In part 1 of this blog series, we learnt the staggering statistics of how low back pain affects most of us. In the second part of this series we looked at where pain in the back actually comes from. Here we are taking a close look at the causes and symptoms of low back pain.
What’s causing this significant back pain epidemic?
Back pain simply comes down to the fact that we are too sedentary. Generally people are unfit, weak and don’t have much muscle tone.
Everything happens automatically at our finger tips. Take for example, bringing the groceries home. We drive our car into the driveway, press a button so the garage door lifts, drive in, load our shopping into the lift and the lift takes us up to the level of our apartment. Not much physical effort is required.
So why do fit people like runners get back pain?
There’s no doubt that running keeps us fit and strong. But the problem lies with what happens the rest of the time. People are sitting at a desk, in excess of 50 hours per week now. This is the time that we are getting deconditioned. This is the time our core muscles in particularly get weak.
Simply running for 30 mins here or there during the week, and doing some ab crunches isn’t going to fix the deep core deconditioning if the majority of the time we are stationary.
What we need to do is adopt a lifestyle where we are continually thinking about and engaging our postural muscles to keep them activated. This means not slouching in your chair (how are you sitting right now?) and instead, moving, sitting and standing with your deep core muscles activated. By adopting good postures, this will ultimately take the load off the spine.
You need to concentrate every day on your sitting posture. Sitting in a slumped position, causes:
- your hip flexor muscles to become tight and overactive
- your buttock muscles to become weak
- pressure on lumbar discs (see previous post for what the disc is), which will in turn cause wear and tear and eventually degeneration of your lumbar structures.
The wear and tear on your spine occurs on a daily basis from years of poor sitting. Microtrauma every day, every week, every month. Then, you go and do something fairly innocuous such as picking up your shoe from the floor, or bending down to make your bed or doing an unaccustomed activity like 1 hour of gardening… and then your back goes into ‘spasm’. This last list of activities is just simply the icing on the cake. The real cause has been all the deconditioning and bad sitting habits leading up to the event.
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Pain in the back can either be a deep ache or if your pain is acute, you may experience some sharp pains. The pain is usually made worse with sitting for long periods, bending, lifting and long runs can also stir up the back pain (particularly if you lack deep core endurance because your core muscles will fatigue, placing more stress on your spine).
If your symptoms have persisted, are worsening or you are getting pain running down your leg past your knee, make sure you see your doctor or physio.
Keep reading our next post for more information on how to treat and overcome your back pain.