.Pelvic Tilt

Pelvic Rock – Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Keeping your head and shoulders straight and still, rock your pelvis forward and back while holding your abs in. Perform 1 repetition every 4 seconds. Do 1 set of 20 once a day.

Pelvic Circles – Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor in front of you. Keeping your head and shoulders straight and still, rotate your hips in a clockwise circle while holding your abs in. Perform 1 repetition every 4 seconds. Do 1 set of 20 then do 20 repetitions in a counter clockwise direction. Perform this exercise once a day.

3 Way Stretch – Sit in a comfortable chair with your legs spread and your feet flat on the floor. Place the ball between your legs and both hands, side by side, near the top of the ball. Slowly roll the ball forward as far as you can and hold it there for 30 seconds. Roll back slowly to the starting position. Without changing anything, roll the ball slowly at an angle to the right as far as you can and hold for 30 seconds. Roll back slowly to the starting position. Do the same thing angling to the left and hold for 30 seconds and roll back slowly to the starting position. Do 3 in each direction once a day.Three Way Stretch

Floor Exercises

Lower Trunk Rotation – Lying flat on the floor with your knees bent, slowly move your knees to the right as far as you can comfortably. You should feel a good stretch but no pain. Hold that position for 20 seconds then slowly move your knees to the left as far as you can comfortably. Again, you should feel a good stretch but no pain. Hold for 20 seconds then return to center. Do 3 repetitions once a day.

Single Bent Knee To Chest – Lying on your back, bend both knees and put feet flat on the floor. Keep one foot flat on the floor. Lift the other leg toward your chest. Place your hands over your knee and gently pull it to your chest. You should feel a good stretch but no pain. Hold for 20 seconds and return foot to the floor. Do the same thing with the other knee, holding for 20 seconds. Do 3 repetitions on each leg once a day.

Pelvic Tilt – Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You should be able to place your hand, palm down, on the floor and slide it under your lower back. This is because of the normal curvature of your spine. Tighten your abs and tilt your pelvis up until your back is flat on the floor. Hold for 3 seconds and relax. Repeat 20 times. After doing it this way for a week or so, you can make it a little more challenging by resting your lower legs on an exercise ball.

Lumbar Bridge – Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. To start with, lay your hands by your side and lift your buttocks off the floor. Return to the start position. Perform 1 set of 20 once a day As you get stronger you can lift your buttocks higher and hold for longer. You will eventually get to the point where you will have a straight line from your knees to your shoulders and holding for 10 seconds. You can advance further by holding a single 5 pound weight with both hands and your arms straight up. You can also put an exercise ball under your lower legs before doing the exercise. The closer you get to your feet, the more difficult it becomes.Lumbar Bridge

Single leg lift – Lie on your back with one knee bent and that foot flat on the floor. The other leg needs to me straight and flat on the floor. Hold a 4 or 5 lb weight in the opposite hand straight up over your head. slowly lift your straight leg until your thighs are even and slowly let it back down. Do 1 set of 20 with each leg per day. Remember the weight goes in the opposite hand from the leg you are lifting. If you can’t lift your leg that high, that’s fine only do what you can at first. As you get stronger, it will get easier and you can hold the leg lift for longer.Single Leg Lift

Elastic Bands

There are different types of elastic bands available. The type used in my therapy sessions comes on a roll. You simply cut off the length you need and go to work. The rolls come in different colors. Each color has a different resistance. I was using the blue band in my therapy sessions. Another type of resistance band looks a lot like surgical tubing. It too comes in different colors, each having a different resistance. Both types are available anywhere from big box stores to specialty stores. These type of bands are infinitely adjustable by simply changing the length of the bands. If you want more resistance you simply shorten the band. If you want less resistance, make it longer. In my opinion, these bands do have a disadvantage. They have to have a strong structure to attach them to that will allow you to move the bands to various levels for different exercises.

