Low back pain is not a new problem. Unfortunately, by mid-life, almost everybody has experienced low back pain to some degree.
The number of Americans disabled by low back pain or injury is staggering. Low back pain strikes 8 out of 10 adults at some point in their lives. Approximately 5 million Americans suffer from acute or chronic back pain, which accounts for over 90 million lost production days annually.
Not only is back prevalent, it is costly. It is one of the most common injuries seen by physicians and is the top item in compensation payments for business and industry.
The cost of lost productivity, compensation and insurance payments has been estimated at nearly $ 100 billion annually.
In general, low back pain is caused or promoted by :
- Years of poor posture and poor body mechanics ( how you move, lift, and carry things).
- Stressful living and work habits.
- A general lack of flexibility and physical fitness.
The items listed above are correctable aspects of your life that, once altered, will improve your chances of avoiding low back injuries and pain or from having a recurring episode of low back pain.
Acute strains ( muscle injury ) and sprains may be caused by improper lighting, twisting, falling, accidents, etc. These injuries often cause tearing, bleeding, and/or irritation of muscles in the low back region or ligaments that attach the vertebral bodies of lumbar region together.
There is usually a specific incident that causes this tile of injury. Repetitive strain or sprain may cause the stabilizing tissues to lose their supportive ability.
Chronic strains and sprains are the results of hours, days or even years of stress placed on the joints and muscles. This may be due to poor posture or stressful working or living conditions. Excessive lumbar lordosis ( increased arch ), a flat low back, or scoliosis ( curvature of the spine ) may predispose someone to sustain chronic strains/sprains.
The two most important things you can do to reduce the risk of lower back injury are to :
- Educate yourself about injury prevention techniques and use proper body mechanics.
- Perform exercises to maintain strong supporting musculature and a healthy spine.
- If already resistance training, maintain or increase upper body and core strength.
Risk factors that are associated with low back injury include:
- Poor general conditioning ( not exercising or not moving enough)
- Poor posture ( siting, standing, lying )
- Poor body mechanics ( how you move )
- Repetitive heavy lifting
- Long term sitting, driving or standing
There is always opportunity for improvement, even if you think your lower back is healthy. Here a few suggestions.
- Become aware of and practice good body mechanics and posture while sitting, standing, lying and lifting.
- Utilize various treatments when injury occurs. Use ice, heat, support, and physical conditioning. Do not ignore pain.
- Use all principles of general physical conditioning for prevention of injury. Always warm up and cool down and include aerobic, strength, and flexibility training in your prevention/ rehab routine.
- Eat well and give yourself time to relax during the day…if only for a few minutes.
Poor posture and improper body mechanics can result in low back pain and injury even in most highly conditioned athletes. Good posture and proper body mechanics may prevent low back pain from occurring and will help to prevent recurrence.
- Maintain good general physical conditioning.
- Use proper fundamental body mechanics and posture.
- Use flexibility exercises and dynamic trunk stabilization exercises to aid in prevention of low back injury and pain.
- Hamstring flexibility and strength help reduce stress and pressure of the spine.
- Strong abdominal muscles activated and used in the proper sequence create a ” corset ” effect helping to stabilize the spine.
It is possible to achieve a healthy back. Consistency in stretching, strengthening and weight management will help to prevent or minimize low back pain.