Low Back Pain: Defined
As a human movement specialist and physical therapist, I sometimes get so carried away in all my excitement talking about relieving low back pain that I actually forget to define what it is.
For most of you out there, this may seem a little peculiar. I mean, low back pain is low back pain right?
Isn’t is when your back starts hurting?
Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple.
In fact, even the scientific literature is quite ambiguous on the subject. This is why you can pick up the newspaper one day and find that physical therapy works for relieving low back pain, and when you pick up the next day’s edition, you find that physical therapy no longer works.
In most these cases, the definition of low back pain was different.
For my purposes on this blog, I’ll be writing about mechanical low back pain and best exercises used to relieve it. Mechanical low back pain an umbrella heading that includes many different types of injuries or traumas to the lumbar, or lower, region of the back.
The fact that low back pain encompasses such a vast array of injury and trauma to the tissues of the back is what makes treatment so challenging. And at times, this is why the symptomatic approach to treatment is taken.
It’s the easy way. Pick something that hurts, the nerve roots, the facets, the ligaments, and make them stop hurting. Or mask the hurt. Without actually removing it. Everyone is happy, until the next time your “back goes out”.
Before I get carried away and rant on, here is my basic definition of mechanical low back pain. This will ensure we’re on the same page and aiming for the same outcomes throughout these posts.
Mechanical low back pain is loosely defined when the source of the pain is in the spine and surrounding tissues. This may include the spinal joints, discs, vertebrae or associated soft tissues.
The pain with this type of low back injury is often related to tissues involved in movement and is usually relieved by rest or in certain positions.
Sources of mechanical low back pain can include sprains of the ligaments, muscular strains (also known as muscle tears), various vertebral discs bulges(“slipped discs”, herniated discs etc), spondylosis (degeneration in the vertebrae), spondylolysthesis (slippage of one vertebra on another), and spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canals).
The good news is that a majority of types of low back pain issues can be resolved with the right treatment. Treatment that is based on not only dealing with the source of the pain, but removing the causes as well.
And you guessed it, the best treatments are based on creating more efficient human movement.