I prefer the bungee cord type of elastic bands. The ones I use came from Wal-Mart and are pretty inexpensive. They come with pulleys and brackets that hood over the top and bottom of an interior door. The pulleys allow for smooth operation. It comes with 2 handles that can attach to 1 or 2 bands each, either at the top or the bottom depending on your needs and the exercises. Obviously, two bands has considerably more resistance. Resistance can also be altered by the distance you are from the door.

Regardless of the type of bands you choose, the exercises remain the same. Remember, these are body building, Hulking out exercises that will make you look like Mr. Olympia. These exercises are for those of you needing to strengthen your core to help your spine support your upper body. In other words, they’re to get your core muscles in shape.

Elastic Band Exercises

These exercises can be done standing. I prefer to do them sitting on the exercise ball. It forces me to consciously pull my abs in plus it helps strengthen the stabilizer muscles that help support your spine, not to mention it helps improve your posture. For the first five exercise I have the handles in the lower position. Here is the list of exercises my therapist have me doing.

Seated Row – Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor about shoulder width apart. Wit the band in both hands, pull back slowly keeping your elbows in at your sides and your hands about waist high. Hold for 2 seconds and slowly release forward. Perform 1 repetition every four seconds. Do 1 set of 20 repetitions once every other day.Seated Row

Pull Backs – Set up just like the seated row. Keeping your arm straight from your shoulder to your wrist, slowly pull back with your arms close by your side. Hold this position for 2 seconds then slowly release forward keeping your elbows straight. Do 1 repetition every 4 seconds. Perform 1 set of 20 reps every other day.

Wide Pull Outs – Set up just as before. This exercise is just like the pullbacks only for this exercise, you want to keep your arms out wide, about 18 inches or so from your body. Move slowly and hold for 2 seconds. These exercises should never be performed in a quick jerky motion. Each one should take about 4 seconds from start to finish. Do 1 set of 20 reps every other day.

Single Arm Pull Backs – Set up as before. This exercise is just like the pullbacks above only now you use only one arm at a time. Keeping your arm straight, slowly pull back and hold for 2 second then slowly release. Then do the same with the other arm. Do 1 set of 20 reps every other day.

Diagonal Single Arm Pulls – The therapists call this the John Travolta. Sit with your right side facing the elastic with your feet flat on the floor about shoulder width apart. With your left arm, reach across and down and grab the elastic. Keeping your arm straight, slowly pull up and to the left. Like John Travolta’s disco dance. Make sure you don’t twist your trunk. Hold for 2 seconds and slowly return to the beginning. Do 1 set of twenty reps then turn with your left side facing the elastic band and do 1 set of 20 with the right arm. Do this every other day.John Travolta

Diagonal Single Arm Pulls 2 – The Seat Belt. For this exercise, I move the handles to the upper position. It is just like the previous exercise except now you will be pulling down and across instead of up and across. Again move slowly out and hold for 2 seconds, then back slowly. Do 1 set of 20 reps with each arm every other day.Seat Belt

Conclusion

Again, I am not a medical professional. I am a person with a history of back issues trying to bring as much information as I can to others who might have similar issues. These exercises are not a recommendation, they are just what my therapist has recommended for me. If your are experiencing chronic back pain, see your medical professional and follow his or her advice. This website is for informational purposes only. I have always believed it is better to see the professionals armed with as much information as possible. It helps to understand what your doctor is trying to explain, and it makes it easier to ask any questions you may have.

Well that’s it for this post. Thanks for reading. Any questions or comments can be left below or you can e-mail me at

 

donn@theohmyachingback.com

 

 

 

Tips To Prevent Back Injury

The most common area of the back to get injured is the lumbar region. The five lumbar vertebrae, known as L-1 through L-5, and their surroundingHuman Spine support structures, go through more stress than the rest of the back. The majority of the bodies twisting and bending occurs here. The L-4 and L-5 vertebrae and surrounding discs and soft tissue receive the most wear during a lifetime.

