“As a physiotherapist, if I could boil down all the information that’s available to help people find low back pain relief and put them into 5 simple points, what would they be?”
1. The first step is always to figure out what’s the cause of your low back pain. And by cause, I don’t mean the irritations, the bulging discs, the inflamed tissues or any other item that may be considered the source of the pain (click here to read my post differentiating cause versus source). By cause, I mean truly find out what it is that you do everyday (e.g. repeated movements or prolonged postures) that puts your body at risk for injury or keeps it there.
2. Once you’ve figured out the first step. The second step is to remove or reduce that cause. Unfortunately, these are usually well-entrenched, well-engrained habits that you’ve probably been doing for years. For example, think of your daily postures. Removing the cause of your low back pain will often require you to change your postures often (the best posture being the one you’re not currently in!) or necessitate that you decrease certain, repetitive motions (e.g. repeated forward and backward bending). Fighting to change these long-term habits is no easy task!
3. The third step is to re-train and re-educate your body. This is the motor control side of things. After the first two steps which fall into the realm of knowledge (the acts of learning and understanding what gets you into pain) the next few are designed to keep you out of it. Motor control encompasses postures, movement patterns, mobility concerns and muscle imbalances. By addressing each of these areas, you can work towards removing painful postures, correcting faulty movement patterns, improving mobility where needed (e.g. hips), increasing stability where required (e.g. lumbar spine) and creating an environment for optimal muscle balance and function.
4. The fourth step is based on removing any ill effects from de-conditioning. When you’re de-conditioned, your body can’t tolerate the stresses placed upon it in the same manner as if you were in top form. Think of it this way, if you’ve been working yourself into the ground, putting in lots of overtime at work, eating poorly, sleeping just a few hours a night, your body more than likely feels drained and exhausted. You’re more prone to colds and other illnesses. In the same manner, if your body system is out of shape from lack of quality exercise, it won’t be able to deal with the various stresses that it faces everyday, from your morning commute to your prolonged postures. Eventually, something in that system will fail and lead to low back injury and pain.
5. While I’ve listed this as the 5th step, it could just as easily have been placed as step 1. You don’t need to live with the pain. If you suffer from mechanical low back pain, there are solutions out there. Many of them are simple. None of them are easy. But there are options. Hopefully my blog gives you an idea of some of them.
Yours in movement.