lower back pain

It can be quite scary when we are not well, particularly when we don’t really know what is happening to our body. Once you know what causes back pain, some of that fear can be resolved, as most cases of back pain are easily overcome.

Of course, there are many different causes of back pain. Unfortunately, in rare cases it can be a sign of serious illness; however the vast majority of cases of back pain are quite benign, and can be fixed easily with the right treatment. If you are concerned that your back pain is something more serious, you can read more about the specific symptoms of serious back pain here.

The most common cause of back pain is due to simple sprains and strains of the soft tissues that support the spine, such as muscles, ligaments and spinal discs and joints. These strains and sprains can be the result of certain injuries such as a fall or lifting something too heavy. BUT, by far what we see most commonly, is that back pain will come on after a simple, everyday movement like bending over to pick up a pen, or getting out of a chair. And often the pain can be so severe that it can be debilitating.

So what is it that happened, right at that point in time to cause your back to ‘go out’? Was the pen too heavy? Of course not, you pick up pens and other things much heavier every day. Did you ‘sleep funny’ the night before and twist your back? I don’t know, maybe. But probably not.

So why doesn’t your back go out every time you pick up a pen (I am just sticking with this as an example)? Why did it happen this time?

Is Your Back Ready to “Go Out”?

The simple answer is that your back was ready to ‘go out’. Something had slowly weakened your spine to breaking point (literally), and this usually happens over a period of time, often years!

Sure, if you got hit by a bus, or fell down the stairs and your back hurts, then we can say what the exact the cause is. But most cases are not due to an acute injury. They are due to a spine that has slowly become so unstable over time, that it has reached breaking point. And once it reaches that point, the slightest movement can be enough to cause a sprain or strain to the spinal tissues, whether that be a muscle, disc, ligament, etc.

So the next obvious question is: How does your spine become weak and unstable over time?

The short answer to that is that it is due to an accumulation of stress and strain on the spine. This can be from injuries, even minor ones, when you were younger (falling off bikes, sports injuries etc), perhaps from lots of ‘one-sided’ sport (tennis, golf), or even from carrying heavy bags or packs on one shoulder (think kids school bags).

But one of the biggest causes of a weakened spine is poor posture. This is often the forward slumping kind of posture you commonly see. This kind of posture, where the spine is unnaturally curled forward into spinal flexion, over stretches the muscles and ligaments at the back of our spine. Over time this leads to poor spinal movement, and spinal instability.

And the effects of accumulated spinal stress can happen so slowly, that from day to day you don’t notice any difference, in the same way that eating one cheeseburger today won’t give you a heart attack, but do it every day and eventually that is where you are headed. And the same as a heart attack, when your back goes into painful spasms, there is often no warning. It just got to the breaking point.

Spinal health is extremely important, not just because it can lead to back pain, but because it affects our overall health and well-being. Practicing good spinal hygiene should be a part of everyone’s routine, the same as brushing your teeth!

My top tips for good spinal health are 1. Sit less. 2. Move more. 3. Do a regular spinal strengthening exercise routine a few times a week.

Have an amazing day!

Dr Bradley Moore

For more on natural methods of treating back pain and many other ailments, check out http://healthyspines.org