Statistics have shown that most people will suffer some form of back pain or back injury at some point in their life. the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there over one million back injuries are reported each year. Whether it is caused by improper lifting, repeated twisting or twisting to far, sudden movement from a shock, like a fall or an accident, or just poor posture, there are things that we can do to help prevent these problems. For this post, I’m going to look at some tips to prevent back injury. Keep in mind, this is for prevention only, not if you are already experiencing back issues, that will come later.

Dynamic Stretches

According to everything I have read, and doctors and therapists I have talked to, the number one thing you can do to help prevent back problems is proper exercise. I say “proper” because every exercise or exercise program may not be good for everybody. For example, people over 50 should not be doing sit-ups or full crunches. As we age, our back changes. Discs become stiffer and don’t react like they did when we were younger. Sit-ups are bad for you all the way around. We use our hips and thigh muscles, not our back. Sit-ups put a lot of unnecessary stress on the discs which could lead to injury. For the same reason, standing toe touches are to be avoided.

Before you begin any exercise, it’s always a good idea to warm up the muscles with some stretches. Until recently, most trainers would have you do static stretches before a workout. Static stretches are those that have you stretch the various muscles and simply hold the stretch for ten or more seconds before you release it. Research has determined that static stretches do little to warm up the muscles before a workout. It could even do more harm than good. It has been found that static stretching actually reduces the ability to reach top performance.

Dynamic stretches are what trainers call for now. Dynamic stretching involves movement similar to the exercises you are about to do. This type of stretching actually raises the heart rat and warms up the body as well as the muscles and gets them accustomed to the same movements you make while exercising by going through the full range of motion. There are as many dynamic stretches as there are muscles in the body, so I am going to concentrate only on the most common ones for the lower back. The following is a list of recommended dynamic stretches.

  • Knees to chest – lie on the floor on your back with both of your knees bent. Raise one leg towards your chest. As your knee nears you chest, wrap your hands around both sides of your knee, or around the back of your thigh if it’s more comfortable. Gently pull your knee toward your chest until you can feel the stretch. Don’t pull so hard that you feel pain, just feel a gentle pull. Then slowly extend you arms and let your let go back to the starting position. Do this 15 to 20 times, then switch to the other leg and repeat.
  • Pelvic tilt – lie on the floor with knees bent as before. In the neutral position, you should be able to slide your hand under your lower back. Once your in position, tighten your stomach muscles and slowly tilt your pelvis up. This will bring your lower back in contact with the floor. Then slowly return to the neutral position. Do this 15 to 2o times.
  • Spinal trunk rotation – just like the previous two stretches, lie on your back with your knees bent. Keeping your shoulders on the floor, twist both knees to one side. Go slowly just until you feel a good stretch, then come back up. Then twist to the other side. Do this 10 to 15 times.Hamstring Stretch
  • Hamstring stretch – tight hamstrings lead to a lot of lower back pain and injuries. This stretch requires the use of a towel or band. Lie on your back just as before. Hook the towel around the bottom of your foot. Hold the ends of the towel with both hands and straighten your leg until it’s not quite flat on the floor. Now slowly lift your leg keeping it just slightly bent. The higher you lift your leg, the more stretch you will feel. Raise your leg slowly until you just feel a good stretch then slowly lower it back down. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg.  Don’t forget to breath.
  • Seated spinal twist – sit sideways on a hard chair, like a kitchen chair. With your left side facing the back of the chair. Twist your upper body and your head to the left as far as you can. Then take the back of the chair with your hands and gently twist your upper body even farther. Go until you feel a good stretch, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth through the entire stretch. Then return to neutral. Do this five or six times then turn around and do the same thing in the other direction. Note: this is not a race, slower is better.
  • Rotating ab stretch – lie face down on the floor with your hands in by your chest. Like you’re going to do a push-up. Slowly straighten your arms to lift your torso as you let your back bend. Lift your head as you lift your torso. Your waist will come off the ground slightly, but your knees will not. Once your arms are straight, slowly bend your right arm twisting you torso to the right. Then straighten your arm then do the same thing with the left. Remember to go slow. This will stretch your abs and your obliques.

