4 out of 5 people have low back pain, and one person out of 8 has suffered an episode of severe pain in the past month. Usually related to weak or poor posture, it can begin with an injury, accident or from long-term habits. Over time, low back pain can cause breakdown ( i.e. Arthritis /Degenerative Joint Disease) in the spine and other joints from the increased mechanical stress of daily wear & tear. Then, during a lifetime of moving certain ways habitually, along with any new injuries you suffer, your motion becomes restricted to certain patterns only, rather than through a full range of motion, and your body becomes more and more unbalanced.
Low back pain usually involves straining and even tearing of muscle fibers. When the muscle tearing is severe, ligament fibers can also tear under mechanical stress. The symptoms you feel–pain and spasms– from irritated and strained muscles and ligaments–are made worse by weak, poor posture and moving, sitting or sleeping wrong. And contrary to what many who are selling back surgery would have you believe, the science shows most back pain is not from discs. See WHY MOST LOW BACK PAIN IS NOT FROM A SLIPPED DISC.
Since most low back pain is postural, you need to restore motion to what isn’t moving, and then re-align and re-train the weak links in your body’s chain of motion to move in alignment. The goal: strengthen your stabilizing (postural) muscles, so you not only manage and relieve back pain now, but you keep feeling and moving well so you can stay active and healthy.
Unless it’s the first time your back has ever been injured, back pain is usually intermittent (sometimes it’s agony and sometimes it’s perfectly fine) or chronic (the sort of back ache that never quite goes away). And sooner or later, regardless of what caused the injury, most tears heal (which is why back pain often gets better with time). The problem is compensation: when you’re in pain, you instinctively move differently to avoid the hurt. Unfortunately, to make it feel better here, you might put more stress there, which is why back pain often returns, or you develop a new problem, maybe a sore knee or a “bad” hip.
Low back pain is usually positional– it gets better, worse or different as body position changes. Frequently episodic, pain may come on after over-activity or without apparent cause, and is triggered as body adapts to mechanical stress, weak posture and inefficient motion. e.g.
- Excessive sitting or hunching over a computer for hours at a time
- Standing, bending or being in an “awkward position”
- Chronic posture stress such as carrying a heavy backpack, pocketbook, or child
You get better at doing whatever you do—right or wrong—as your habits shape your body. The modern sitting lifestyle most of us practice, where we drive to work, slump at a computer all day, then drive home and slouch in front of a TV, provides all of the ingredients for shaping your body in profound and painful ways. Maybe your head juts forward from staring at a screen and the traffic ahead, perhaps you slouch with poor posture while doing so, and/or your shoulders roll in from typing and holding a steering wheel. Those stresses, individually and especially when combined, can result in occasional or chronic low back pain. And when you’re in pain, you compensate and adapt your body motions in even more unbalanced ways, creating a vicious spiral that makes you weaker and more prone to injury.
-Dr. Steven Weiniger
BackJoy Medical Advisory Board Member, Chiropractor and Posture Expert