Call it what you want, “putting your back out”, “a bad back”, or “getting old” its all the same when you want to function better with less pain. Back problems seem inevitable for us humans. I recall a university course I took on human evolution that proposed that “we are not fully erect yet” therefore our spines and pelvis are still evolving to walk upright effectively. An interesting theory, one I have never forgotten; as I observe family, many clients and friends having suffered from varying degrees of back problems.
Over the past 12 months or so with lockdowns and increasing sedentary lifestyles, we have noted that 8/10 persons either client, patient or companions have reported some sort of back problem!
The lifetime prevalence of non-specific (common) low back pain is estimated at 60% to 70% in industrialized countries. Much higher is those with pre-susceptible conditions.*1
This is staggering considering none of these are injury related back problems!
What are back problems?
When we speak of our back, we are actually mainly referring to our spinal column. Anything lateral (attached to sides) to it is affected as well, depending on the condition of the spine joints.
There are many categorized conditions of the spine, one can have, that cause negative effects. A back problem is ‘a problem in either or all the biomechanics, neurology and musculature’ within and around the spine.
Some conditions arise from a problem such as these:
Scoliosis, Spondolysis, Stenosis, Disc degeneration (DDD), Disc herniation, Arthritis, Sciatica
Why are spine issues so bothersome?
Our back is actually compromised of our spinal column which connects our skull and pelvis at opposite ends. Imagine, how much goes on between those two areas that causes adjustments!
If a single vertebra is rotated even a degree or two ‘abnormally’ then the counteraction throughout the spine and corresponding muscles to compensate is amazing. NOW in most instances, this is an unfelt situation for the person, however in the presence of such things as low hydration, nerve impingement, weak muscles, aged frailty, imbalanced mechanics or injury it can cause PAIN and DYSFUNCTION.
Often, we spend the majority of our days (especially now) either sitting in the same chair or standing in one spot. The effect of this long-term is a stretch-straining-compressing process of the spine which causes change and negative compensation. Hence, the pulled muscles when you go into the shower or pick up the grocery bags etc. Even worse – stretching a compressed nerve or compressing a bulged disc!
Solutions and compromises
There is a shift in placing less emphasis on pharmacological and surgical interventions in the care of back pain. “… there is not consensus on the efficacy of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for this condition. We performed a systematic review with meta-analysis to determine the efficacy and safety of NSAIDs for spinal pain.”*2
As a result, more natural and effective solutions are being utilized, with greater long-term positive effects. Remember a drug (“as band aid”) still requires the body to repair itself or be assisted to do so.
Here are some examples of solutions and compromises:
- Consider when you have back pain what makes it worse. Position, furniture, stressful situations, toxic people, daily activities, certain movements/exercises
- Figure out what caused it. When we do not know what actually caused the issue, then its very difficult to move forward successfully. Often its not the “thing” you last did that caused the problem, however exacerbated the original issue. This usually requires an objective view. Seek help from a qualified professional.
- Take a break. For most of us, this can be seen as lazy or self-indulgent. However, the reality is we may need to take a break from things (as in the #1 on the list) or rest more often until your mobility is better and pain reduced.
- Move more. It has been well documented that most forms of movement, depending on the nature of your back issue does help. “Exercise is safe for individuals with back pain, because it does not increase the risk of future back injuries or work absence. Substantial evidence exists supporting the use of exercise as a therapeutic tool to improve impairments in back flexibility and strength. Most studies have observed improvements in global pain ratings after exercise programs, and many have observed that exercise can lessen the behavioral, cognitive, affect and disability aspects of back pain syndromes.”*3
- Help for movement. As in the above, movement is better than NSAIDS and other drugs, however can be harmful as well. A good objective view is great for progress. Seek remote assistance and assessment for your needs. Hands on care when able helps as well.
- Oils and creams. There are many natural remedies, for both pain and inflammation which combines with a back problem. Using these regularly through the time you are healing can be very helpful.
- Ergonomic assessment or consult. Often the furniture or vehicles or technology we interact with causes us grief and can play on longer term problems for our spines. A professional can assess and consult you on what the issues are customized to your needs and help with preventive measures.
*1 WHO, priority papers 6.24, 2013
*2 Ann Rheum Dis. 2017 Jul;76(7):1269-1278.Epub 2017 Feb 2.
*3 Rainville, Hartigan “exercise as a treatment for lower back pain” Vol4,Iss1, Pg106-115, Jan 2/04