Beginner Core Exercises

The core muscles are extremely important for back support. Like stretches, there are literally hundreds of exercises that you can do to strengthen your core. Everybody has their favorites. Again, I am not a professional body builder or trainer, but I do what I feel is best for me. Since I have been neglecting my exercises for the past several months . . . okay years. These are the best beginner core exercises I have found that strengthen all the core muscles without killing me. Once I get back in better shape, I may change some or even add some. One thing for sure, if I intent to stay active, and I do, I will be exercising for years to come. Here are the ones I do.

  • Bridges – lie on your back with your knees bent and your feel flat on the floor. Now tighten your abs and lift your butt up off the floor. Keeping your abs tight, you want a straight line between your shoulders and your knees. Hold this position for 5 or 6 seconds, then slowly lower your but to the ground. Do 10 to 20 of these. They sound easy, but believe me, by the time that last one is done, you’ll feel the burn. As these become easier, and they will, you can put your lower legs on a workout ball. The closer to your feet you put the ball, the more difficult the bridge becomes. Remember to start slow. Fewer reps and shorter times. You can always work your way up.
  • Single leg lifts – lie on your back with one leg straight out and the other one bent and your food flat on the floor. Lift your straight leg up slowly, keeping it straight. Starting out, only lift it about 6 to 8 inches. Hold it for about 5 or 6 seconds then slowly lower it to the floor. Do this 5 to 10 times then switch to the other leg. As you get stronger, you can lift the leg higher and hold it for a longer period of time. When you think this becomes easy, try doing it in a seated position.bicycle crunches
  • Standing bicycle crunch – stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Interlock your fingers behind your head. Now bring your right knee and left elbow together and then go back to the starting position. Now bring the left knee and right elbow together and go back to the starting position. Do about 20 on each side. When these get easier, do them while lying down them try doing them while sitting on the floor.
  • Bird dog crunches – get on your hands and knees, reach your right arm out straight. While your arm is out straight, take your left leg out straight until there is a straight line from your right fingers to your left toes. Now bring your right elbow to your left knee under your stomach then straighten them back out. Put your hand and knee back on the floor. Now do the same thing with your left arm and right leg. Repeat 5 to 10 times for both sides. If you’re not stable enough to do the crunch at first, just hold the arms and legs straight for a count of 3 and return them to the ground. As you become stronger, you can increase the length of time you hold out your limbs and increase the number of crunches per rep as well as the number of reps.
  • Spider plank crunches – start out like you are going to do a push up. Push up into the plank position until there is a straight line from your head to your toes. From this position, bring your right knee up to your right elbow then go back to the plank position. Repeat the same thing for the other side. Do this 5 to 10 times for each side. If you are unable to do the crunch part yet, just hold plank for 5 or 6 seconds then bring your knees to the ground to rest. Eventually you’ll be doing the whole exercise. As you get stronger, slow your speed down and increase the number of reps.
  • Wall sits – start by standing a foot or so away from the wall. Lean back on the wall and slide down until your legs are almost parallel with the floor. Hold that position for 5 to 10 seconds then stand back up. Starting out, you may not get your thighs quite parallel with the floor, but that’s okay. You can work your way up to it, or down to it in this case. Do this 5 or 6 time starting out, then increase reps and length of time as you go.Supermans
  • Supermans – I saved the best for last. Lie face down on the floor with your arms straight over your head. Lift your arms, head and legs as high as you can and hold them for 5 to 10 seconds then slowly return them to the floor. Do 5 to 10 of these. This one’s a killer but you can do it. As you get stronger, you’ll be able to hold for up to 30 seconds.

You can do all do these in less than half an hour. Do them three times a week and keep doing them. In no time at all you’ll find your core will be much stronger and you’ll be walking much taller. Your overall posture will improve, too.

