Low back pain (LBP) is a very common injury that if not managed correctly can become a chronic disorder. The most common type known as mechanical low back pain, which means that the injury stems from how the low back response to the forces placed upon it.
When people think of low back injuries, the common notion is that these injuries occur when lifting heavy weight with improper form. But the truth is that the majority of these injuries occur while performing regular daily activities such as: getting up from a chair, getting out of bed, picking up a dropped pencil. [i] How can these seemingly routine tasks “throw out” one’s back?
Lets first go over how the lumbar spine functions. One of the main jobs of the low back is to transfer energy from the lower body to the upper body. And in order to do this, the lumbar spine needs to be STABLE. This helps us walk, lift, jump, run, and exercise more efficiently. Spinal stability is also needed to ensure the low back remains healthy. This may be contrary to some of the traditional ideas of joint health. When most joints in the body are injured, range of motion is used to determine the health/recovery of that joint. But this is not the case for low back injuries. Range of motion is a poor measure of back health because the lumbar spine is NOT designed to move very much and the majot goal is recovery is spinal/core stability.
Spinal stability is achieved in large part by the coordination of the surrounding spinal muscle system. Without this system it only takes around 20 lbs of force to cause the spine to buckle.[ii] The good news is that it does not take a great deal of muscle activation to stabilize/stiffen the spine. The problem lies when there is a lack of coordinated muscular control, as this can lead to spinal INstability. With instability present, repeated movement can cause spinal buckling and increased stress/strain/sprain of the low back (muscles, ligaments, nerves, discs, joints) structures.[iii] Over time, this is how a simple task like picking up a dropped pencil can be “the straw that broke the camels back”.
Next post we will continue with this topic and introduce some very easy tips to improve spinal health.
Dr. Mike Rumeo is chiropractor with a passion for improving the health of his community and pain management. He primarily utilizes chiropractic, medical acupuncture and rehabilitation to help his patients. He is the owner of the Oakville Optihealth Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic located at Fourth Line and South Service Rd W, in Oavkville ON. To contact Dr. Rumeo, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 905.465.0202.
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[i] McGill SM. ]SB Keynote Lecture-The biomechanics oflow back injury: Implications on current practice in industry and the clinic. J Biomech
[ii] CriscoJJ,PanjabiMM.Eulerstabilityofthehuman ligamentous lumbar spine, Part I Theory and Part II Experiment. Clin Biomech 1 992;7: 1 9-26,27-32.
[iii] Cholewicki J, McGill SM. Mechanical stability of the in vivo lumbar spine: Implications for injury and chronic low back pain. Clin Biomech 1 996; 1 1 ( 1 ): I-IS.