Taking care of your back is an important factor in maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle. Your back and its related structures (muscles, nerves, joints, and ligaments) work hard every day to keep you upright and moving through your daily activities. Unfortunately, statistics show that almost 80% of Canadians will suffer from low back pain throughout their lives. Low back pain can originate from a number of different structures, and may manifest immediately following an injury or it may be delayed by a day or two. Posture can play an important role in how your body responds to certain movements, and poor posture and weak core stability can pre-dispose you to a greater risk of injury and pain.
So what exactly is low back pain, and what causes it? Lower back pain can result from a number of causes, including: muscle strain, restrictions in the movement of the spinal joints or pelvis, irritations of the joints in the spine, irritated spinal nerves, disc injuries, and sprains. Sometimes, something as simple as sleeping on your stomach or shovelling the driveway can lead to low back pain. Injury to the low back may also irritate the longest nerve in the body called the sciatic nerve, which runs from the low back down the back of the thigh where it eventually branches below the knee to the foot. Symptoms of sciatic nerve irritation include burning and tingling along the back of the thigh, and weakness of the leg and foot muscles.
The key to limiting your potential for low back pain is prevention! Maintaining an active lifestyle will help to keep your muscles and joints moving in your low back. Strengthening your core muscles will also enable your back to move in a well supported and balanced way. Activities like yoga, swimming, and walking are very beneficial, and simple moves at home to keep your core and legs strong will help reduce your risk for low back pain. Encourage yourself to take breaks from sitting, and avoid movements which decrease the natural curve of your low back. A little effort throughout the day can go a long way towards improving your posture and reducing your risk of developing low back pain. For short periods of low back pain, you should avoid bed-rest (keep moving!), and use ice to help decrease the pain and inflammation.
If you do experience low back pain that lasts longer than a couple of days, consult with a chiropractor for an assessment. We will assess your ranges of motion, and examine your back to determine the cause of your pain. For those who may benefit from chiropractic care, conservative treatment of the low back may include: soft tissue therapy, spinal manipulation or mobilization, rehabilitative exercises, electrotherapy or laser, and acupuncture. Chiropractors are highly educated about back pain, and will work alongside you and your family healthcare team to get you feeling your best. We also work to educate patients on the reasons why they developed the low back pain, and ways in which they can self-manage to decrease the risk of re-injury.