Lower back pain is the most common musculoskeletal ailment. Nearly everyone at some point has back pain that interferes with their daily routine, such as work, recreation or activities. Much of this is a result of our behaviors in modern-day society. The majority of us spend too much time sitting with poor posture at inadequately ergonomic workstations.
Americans spend at least $50 billion each year to relieve lower back pain, which is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work. Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the U.S. — only headaches are more common.
Smart Business spoke with Joshua Trentine, president of Overload Fitness, about how to prevent and resolve the problem of lower back pain.
What causes lower back pain?
The causes of most cases of chronic and acute low back pain are mechanical in nature, meaning the muscles that protect and move the spine are weak, imbalanced, neurologically inhibited or stuck in spasm. These issues are often a result of the postural issues. When we sit or stand with poor posture, some muscles are left in a position that results in stretch weakness and others can become overburdened.
In other cases, direct trauma can cause or exacerbate a back condition, such as slipping and falling on ice or slick surfaces, getting in car accidents and participating in an activity infamous for irritating the lower back, shoveling snow.
Whatever the cause, the end result is often low back sprain/strain and disc-related pathology that can cause radiating pain into the lower extremity.
The lumbar vertebral discs are unique structures in that they are the only tissue in the human body that does not possess its own independent blood and nutrition supply — even your hair, nails and teeth have a nutrition supply. The vertebral discs obtain nutrition and fluid while eliminating waste by imbibing, which means that when the individual spinal segments flex, extend, side bend and rotate, they draw in nutrition and fluid. This is key when determining the best treatment for acute and chronic disc-related lower back pain. In order for the vertebral disc to maintain their height, function optimally and remain healthy, activation of the muscles that produce movement about the spine must be encouraged. Disc height can vary up to 5 millimeters depending on the time of day, postures, activity and direct exercise to the area. Exercise has the most profound and sustained effect.
What can be done to cure or prevent lower back problems?
Safe, controlled, slow and intense exercise is the key for dealing with lumbar spine pathology. Many people resort to a variety of treatments to alleviate their symptoms, but the only way to optimize back function is through exercise.
Exercise to the muscles that support the spine will pump blood, oxygen and nutrition into injured and spasmodic muscle tissue, aiding the healing of the affected area and breaking spasms. The imbibing of fluid to the vertebral disc can open up disc space and relieve back pain and radicular symptoms in the lower extremity.
Proper exercise will improve posture, lessening the burden on involved musculature and can even help slow or reverse age-related height loss. This phenomenon can often be experienced immediately. After engaging in just one, three-minute set of proper exercises, clients will remark that they feel taller, stand up straighter and many times have immediate reduction of symptoms.
What might someone expect if they take the time to strengthen their lower back?
Back pain can be debilitating and will affect most people at some time or another. These incidents can be reduced or eliminated if you participate in a lumbar-specific strength exercise program just once per week. In addition to protecting your lower back, you will see enhanced functional ability. The muscles that protect the back function to flex, extend, rotate and side bend the spine, but in sport and recreation, they also transmit force from the ground up, through the lower extremities, trunk and out through the upper extremities. So not only will your lower back benefit, but so will your golf swing and your ability to walk, run, climb, jump or lift your children.
Joshua Trentine is president at Overload Fitness. Reach him at (216) 292-7569 or www.overloadfitness.com.
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