Rarely is there a day that goes by that a patient does not come into my office suffering with lumbago, or as it is more commonly known, low back pain.
It is an increasingly common ailment that can have multiple causes.
As chiropractic physicians, it is our job to find the actual cause of this pain, no matter how big or small the source may be.
More often than not, the culprit of this issue is a common, every day, little thing that with a simple modification or elimination could drastically reduce your back pain!
The following is a simple list that every person, who has struggled with back pain at any point in his or her life, should evaluate to eliminate preventable low back pain.
1) Your Bed. It may not be the desired sanctuary you need.
Each night, after a long day, you climb into your bed with the hope of a good night’s sleep. What you are probably not aware of, is your mattress is one of the most common offenders of low back pain.
Poor sleeping posture can be the direct result of a broken-down mattress. This lack of support can cause muscle strain, which is a stretch or tear in the muscle fibers. It may also result in bad spinal alignment, which is how the vertebral bones in the back sit on top of each other.
The damage to your muscles and joints of the spine from sleeping on bad mattress for lengthy periods of time can directly result in low back pain.
If you are waking up in the morning with an achy back, or if you toss and turn all night and never get comfortable, it may be time to trade in that mattress!
2) High Heels!
Those cute little high heels you love to wear could absolutely be contributing to your achy back! Oh, and it is not just ladies shoes, how about those flip flops, fellas?
Well, the problem could be that your shoes do not have the proper support or shock absorption needed to give stability to joints and tendons.
Your feet are your foundation, and if they do not have good support, every part of your body above them can suffer. Especially your low back.
High heels not only damage your feet by causing blisters, ingrown toenails, calluses and bunions, they can also cause permanent damage to the shape of the toes, straining of the tendons in the feet, stress fractures, nerve damage, plantar fasciitis, bone spurs and arthritis.
Wearing high heels forces your weight to be shifted to the front of your body. This results in more pressure being put on the balls of your feet.
When this happens, it prompts your hips and knees to be pushed forward, and the low back to be pushed backward. Then, the arch of the back is forcibly increased beyond its limitations. This is known as hyperextension.
The shifting of your entire body and the hyperextension of the lower back to accommodate for wearing high heels, must happen in order to counter the weight distribution. This allows for your balance to be maintained, so that you do not fall forward.
This shifting of the body, known as postural misalignment, causes the tendons in your calf muscles to shorten, your knee and hip joints take on extra strain and pressure, and the alignment of your spine and pelvis to change.
Postural changes from the misalignment of your spine will eventually lead to muscle strain, disc issues, tight hamstrings, and nerve damage that all result in low back pain.
All these issues are minor compared to other problems that may develop, such as sciatic pain, spinal stenosis and spondylolisthesis.
Sciatic pain is pain that is in one or both legs and is caused when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed. The sciatic nerve is a very complex nerve that runs from the low back, down through the back of both legs.
This complex nerve branches to the thighs, lower legs, feet and toes, making it the largest nerve in the body.
Compression of the sciatic nerve in any location for long periods of time, can result in permanent damage to the sciatic nerve.
The outcome of this compression can be burning sensations, tingling, numbness, weakness and radiating pain from the low back to one or both feet.
Foraminal stenosis occurs when the spaces or holes of the spinal column, that the nerves exit through to innervate the rest of the body, become reduced or blocked. These spaces are called the foramina.
When the foramina are reduced in size, due to genetic defects, arthritic changes, degenerative disc issues, or from any tension on the spine, the nerves become compressed.
This compression causes weakness in the muscles, tingling, burning, shooting pain and generalized low back pain.
Spondylolisthesis happens when the arch of the back is too much causing hyperextension. This forces one vertebra to slide forward on another, potentially causing nerve compression, severe back pain, and instability of the spine.
All these conditions can lead to serious issues and should be evaluated by a chiropractic physician. Call today to book your appointment if you’re feeling any of these pains.
3) Flip Flops.
Flip flops, unfortunately, are not any better! They have no arch support and are often made up of flimsy materials. They are designed in a way that causes you to squeeze and crunch your toes together in order to keep them on your feet.
