Your mother did know best when she told you to sit up straight! Poor posture can make your low back pain worse especially if you are sitting or standing for long periods of the day in poor form.
Sitting – If you are sitting whether it be in front of the TV or at a desk at work ensure you are sitting up straight and not slouching forwards. Ensure your body is supported by the back of the chair and keep your feet flat on the floor. Avoid crossing your legs or slumping with your low back.
A good way to ensure you are sitting in the correct posture is using a lumbar support especially if you are desk-based or rolling up a towel or using a small pillow and putting it between your low back and your seat.
Standing – Standing incorrectly can cause back pain too! Common posture mistakes when standing are sticking your bottom or tucking the pelvis in.
The British Chiropractic Association recommends imagining a plumb line hanging straight from your ear, through the shoulder and to your hip, knee and ankle. The gravity line should pass through the ear, shoulder and hip in a nice straight line. Correct posture can be maintained by standing like this in a relaxed way whilst gently contracting the core muscles
Many people complain about low back pain whilst sleeping or waking up with back pain. Sleeping in a bad position can cause low back pain. It is important to ensure you sleep in the best position for your low back.
Sleep on your stomach. If you do, try and break the habit! This position puts your spine into hyperextension and unnecessary strain when sleeping.
These two positions can help:
Sleep on your side. This keeps the spine all in a straight line and alignment. Place a pillow between your knees to keep your pelvis in a neutral position. This will minimise compression or twisting forces on the sacroiliac joints which are a common source of low back pain.
Sleep on your back bending knees – Lying on your back avoids any twisting and is the best position to keep your back and neck straight and aligned. Pillows can be put under your knees to keep them bent in the night. This allows the spinal joints in the low back to be slightly flexed, taking the pressure off your low back.
3. Back Strain or Sprain
This can occur by lifting something heavy, twisting or a sudden movement. The acute pain can be caused due to this movement straining the muscles in the low back or spraining the ligaments surrounding the spinal joints.
This can be avoided by moving mindfully. Lift carefully using your legs rather than your back, ensuring you bend your knees. Avoid twisting and always carry load close to your body.
Regular applications of ice to a back strain or sprain will help to reduce pain and inflammation from a flare up or injury . An appointment with your chiropractor is advised to assess the cause of the pain and ease things off quickly.
4. Mechanical Back Pain
This is also known as simple back pain and is not due to any underlying cause and there is no nerve irritation.
Muscles, joints and ligaments are all involved and often is due to a build-up of lifestyle posture and habits putting pressure on areas of your back.
Poor posture, sitting for long periods and stress can all contribute to low back pain.
Taking your chiropractors advice on posture alignment and corrections, keeping mobile and relaxation techniques can help reduce this pain.
Sciatica is low back pain that travels to the buttock, leg and foot. This can be caused by a nerve root being compressed in the lower back. This can be accompanied by tingling, pins and needles, numbness and weakness.
There are many causes for this condition including:
- A lumbar herniated disc – (the soft pads in your spine that act as shock absorbers and provide flexibility). If a disc herniates and leaks its inner material this can aggravate a nerve and trigger low back pain and leg pain.
- Degenerative disc disease – low back pain and leg pain can stem from a degenerated disc in the spine.
- Spondylolisthesis – this occurs when one vertebral body (the solid blocks of bone that make up your spine) slips forward on top of another which can cause local irritation to the surrounding structure and nerves due to instability.
- Spinal Stenosis – More likely with age there is narrowing of the spinal canal which can produce these symptoms.
- Piriformis Syndrome – The piriformis is a muscle that lies deep to our buttock muscles and can irritate the sciatic nerve which runs under the muscle if tightened.
- Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction – Irritation of the sacroiliac joint (the main weightbearing joints of the pelvis) can also irritate the L5 nerve which lies on top of the joint.
Some of these conditions also cause local back pain with no leg symptoms, or leg symptoms with no back pain, or both.
Your chiropractor can assess the cause of your back and/or leg pain and provide manual treatment and stabilisation exercises and stretches to help control and reduce these symptoms.
6. Wear and Tear
As we get older wear and tear may contribute to back pain also called osteoarthritis or degeneration. The discs in the spine can narrow with age which can cause stiffness and pain.
Gentle weightbearing exercise, chiropractic treatment and maintaining a healthy weight helps keep joints mobile and functioning properly and can help reduce joint pain.
7. Sedentary Lifestyle
Don’t rest an achy back. Your back is designed for movement! Lying still is one of the worst things you can do for low back pain. It is important to get up and slowly start moving again to keep your low back mobile. For every hour that you are sitting you should be getting up and walking 5-10 minutes.
Exercise is highly recommended to relieve low back pain in particular Pilates, yoga, swimming and walking. The fitter you are, the less likely you are to injure your back.
It is very rare for low back to be due to a serious underlying course, but by having a full examination your chiropractor will be able to diagnose the cause and is qualified to advise a suitable treatment plan or refer for further consultation or imaging if necessary.
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