Our low back is made up of bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and discs. Any injuries to these structures will result in pain or discomfort at the low back region. In more severe cases, individuals will experience symptoms such as numbness, tingling, shooting pain and tiredness radiating down their legs.
- Muscle or ligament strain
Muscles and ligaments of the body is involved in active movement of the low back. A constant bad posture during sitting, standing or lifting heavy weights can strain the back muscles and spinal ligaments. The low back is made up of few layers of muscles, each with their own specific functions. With weak deep postural muscles, they become fatigue much quicker. Hence, the superficial muscles will have to work harder to compensate for the weakness. This will lead to overuse of the superficial muscles- causing muscle spasms, myofascial trigger points formation and general tightness of the low back.
The intervertebral discs can be found in between two spinal vertebrae, it acts as a shock absorber to decrease the pressure on spinal vertebrae. A healthy disc is high in water content and it is contained within strong fibrous structures. However, due to degeneration- as a result of overuse, or aging and sudden trauma, the disc material can leak out of the fibrous tissue and irritate a nerve. This condition is commonly known as a slipped disc. There are several stages of slipped disc, each with its own diagnostic criteria and specific sets of symptoms. Further information can be found on two other articles titled Disc Herniation on our website.
Any disease of the bone such as arthritis, skeletal irregularities and osteoporosis can lead to low back pain too. Arthritis in the spine can lead to the narrowing of spinal canals affecting the nerve that passes through them. This condition is called a spinal stenosis. A curvature of the spine otherwise known as scoliosis can also lead to muscle imbalance, resulting in pain and discomfort. With osteoporosis, our bones become more brittle and porous. Hence, they might result in compression fractures.
People of all ages, gender and races can develop low back pain. However, several factors as listed below might contribute to the higher prevalence of low back pain.
As mentioned in the first chapter of this low back pain series, our probability of acquiring low back pain increases with age. Starting around 30 and 40 years old.
- Low physical activity
Weak, unused low back muscles can lead to low back pain.
- Excess weight
An increase in body weight puts extra stress on the structures of the lower back.
Some types of arthritis (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc) and cancer can contribute to low back pain.
- Bad posture during lifting
Lifting heavy weights in the wrong posture can lead to strained muscles as a result of awkward position. The muscle is working in the wrong biomechanics.
Smoking affects our cardiovascular health, this reduces blood flow to the lower spine. This hinders delivering of nutrients to the discs, directly decreasing the disc health.
Stay tuned for the final chapter of this low back pain series where I will discuss ways to prevent low back pain. As a chiropractor, we strongly believe that prevention is better than cure.
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