Long-term wear of flip-flops can lead to hammer toes, which is when the toes bend downward permanently.
Flip flops can also alter the way you walk, causing gait issues and spinal misalignment that can lead to back pain, sciatic nerve pain, bone spurs, and disc issues, as well as arch issues, foot pain, heel pain and inflammation of the tissues of the bottom of the foot known as plantar fasciitis.
Sorry friends, but good shoes (not necessarily the most fashionable choices) with custom orthotics are absolutely the best choice for your feet in order to give you stability to support your feet and back.
4) Back Pockets. They Really Just Need to be a Fashion Statement
The back pockets of jeans have long ago become a harbor to wallets and, within most recent years, cell phones.
Habitually carrying a wallet or phone in your pocket can cause sciatic nerve and low back pain. When you sit with an object in your back pocket, you are causing your pelvis to be raised on one side, which results in the muscles of the lower back to be in a side bending position.
This altered position of the pelvis enhances stress to the lumbar muscles and joints. In addition, the sciatic nerve can be caught between the object in your pocket and your hip, resulting in low back pain that can radiate down your leg.
Even the thinnest of wallets can cause pain; therefore, removing anything in your back pocket before you sit is an absolute must.
5) Where You Sit Most of the Day… Your Office Chair.
Sitting at work for hours at a time can cause major stress to the lumbar musculature and to the lumbar discs, which is a huge cause of an aching back at the end of the day.
Adding to that, a broken-down office chair that has been passed down from employee to employee, can amplify this achy back and ultimately cause major injury to the muscles, discs, joints in the lumbar spine and the sciatic nerve.
It is very important to have an ergonomic set up for your work space. Ergonomics is basically the engineering of human factors into designing appropriate equipment and furniture, so that workers can be more efficient while eliminating the possibilities of injury.
It is an absolute necessity to have a chair that fits your body with a good lumbar support.
Proper sitting posture, along with a supportive desk chair while working at your desk, will enable optimum support to the lower back and help to prevent the onset of low back and sciatic pain.
6) Water! Who Knew?
The knowledge that our bodies need significant water is something we have all been taught since we were kids.
Nevertheless, the fact that the discs that separate the vertebrae in your spine are made up of 80% water is probably something you did not know!
Spinal discs are the shock absorbers of the spine. Every time you take a step, sit, stand, run or move, the discs take the brunt so that we do not feel the pain of bone on bone or nerve pain from the jostle.
The importance of staying hydrated is an absolute must for disc health.
Drinking half of your weight in ounces of water per day is a great rule to follow to maintain the proper amount of water your body needs each day. Following this rule will also help to ensure your discs stay the proper thickness to take on shock from the movement of our bodies.
7) Your Bag. It Carries Your Life in It, but is it Worth the Weight?
As a society, we have become accustomed to carrying the necessities we need with us.
Purses, backpacks and diaper bags have become a convenient way to contain and transport our important everyday items.
We typically throw our choice bag over a shoulder and go, without thinking anything about how the bag is affecting our posture or stress on the muscles in our bodies.
Tossing a heavy bag over one shoulder alters your normal gait by causing you to hike up that shoulder to keep the strap up, which in turn causes the weight distribution in the pelvis to shift to uneven proportions.
The weight distribution compensation causes stress on the muscles of the low back, compression of the spine and often rotation in the pelvis.
To reduce the likelihood of your bag being a contributor to your achy back, it is best to minimize the weight carried in the bag.
Choosing a backpack and utilizing both straps instead of just slinging the bag over one shoulder, will also help evenly disperse the weight being carried and reduce the stress to the muscles of the low back.
If your purse is an extension of yourself and you cannot fathom the idea of not carrying one, switching the shoulder you carry your purse on frequently will also help regulate the overuse of muscles on one side of the body and the repetitive posture altering of one side.
Another clever idea for the devoted purse carriers, is to consider choosing an arm bag as opposed to a shoulder bag. This will also do your low back a great favor.
Is it really this simple?
By evaluating this list. and making the appropriate corrections, you will reduce the likelihood of developing low back pain from these common causes.
It is that simple.
If your low back pain persists, book an appointment to come see me.