Posture And The Back

Your spine is the only structural support for your entire upper body. If your posture is good, the support is good and wear and tear is at a minimum. If your posture is bad, you put a lot of unnecessary strain on the spine and its supporting tendons, ligaments, discs and muscles. Good posture does not mean your spine is straight. In its neutral position, the spine actually has three curves. At the top of the back, it curves inward, toward the front of the body. The middle of the back has an outward curve. The lower back curves inward again. The spine must maintain these natural curves in order to best support the body. A strong core will help maintain good posture, but that alone is not enough. In order to help the core maintain your posture, you need to practice good posture while standing and sitting. Here are a few tips to help improve your posture.

  • The wall test – stand with your back against the wall. Your feet will be about 2 to 4 inches out from the wall. Your buttocks, shoulder blades and head will all be touching the wall. Take your hand, palm towards the wall, and slide it between your lower back and the wall. It should just fit. If it is too wide, tighten your abs a little until your back just touches your hand. This is perfect posture. You should be able to draw a straight line from your ears, through your shoulders all the way down through your knees and to your ankles. I know this feels a little strange at first, but it won’t take long to get used to it.
  • Use a full length mirror – as a quick reminder of your posture. Turn sideways in front of the mirror and look at yourself. Is your head up, shoulders back and your abs tucked in? Do this every day and before long good posture will be as natural as breathing.
  • Stand with more weight on the ball of your foot – this forces your core muscles into play. Once you are accustomed to improved posture, you’ll find it is much easier to stand if you put more of your weight on the ball of your foot. If you’re standing for a longer period, you can rest by standing on your heels or shifting your weight from one foot to the other.
  • Sitting – it is just as important to sit with good posture, especially if you’re sitting at a desk all day. An ergonomic office chair helps if it fits you and is adjusted correctly. Don’t slouch. Keep your shoulders straight with your back. Make sure the back of the chair is adjusted to support your back. Your knees should extend just beyond the chair and be level with your hips. Your elbows must form an angle of between 75 and 90 degrees. Adjust the height accordingly. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Use a foot rest if necessary. Most important, get up and walk around and stretch occasionally, even the best fitting office chair gets tiresome after a while.Working Girl

 

Sleeping

Posture and back support are just as important while you sleep as while your awake. Generally speaking, a relatively firm mattress is better for your back than a soft one. It offers much more support. Sleeping on your back or side has always been suggested. If you sleep on your back, consider putting a rolled up towel under your neck and a pillow under your knees to keep the spine properly aligned. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees. Since I started doing this, I don’t have the near the back issues I used to have.

Weight And Back Pain

About a third of the overweight or obese people in the U.S. today complain of lower back pain. The spine is designed to support the body. When additional weight is added, specifically in the abdominal area, it forces the pelvis to tilt forward putting added strain on the lower back. While I could find do studies that have actually been done to prove the relationship between obesity and back pain, common sense should tell you that it leads to behavior that is detrimental to a healthy back. Obesity makes it hard to get around. Just going up and down stairs requires considerable effort. You tire easily and aren’t able or aren’t willing to exercise. While obesity hasn’t been proven to cause back pain, lack of activity has. You may not be having problems now, but trust me, you will. Get the weight off. If you can’t get it off on your own, seek professional help. Being healthier is not just good for your back, it can improve your overall quality of life. I know, I’ve been there. I’ve dropped over 50 pounds and it does make a difference.Weight Watching

 

Safe Lifting

Everybody has heard, “Lift with your legs, not your back”.  This is so true, but not everyone knows how. Safe lifting needs to be taught. Approximately one fourth of all work related accident are back related from improper lifting techniques, that’s over a million a year. The older you are, the more important safe lifting becomes. One thing I know for sure, once you’ve injured your back, it’s easier to injure it again. For those of you who never knew, or those of us who seem to have forgotten, here are the steps for safe lifting.

  • Stand close to the object you’re lifting with your feet about shoulder with apart and your toes turned slightly out. In other words, stand close but Lift Correctlynaturally.
  • Squat down bending your knees and your hips. Don’t bend your back.
  • Grip the object firmly and pull it in close.
  • Tighten your abs and lift your head up. This forces you to use your legs to do the lifting.
  • Most important, lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Keep the object close to your chest if you have to carry it.
  • If you have to change directions, do so with your feet. Don’t twist your body.
  • Don’t over do it. If you can’t safely lift something, ask for help.

