Oh My Aching Back!

aching-backBack pain.  Although “back” refers to the entire back body, most people have pain in the lower back/butt area.  Eighty percent of adults will have some “significant” low back pain during their lifetimes.  I picture back pain as the results of labor, like picking grapes for 8 hrs a day, shearing 50 sheep or jackhammering your street.  Given that most of us sit all of the time, 80% of the population seems like a high number.  

It’s not a car accident, an over-eager dog or bungee jumping that causes back pain.  It can be from something seemingly simple as poor posture. Here are some of the common causes:

Muscle strain.  Ah, weak muscles. If muscles are are overworked or weak, muscle strain can happen. How do muscles get weak:  sitting.  

Ligament Sprain.  Ligaments connect the spinal vertebrae (bone to bone) and literally provide a brace to protect the spine from injury by providing stability, like avoiding hyperextention or hyperflexion.  These ligaments can be injured by a sudden, forceful movement or prolonged stress.

Poor Posture.  Slouching, hunching, whatever you want to call it causes muscle fatigue, joint compression, as well as stressing the disks that cushion the vertebrae.  Years of abuse can cause muscular imbalances, like tightness or weakness, ultimately leading to pain.  

Age.  Think of wear-and-tear, inherited factors, degeneration of discs, decreased bone density, loss of strength and elasticity of the muscles and ligaments all contribute to back pain.  This can all be mitigated by staying strong, mindful movements like lifting heavy objects, maintaining good health and avoiding smoking.

Disc bulge/herniation.  This causes pressure on the nerve and causes pain down the leg(s).  Fortunately, this  responds well to strengthening and stretching programs, like yoga

I know these seems dire, like just being alive is hard on the back.  There are many things we can do prevent back pain and if we have it help find some relief.  Next week, I’ll cover what we can do for acute pain and some exercise (yes, yoga) to add to your daily routine along with brushing your teeth and checking email.