Lower Back Pain
I am not a medical specialist, a doctor or a physiotherapist. I am Strength & Conditioning coach with a keen interest in lower back pain and hope that the following can provide an insight to the general public into lower back pain.
The back injury, more specifically lower back pain (LBP), is probably as common as the common cold with 80% of people experiencing LBP at some stage in life. As soon as lower back pain is felt the mind spirals to find a cause and how to prevent it from getting worse, and usually concludes with an incorrect solution like holding yourself as stiff as possible, making sure not to flex our spine and always hold neutral. Don’t make sudden movements and if you could, probably wrap yourself in bubble wrap. I’ve taken a big interest into lower back pain and as it is so common to office workers, athletes and everyone in between I thought I’d write some information on the latest research into this area.
The causes of LBP are going to differ from person to person and are not always as simple as a physical issue but can be more a combination of issues, which may be psychological and morphological; stress, sleep deprivation, lack of exercise and prolonged periods of sitting, all of which may differ from person to person and must be addressed on an individual basis.
In 2016 the most common solution to finding the cause of LBP is to get an MRI, the result of which will tell most that they have a degenerative or bulging disc. Recent studies have shown that these findings on MRI screenings are not abnormal, but are in fact as normal as any other ageing process like getting wrinkles.
The infographic above from a study of individuals without any back pain shows that 90% had a degenerated disc and 52% presented with a bulging disc. To most of the population hearing these words would strike a lot of fear and worry, resulting in a person changing their day to day life, most likely stopping exercise that would benefit, and becoming idle, which would be detrimental. These are not abnormalities and are now only highlighted due to the introduction of MRIs, resulting in a reduced ability to recover from LBP due to psychological stress.
Limiting your movement through ‘guarding’ and ‘protecting’ your back, and using ridged movement patterns may only add more stress to pain sensitive structures on our body.
It is important for us to realise that LBP is normal to occur at some stage in our life but it doesn’t mean we should accept it either. What we must be aware of is how we let it affect our life.
I have LBP – how should I approach it?
- Don’t live in fear and know that it is something that will improve and you will be able to live normally.
- The pain is not necessarily a structural injury.
- Find a physiotherapist with a similar philosophy.
- If you are exercising, continue to exercise and under the guidance of a Strength & Conditioning coach with a similar philosophy.
- If you are not exercising, find an S&C coach, gym, PT etc. that can help get you started.
- Find ways to reduce stress, including exercise and meditation or spending time with family and friends.
- Have a look at your sleep pattern and nutrition. Aim for 8 hours of sleep per night and get your nutrition on point.
This is only a brief summary to create an awareness that LBP in a common issue and that degenerative and bulging discs are not abnormalities. I am not diagnosing, nor am I saying that LPB is ok. It is important to work with a person individually to allow them to change their back pain, to help them get on with life and not just accept back pain as a ‘thing’.
If you have any queries feel free to get in touch.