Conclusion

We all have gone through life with blinders on. Aging is a natural part of life. We can’t always be ten feet tall and bullet proof. According to statistics, everyone is going to experience back trouble at some point in their life. The older we get, the more likely it will happen. Understand is pretty strong medicine. The more you understand, the more willing you are to do something about it. It’s never too late to learn and it’s never too late to do something about it.

The tips I’ve given you are meant to help. What you do with them is up to you. Don’t be like me and wait until your hurting to do something about it. Get off your butt, loose the weight, start stretching those muscles, ligaments and tendons, and start exercising. Be smart when it comes to lifting, sleeping posture. You’ll be surprised how your quality of life will improve.Back Pain Icon

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Any questions or comments can be left below.

 

Don

donn@theohmyachingback.com

The back and what can cause lower back pain.

Having back pain? You’re not alone. According to statistics, nearly every adult in the U.S. alone will experience some form of back pain at some point in their life. Next to headaches, back issues are the most common complaint doctors receive. The vast majority of these complaints are for lower back pain, In many of these cases the patient will have no idea what started or what’s causing their pain and discomfort. Generally, the pain will last from a few days to a few weeks. If the pain is persistent, and lasts more than three months, it is considered chronic pain and will interfere with daily activities. Less than ten percent actually suffer from chronic lower back pain. I happen to be one of the latter.

Because a vast majority of back problems are in the lower back, my particular problem area, I intend to concentrate on this area for this post. There are a few things we need to understand before we get into what causes lower back pain. Let”s examine what actually makes up the spine and its supporting structures.Apine Closeup

First, let’s look at the spine itself. The spine is the only actual support structure for the entire upper body. It’s made up of more than thirty smaller bones called vertebrae. These vertebrae are separated by “jelly” filled cartilage discs. These discs allow the spine to twist and bend without the vertebrae contacting each other. The spine forms a conduit that the spinal cord to run through. This spinal cord is a series of nerves that send messages between the brain and all the other components of the human body.

This complex structure could not do its job without muscles to keep it in place. The abdominals, obliques, back and even hip and thigh muscles all work together to keep the spine in alignment and help it to support the weight of the entire upper body.

Now that we have an over simplified understanding of the anatomy of the lower back, we’ll take a look at what can happen that will cause the lower back to ruin your day.

Soft Tissue Injuries

Soft tissue is made up mostly of muscles, tendons and ligaments. The muscles that support and affect the lower back can be broken down into three categories.Abs

  • The extensors, which are made up of the back and gluteals (butt or buttocks for most of us),
  • The flexors are the abdominals, or your six-pack area, and the ilipsoas that connect the lower back to the thighs on either side.
  • The obliques or rotators, located on either side, help the spine flex and rotate.

Tendons, also known as sinew, are layers of collagen fibers that connect the muscle fibers to the bones. Tendons also spread the work out evenly to all the fibers of the muscle to help protect it from possible damage.
Ligaments are made of layers of collagen fibers similar to tendons but have a very different function. Ligaments connect two or more bones together at the joints. They give the joints stability yet allow flexibility.
Soft tissue injuries include strains and sprains. When a muscle or tendon is twisted, pulled or torn, it is considered a strain. This can happen when lifting something improperly or something that is too heavy. Repetitive movement, as in some assembly line work, can cause strains. Working a cold muscle without warming it up first is a common cause of strains.

Sprains are similar to strains but involve the ligaments. Sprains occur when the ligament is torn, twisted or stretched beyond its limits. This normally occurs from a fall or sudden twisting. All you women in high heels should be able to relate to that. I’ve seen more than one go down from wearing high heels on uneven surfaces. A sudden impact can over extend or dislocate a joint causing injury to a ligament. Sprains are common in full contact sports like football or sports that require jumping, like basketball or volleyball.

