Understanding and Treating Lower Back Pain
If you find yourself suffering from acute or chronic lower back pain, then you're certainly not alone. More than 80% of people will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their life. What's more, lower back pain is also the single most prevalent reason for lost time at work, and costs the health care system, business and society billions of dollars a year.
What Causes Lower Back Pain?
Lower back pain occurs when the muscles, ligaments or discs (called "intervertebral discs") in the lower back become injured. There are many possible causes of lower back pain, including:
- Muscle tears
- Ligament strains
- Slipped discs (i.e. when pressure on one of the intervertebral disc forces it to bulge or rupture)
- Degenerative conditions, such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, ankylosing spondylitis, and spinal stenosis
- Excess body weight (often as a result of obesity or pregnancy)
- Poor posture (including poor sleeping posture)
- Weak back and abdominal muscles
- Lack of flexibility and muscle elasticity
- Incorrectly lifting something, or lifting something too heavy
- Overstretching (common among athletes)
In addition, when an injured back heals itself, the scar tissue that is created does not have the same flexibility or strength as normal tissue. As such, without the proper treatment and care, people often re-injure their lower back and, over time, become vulnerable to serious injuries and, unfortunately, more pain.
Treating Lower Back Painn
Acupuncture has been used around the world to significantly reduce and often completely eliminate lower back pain. The approach involves inserting extremely thin needles at specific points of the body (called "meridians") for the purpose of stimulating Qi (or "life energy"). Plus, acupuncture releases molecules (called "peptides"), that naturally help reduce pain.
Gentle exercise can help strengthen key back and abdominal muscles, which in turn can help reduce (or even eliminate in some cases) lower back pain. These exercises can include walking, swimming, biking, and the use of weights. However, it's essential to have the rehab exercises prescribed by a Sports Doctor, Rehab Specialist, Chiropractor or Physiotherapist, who will also teach you the correct techniques. Otherwise, instead of strengthening your muscles and moving towards a healthy, pain-free life, you could be headed in the opposite direction: re-injury and even more pain.
Dynamic Traction therapy involves applying gentle and relaxing traction to your lower back, which relieves pressure on discs and joints and leads to significant pain reduction. At the same time, Dynamic Traction therapy involves stretching the ligaments and discs in your spine to "pump in" nourishing blood and nutrients, and promote healing and recovery.
Chiropractic treatment for lower back pain involves hands-on spinal manipulation (among other treatments), in an effort to properly align the body's musculoskeletal structure, as well as restore flexibility and range of motion to joints. Chiropractic treatment not only helps heal and restore injuries in the lower back area, but by aligning the joints, it also helps alleviate pain.
Laser treatment is increasingly used to treat lower back pain injuries and provide lasting pain relief. The treatment involves directing wavelengths of light towards injured areas, which increases circulation, and diminishes inflammation and swelling. And if the idea of having your lower back "penetrated by lasers" sounds scary, don't worry; the treatment is completely painless and safe.
Rehab for Lower Back Pain
Some or all of treatments noted above (along with many other treatment options not listed here) will make-up your personalized Rehab Program, which should be developed by a certified Chronic and Acute Pain Specialist. Your Rehab Program should include 4 core components:
- A cardiovascular component to help build towards improved fitness.
- A general stretching component to regain flexibility and restore balance to muscles in the body, and especially the injured area.
- A muscle balancing component, to ensure that muscles are firing effectively and in sequence.
- A strength component, that must be followed regularly 3-4 times/week for 6-8 weeks, and then 2-3 times/week thereafter.
Tips for a Healthy, Pain-Free Lower Back
In addition to many treatment options, there are also some simple, yet effective tips that can improve their health of your lower back – and, at the same time, reduce or eliminate pain. These tips include:
- Properly stretch (and don't overstretch!) before exercise or any other physical activity, such as shovelling snow, mowing the lawn, moving furniture, or anything else that puts significant strain on your lower back.
- Maintain good posture when you sit, stand, walk and sleep. Your lower back will get to "work less" and will thank you by feeling better!
- Wear comfortable shoes that provide appropriate support – and if at all possible, avoid high heels.
- Don't lift any object that is simply too heavy (the emergency room is full of people whose lifting ambitions exceeded their physical strength!). And when you do lift something, ensure that you do it with your knees, and that your stomach muscles are pulled in. Also keep your head down, and aligned with your straight back.
- "Butt out" and quit smoking! You may not know it, but smoking reduces blood flow to the lower spine, which leads to degeneration of the spinal discs.
- Reduce excess weight through program of nutrition and exercise. Make sure that you follow the advice of your doctor or other qualified health professional, who will ensure that your weight loss program is safe and effective.
Saying Goodbye to Your Lower Back Pain – Permanently!
At the Advanced Therapeutic Centre, we're dedicated to helping you say goodbye to your lower back pain – not just temporarily, but permanently! Indeed, we're more than just doctors. We're experienced and caring Chronic and Acute Pain Management Specialists, and our life's work is helping patients like you break free of your pain, and live the happy, healthy life that you deserve.
To learn more or book your 30 minute consultation, call us at (416) 361-9900 during our Centre hours (Monday, Wednesday & Friday from 8:00 AM - 6:00 PM).