There are some individuals that are more susceptible to soft tissue injuries. Someone who tend to eat a lot of fast food rather than eat properly miss out on many of the nutrients that strengthen bones as well as soft tissue. People suffering from obesity put considerably more stress on the lower back because of the additional weight. Slouching or lack of good posture as well as sitting too much and not getting enough exercise will also lead to back problems. Smoking actually restricts blood flow. Our bodies depend on blood flow to initiate the natural healing process. Some cases may simply be genetics.

Spinal Stenosis

The actual spinal cord ends at the top of the uppermost lumbar vertebra. From there on down, the spinal canal houses the nerve roots. These nerve roots, called the cauda equinu, because it resembles a horses tail, leave the spinal canal through openings called the foramen. From there the nerves run throughout the body.Lumbar Trefoil Canal

The term stenosis is actually derived from a Greek word that means choking. Spinal stenosis, also known as lumbar spinal stenosis, is the result of the nerve roots being choked or squeezed. This choking is most often the result of a degenerative condition such a osterarthritis It is most evident in people fifty and over.

The most common symptom of lumbar spinal stenosis is leg pain when standing that increases as you walk. The only way to ease the pain is to sit down. Most people, including myself, stated that the severe pain virtually disappears immediately upon sitting. Over time the pain will get progressively worse if untreated.

There are three major types of stenosis and exact diagnosis is critical in order to obtain proper treatment. The only methods for proper diagnosis are an MRI or a CT scan with dye. The three types are as follows.

  • Lateral Stenosis, the most common type, occurs after the nerve root has left the spinal canal and gets compressed by a bulging disc, herniated disc or bone protrusion beyond the foramen.
  • Central Stenosis, occurs in the central spinal canal in the lower back. The canal becomes choked putting pressure on the nerve roots branching off of the bottom of the spinal cord.
  • Foraminal Stenosis, occurs when a nerve root in the lower back is compressed by a bone spur inside the foramen.

Lumbar Spinal Stenosis is not usually a pain that just goes away, although it sometimes can. It is a chronic pain that must be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional. If you have a persistent pain in your lower back, I recommend that you see your doctor. Its better to be safe than sorry.

Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is a condition where one of the vertebra slips forward over the one below it. This most commonly happens below the L5 vertebra. It can happen between the L4 and L5 but is far less common and even rarer higher in the spine. If this condition becomes severe enough, it can cause stenosis. There are several variations of this type of condition. I have listed the most common ones below.Normal Disc vs Spondylolisthesis

  • Isthmic spondylolisthesis, pertains to a defect in the small segment of bone at the back of the vertebra called the “Pars Interarticularis” that joins the facet joint. This defect could be something a simple as being to long or to short. It can happen on one side (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral). It the most common cause of back pain in adolescents. Amazingly, most people with this condition experience no pain at all. Sponsylosis is rarely a dangerous condition.
  • Dysplastic Spondylolisthesis is caused by a congenital defect in the formation of the facet, also at the rear of the vertebra. This defect allows the vertebra to slip forward over the one below it.
  • Degenerative Spondylolisthesis occurs when osteoarthritis damages the joints in the back. The spine gradually looses its ability to stay aligned and the vertebrae can slip forward.
  • Traumatic Spondylosisthesis is just what it sounds like. Vertebrae are damaged do to trauma or other injury. This damage will again allow one vertebra to slip forward over another one.
  • Patholegic Spondylolisthesis is a weakness of the bone caused by a tumor or other bone disease.

Bulging or Herniated DiscHerniated Disc

The discs in between the vertebrae are the shock absorbers for the spine. They allow the back to bend and twist without the vertebrae making contact with one another. As we age, these discs lose some of their hydration. They become stiffer and don’t cushion as well. Occasionally we over exert ourselves by lifting to heavy a load, lifting improperly, or twisting the wrong way. This will sometimes end in a bulging or herniated disc. When this happens, the tough outer layer of the disc can tear allowing the inner “jelly-like” substance to push out. This in itself could be painful, but if it happens in a location near a nerve, the pain could be excruciating. This compression of the nerve is not the only cause of pain. The material itself causes inflammation. Depending on the location, this pain can be felt all the way through the hip and down the leg. Fortunately, a herniated disc, also called a slipped disc, is not permanent. The pain should subside in four to six weeks, even without seeing a doctor.

Facet Joint DysfunctionFacet Joints

Each vertebra has two facet joints in its back side. These joint help protect the nerves passing through the spine by limiting the amount of forward and backward bending, and twisting. They also prevent the vertebra from slipping forward. Facet joints are protected by a moist slick cartilage that allows the joints to slide on each other. these joints can simply wear out or osteoarthritis can can speed up the degradation of the joints causing bone spurs to form.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease usually affecting people as they age. It commonly causes pain and inflammation. It also causes instability and may lead to stenosis. This is what my doctor diagnosed me with. It progresses slowly and can affect one or more levels of the lower back. It is also known as spondylosis or degenerative joint disease.

Vertabral Fractures

Vertabral fractures may sound obvious, but there have been many times when an athlete or physical worker has fractured a vertebra during an impact or a fall. The pain may not be intense at first but after a day or two will get bad enough that you will want to see a doctor. Ostoporosis is a progressive disease that leave the bones weak and brittle. If it is bad enough the vertebrae can actually collapse on itself. I’ve seen it happen when an elderly gentleman was just going down the stair. He misjudged the last step and landed a little hard on his foot. He had to be taken away in an ambulance because his pain was so intense.Compression Fracture Vertebrae

Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is a bacterial infection of the bone. While this may be rare, two out of every ten thousand get the infection. If you have an infection somewhere else in your body, it can travel through you bloodstream and get into the vertebrae, or any other bone for that matter. An open fracture or even surgery may make you susceptible to osteomyelitis. Certain diseases, such as diabetes, sickle cell disease, HIV or AIDS or even rheumatoid arthritis may also put you at a higher risk.

Tumor

Spinal tumors normally don’t appear alone. The usually occur when someone has a cancer that has metastasized to the spine. Normally someone that has been diagnosed with breast, prostate, kidney, thyroid or lung cancer should be evaluated for spinal tumors.

Autoimmune disease

Last but by no means least, autoimmune disease can be a major cause of back pain. Ankylosing spondylites is one such disease. The disease attacks where the ligaments and tendons attach to the bone causing inflammation. The inflammation causes the bones to erode. After the inflammation subsides the natural healing process grows new bone at the site, eventually fusing the joints together. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia as well as some others may also have back pain as a symptom.

Conclusion

This is the list of possible causes for lower back pain. Is it complete? No, from what I’ve been able to find, the list could go on for several pages. I was amazed to find out just how many problems can have lower back pain as a symptom. What I did, was to find as much information as I could, that everyone agreed on anyway, and come up with a list of what I believe was the most common causes for lower back pain. There is a lot more information available about the other parts of the back, but because my problem is the lower back, I decided to focus this website just on the lower back.

For those of you that haven’t figured it out yet, I am not a doctor or a medical professional of any kind. Like you, I am a normal everyday worker, nearing retirement with a history of back problems. I figured if I wanted to know as much about back pain as I could find, someone else out there probably would to, so here I am and what I find out, I’ll pass along to you.

I will continue to add information on this website as I find it. If I find something out there that may help relieve your lower back pain, I will bring it to you. If I find something that is hard to believe or totally ridiculous, I well tell you about it. Until I’m back on your screen again, thanks for reading and I’ll catch you later.

Remember, if you’re having back pain that is lasting more than six to eight weeks, “see your doctor or medical professional as soon as possible. If your pain is still around after that much time, you have a chronic pain that’s not just going to go away.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. I may not have all the answers right now, but I do know where to go to find them.

 

Don

donn@theohmyachingback.com